Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quote of the Day: Darwin's "Origin of Species"

This excerpt is the very last paragraph to the Origin of Species. It is a well-wrought piece of prose from a literary perspective, and, James McGrath will notice, sees a seemlessness in creation and evolution, at least in its prosody:

It is interesting to comtemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth and Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of higher animals, directly follows. There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

The balance of fixity (Creator, gravity, and the various "laws") and dynamism (cycling, endless forms, evolved), the matching of one and many, coincide in the ever-self-transforming complex interdependence of the world's beauty and wonder found in the smallest intricacies of nature; in birds, insects, plants, and worms. Indeed, there is a "grandeur in this view of life."