Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, a scientific work by Charles Darwin, was published in 1859. Over the years, it has grown to be one of the most important and well-known works of literature in the area of evolutionary biology. In reality, Darwin's book is regarded as the founding text of evolutionary biology by critics and analysts. Darwin's main goal was to clarify why living things, even those that pertain to the same species, have unique features and traits. Darwin adopted a scientific theory to demonstrate that species change over years and generations in a process known as the national selection in an effort to explain these variations. In the popular “one long argument” Darwin explores the explanations of other theorists and identifies their strengths and weaknesses in explaining why there are varieties among species and their subsets. While numerous mechanisms of evolution try to explain the reasons why there are variations in species, Darwin’s concept is core to the contemporary evolutionary theories. It is critical to understand Darwin’s reasoning and how he presents ideas.

Variations under Domestication

In the first chapter of this book, Darwin notes records that there are more varieties of species among domesticated animals plants rather than those existing in the wild.Admittedly, other scientists had noticed these variations and attributed them to environmental factors including heat conditions, climate, and availability of food in the settings that the species grew. For example, some scientists noted that hares were swifter than rabbits. Others relied on the theory of habits to explain these variations. The theory states that the most active body parts grow into a distinct bodily structure. In tandem with Darwin’s example, ducks that flew had strong wings while those that did not have strong legs.

Darwin dismissed the effectiveness of environmental and behavioral aspects in explaining the variations among species. Instead, Darwin opted for the approach that contributes variations to reproduction. According to the scientist, it is parents who pass these mutations to their children, who in turn transmit them to their offspring. Darwin notes that it is normal for a trait to appear in one generation of species but disappear in the next only to reappear in the third generation. Nonetheless, despite these variations, species remain fertile. Darwin admitted this scientific theory fails to explain why inheritance variations appear. Also, the dismissal of the environment as causal factor for variation is not well articulated. Notably, critics of Darwin’s heredity explanation sarcastically ask “if the strong wings of a flying duck are hereditary, what processes determine the birds to fly. In the experiment with domesticated pigeons, Darwin found out that although species greatly differed, they were highly fertile.

Variations under Nature

After Darwin discussed the possible ways through which domestic species varied, he turned his focus on those in natural settings. Monstrosities are unhelpful, and at times, harmful variations that occur in nature. Although the environmental, climate, and temperature conditions cause these changes, they are not likely hereditable from parent to offspring. That notwithstanding, there is the likelihood of small variations passing from parent to offspring and latter accumulate in the entire species generation. Darwin cautions that analysts must take care when differentiating differences within and between species and subspecies. A challenge inherent in this endeavor is the lack of a precise scientific categorization that helps distinguish between the two. Naturally, plants and animals in an extensive genus record more variations than those in a smaller genus or species category.

The Struggle for Existence

At the core of Darwin’s “one long argument” is the explanation of how different species evolved to what they are today. The scientist focuses on two accounts: natural selection and struggle for existence. According to Darwin, plants and animals develop specific structures that help them to adapt to their particular environments. The degree to which a species’ structures adapt to its environment determines its likelihoods of survival. For example, the woodpecker’s beak allows it to gather insects for food. Further, a parasite’s structure helps it to attach and feed on the host. Naturally, parents retain and pass the most beneficial arrangements to their offspring. The development of species with appropriate structures survives while others die in the process of natural selection.

Apart from species tendencies to have or lack appropriate structures, nature plays a significant role in control by allowing or disallowing the survival of some organisms. Notably, the environment may encourage continuation by providing plenty of food or hinder survival through natural disasters, lack of food, and drastic climate changes. This Darwin’s perspective builds upon that of Thomas Malthus, an economist who noted that each success generation increased its species population. However, since the earth’s space is limited, nature has its mechanism of limiting its inhabitants. The size of a population of species and the relationship with other organisms in the ecosystem influences its survival. Large people have high chances of survival since they dominate small groups, fight predators, and maintain a constant production rate. Further, the exposure to other species and factors determine survival. For example, a seedling planted in a protected area has a high survival chance than one exposed to cattle.

Natural Selection

Despite Darwin's emphasis on “survival of the fittest,” he acknowledges that species' survival does not only depend on competition but also cooperation. In the physical setting, species are both partners and rivals. On the one hand, species compete for limited resources while on the other hand ensure the collective survival of each other. For example, weeds growing around a tree compete for resources but also camouflage each other thus facilitating survival.

Principles of Regulation

Darwin reasons that it is possible for nature to a population of species that have a high likelihood of survival. While alluding to his perspective of natural selection, the scientist claims that just as a farmer can choose the characteristic they wish to breed in their animals and continue the trait in the domestic populations so can nature select superior features for its species. Characteristics that give any species’ an upper hand, no matter how slight, significantly enhance its survival chances and that of its offspring. For instance, slimness is a slight advantage among wolves. However, slim wolves may have the ability to run faster thus escape from danger and hunt effectively.

Organisms with delicate features either die due to competition or extinction. Notably, males that have superior characteristics easily attract females, produce more offspring, and pass these traits to the next generation. Darwin gives the example of birds that attract mates by either singing, displaying colorful feathers, or performing antics. The species with the slightest advantage over others attract mates and pass these features to offspring thus facilitate survival of generations.

Difficulties on Theory

Darwin’s opined that the process of natural selection is gradual and may take many years. He opines that each generation acquires a slight advantage, competes successfully, attracts a mate, and passes on the traits. Undoubtedly, this process may take a lengthy duration. Emphasis on gradualness proved to be an appropriate response to critics who complained that they could not see natural selection in progress.


Darwin, Charles. On the origin of species by means of natural selection. Litres, 2017.

Lewens, Tim. "Natural selection then and now." Biological Reviews 85, no. 4 (2010): 829-835.

Osborne, Jonathan. "Arguing to learn in science: The role of collaborative, critical discourse." Science 328, no. 5977 (2010): 463-466.

Stamos, David N. Darwin and the Nature of Species. SUNY Press, 2012.

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