March 10, 2012

Literary Pick (**)

The Origin of Species
-Charles Darwin

What in the world made me want to read this Goliath of a science book? My goodness! I guess if I had to search deep within myself I would have to say I wanted to read anything Darwin, just to see what all the fuss was about, but mostly because of the reviews I read on Goodreads. I thought The Origin of Species would turn me into the science-loving person I always thought lurked inside me.
The main reason I finished it was because any science book that has had this much publicity deserves to be read and finished.
First of all, it contained a considerable amount of text for a study which was only suppose to be a treatise. This book wasn't difficult to read, as many would have you think. It's not. In fact, it's pretty straight forward. But would you be interested in reading 700 pages of things having to do with birds, aquatic mammals, cattle, beaks, gills, bills, plumage, fauna, fowl, pollen, eggs, and embryos? Don't get me wrong, I'm as interested to hear where we might have originated from as much as the next person, but if you take the book at face value, who would be interested in reading page after page of detailed observations of animals most of us will live a lifetime without even having encountered and if we do, so what. I say that as a lover of nature. I mean a LOVER of all things outdoors that have to do with looking at stuff, not reading about it. I myself often encounter herons, gorgeous owls (my favorite!), foxes, snakes, etc, but I don't want to read 700 pages about them. I want to admire them for a while, but then keep it moving.
From what I gathered, it seems to me that scientists and naturalists can't even agree on the differences between species and varieties to begin with. A lot of these studies aren't even conclusive, which makes a lot of sense now since it's a book on the THEORY of evolution. I didn't stop to think of the literal definition of the word "theory". Had I paused for a moment to give it thought, I would've realized I would be committing weeks to a treatise that is basically speculation. To me that's a huge waste of time when there are so many other books out there to read. Give me history or give me straight up fiction by topics on theory seem pointless to me. 

Also, the idea that Darwin's theory of evolution was indirectly responsible for the genocide of so many people during the Nazi era is simply horrific. I had no clue when I began reading this book that Hitler was a follower of Darwin's theory, taking it to heart (a bit too much) the supposed superiority of the white race, hence, making all other races inferior, and therefore extinguishing them. The Subtitle of The Species of Origin was suppose to be “The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.” Darwin referred to inferior races as "savages", and by savages he meant people with darker skin, such as Native Americans and Africans. Darwin, being the prolific and respected scientist he was, influenced many people (through his work) to practice prejudice, racism and oppression. Hitler believed that the human gene pool could be improved by selective breeding, very much like that of cattle in farm breeding, thus protecting the "superior" race. This is simply horrifying.
In the end I'm glad I read this book, although I hated the actual reading part. Not so much because of what it contains, but because of the role it has played in our history, of which I was clueless about. In the frustration of reading this book, I made the effort to dig for more information about why so many modern day people are still fascinated by it, still not sure, but I did learn a lot from it, and it did inspire me to dig deep into other genocides that have been committed around the world in which this book may or may not have been indirectly responsible for. However, the book was absolutely tedious. It's like reading about a subject you absolutely loath, like sports, or construction. The part of the book that actually cracked me up was chapter XII (Geographical Distribution) because after having read what seemed like 200 pages of that, the next chapter (XIII) was called "Geographical Distribution continued", lol. At that point I was delirious and might have lost it. It's very rare for me to purposely not recommend reading what people consider a "required read", but this was a tough one. If you want to read it to add it to your library, go ahead, but I'm giving you fair warning, it's laborious like nothing you've ever read. You will have to see for yourself.


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