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D.G. ~Shameless Reader~

Book blogger, audiobook lover and shamelessly honest reviewer. Mostly read fantasy, mystery, romance, UF and YA but all genres welcome.

Shocked I could follow so well!

On The Origin of Species - Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins

My science education left a lot to be desired. I was never taught the Theory of Natural Selection in school but only heard it mentioned when some adults scoffed at it. Thankfully, my natural talents steered me away from a career in Biology or Genetics, so this lack of knowledge didn’t affect my career prospects. It just affected my understanding of the world.

I learned years later the basics of the theory but this just piqued my interest about reading the actual book. I always have problems with Victorian authors (very long sentences) so the print version gave me some difficulty. If it weren’t for Richard Dawkins' excellent narration, I don’t know that I could have enjoyed this book as much.I’m almost shocked that I was able to follow the concepts herein as well as I did. I am amazed that Mr. Darwin could write this book (one of the most important in the history of science and the whole world) in such clear, concise way, that a person with minimal understanding of the topic in general could follow along so well. The concepts are explained logically with tons of examples so the reader is not left dangling wondering what he meant. Not only that, but he also writes beautifully and the prose is sometimes as poetic as it is instructive:

As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications.

From the beginning, I understood this wasn’t a book I could listen in one sitting or while doing other things. I took it slowly and that allowed me to think things through. It made me think a lot about our place in the world and how sometimes we think we are above the system when in fact, we are just one creature among millions and not the most important in the grand scheme of nature (if we were to go extinct, the planet will continue merrily along.) It made reflect in our attempts to control nature, to see change as a bad thing, and our hubris that we can keep in check a process that has moved relentlessly forward for millions of years.

Darwin was certainly cognizant that his theory wouldn’t be accepted immediately: “Any one whose disposition leads him to attach more weight to unexplained difficulties than to the explanation of a certain number of facts will certainly reject my theory.” But I think he would be surprised by how much discussion there is still going on about the subject, specially given that DNA evidence has already proven he was correct in thinking that every living being sprouted from a single progenitor (mind staggering as it seems.)

As I already mentioned, Richard Dawkins is the narrator for this audiobook and he did an amazing job - you could tell he's probably read this book a million times and knows it like the back of his hand. His diction was very precise and clear; and his enthusiasm for the subject was contagious. It almost feels like Darwin is the one speaking.

Overall, a must read for anybody with an interest in learning how we came into being.