Here’s a cool idea: Blogging the Origin

Here’s a cool idea. Take a newbie, who has never read Charles Darwins’ On the Origin of Species, and have the newbie actually read the book. Then have him blog each chapter. That’s exactly what John Whitfield, London-based freelance science writer, is doing, and ScienceBlogs has him over at Blogging the Origin. Check it out. John promises to have all the chapters of Darwin’s seminal work blogged by the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth on February 12.

You know, come to think of it, I’ve never read all of Origin. I’ve read a couple of chapters of it, but I’ve never read the entire book. Maybe I should consider doing what John’s doing, only without the blogging.


  1. #1 Joe
    January 12, 2009

    There is a new, annotated version of 4 books by Darwin The notes are by Nobel laureate James D. Watson. You can get a really inexpensive copy (I just paid $4.45, postage included, for a new copy via Amazon’s new/used listings).

    I read a large part of “On the Origin …” a long time ago, and then I lost my copy.

  2. #2 fusilier
    January 12, 2009

    My Beloved and Darling Wife bought me the Illustrated Edition for a Christmas present.

    The text is from the 1st edition, interspersed with photos of Wallace, engravings and snippets from the Voyage of HMS Beagle and various notebooks, portraits of Lyell & Owen, modern photos of Down House, and the like.

    Most tasty!

    James 2:24

  3. #3 Heraclides
    January 12, 2009

    Great bible quote, fusilier 🙂

  4. #4 Inquisitive Raven
    January 12, 2009

    I think I’m going to avoid this one for the time being since I was planning on blogging the Origin myself and I don’t want to color my commentary with someone else’s viewpoint.

    Actually I had a three-fer in mind. The Origin, the Bible and Mein Kampf (well, an English Translation), all to better answer idiotic creationist arguments. I haven’t read any of them, and knowing what they all say could be useful even if I have to hold my nose to get through the last of the three.

  5. #5 Inquisitive Raven
    January 12, 2009

    First attempt apparently bounced. Let’s try again.

    I was planing on blogging the Origin myself, so I think I’ll avoid that blog so as not to have my impression colored by someone else’s viewpoint.

    Actually, I was planning a three-fer: Origin, the Bible, and Mein Kampf(well, an English translation). I figure reading all three should provide a lot of ammunition for arguing with creationist idiots (or is that IDiots?). Seeing as how they like to cherry pick their arguments and all.

  6. #7 Tad
    January 12, 2009

    Saying creationists are idiots is unfair berating that gets evolutionists a bad name among the religious undecided.

    I like simple-minded. So God says he created light and darkness, day and night, water and earth, grass, herb, fruit tree, sun and moon, stars, fish, sea creatures and birds, land animals and of course man (and woman). That said, the creationists are simple-minded in believing this.

    Many creationists are expert in their fields of work and knowledge; it is off-base to call those ones idiots. I work with some excellent engineers who are creationists. Engineers design things and this is their view of plants and animals – they were designed. But simple-minded when it comes to where their thoughts run when they read what the Bible says.

  7. #8 Heraclides
    January 13, 2009


    (My apologies for a long reply in advance!)

    I’m not sure that ‘simple-minded’ is better to my mind. Although I get what you’re driving at, it still comes across badly and while it may have an element of the truth for some of them, its not the nub of it to me. To me a key difference between scientists (say) and people that take the bible literally is how they choose to learn.

    The former (scientists) seek to learn to understand how things work by evidence and reasoned argument and are prepared to realise that their understanding is not “truth”, but the best answer they can make at the time given the evidence and understanding they have at that time, and with that accept new positions if new evidence subsequently shows a need to move the position they hold.

    The latter (biblical literalists) consciously avoid learning anything that might conflict with what is told to be their “correct without question by mere presence of the words alone” authority, the bible, or push it aside by dismissing out of hand.

    The latter lacks any real enquiry and embodies a blind acceptance by word of authority, that is, this approach amounts to “argument by appeal to authority” with the fallacies that this brings.

    So, I would consider creationists to be lacking enquiry, uncritical and non-studious. The irony, of course, is that they can be all of those things provided the subject matter isn’t perceived to conflict with their religious positions as you were saying. ‘Naïvely uncritical’ might be a compromise between what you wrote and my clumsier first attempt at this (although in my experience, they seem to be more deliberately uncritical).

    Being simpleminded, having little judgement or intelligence, might be one cause of that for some of them, but it carries a “hick farmer” mental image, too, which I don’t think is correct. Some of them are quite bright, but lack the enquiry, criticalness or studious approach to question what they belief honestly.

  8. #9 gimpy
    January 13, 2009

    I’ve read Origin. It’s remarkably readable despite the Victorian attitudes and his tendency to ramble on a bit. Comes across as a nice chap with a good eye for detail does Darwin. I’ve also read the bible (New King James) in it’s entirety as a bored first year undergrad with illicit stimulation. Bit of a boring read to be honest although there is much to admire in Jesus’ teachings and attitudes. No desire to read Mein Kampf though. It’s not like it has any relevance today. Now The Communist Manifesto is worth reading today despite being the cause of great tragedies, particularly Marx’s calls for the centralization of the banking system, which arguably, many Western governments are beginning to do including that of the US>

  9. #10 James Winters
    January 13, 2009

    For a good site, check out:

    Basically, it sends you, via email or RSS, daily portions of On the Origins (or any other book for that matter).

  10. #11 Neuroskeptic
    January 13, 2009

    I was pleasantly surprised by the Origin – I’d expected it to be hard reading but I really enjoyed it. It’s surprisingly well written… now if only modern science papers were written to the same standard…

  11. #12 kevinj
    January 13, 2009

    well worth a peek is:

  12. #13 Mojo
    January 14, 2009

    The latter (biblical literalists) consciously avoid learning anything that might conflict with what is told to be their “correct without question by mere presence of the words alone” authority, the bible, or push it aside by dismissing out of hand.

    This is also an approach seen (although perhaps to a lesser degree) in proponents of ID, in particular in the idea of “irreducible complexity”. Quite apart from the argument that if Darwinian evolution can’t explain something “it must have been designed” employing a false dilemma, it also relies on not investigating how a structure claimed as “irreducible complex” might have evolved, as is shown by the discoveries related to the evolution of the bacterial cilia, for example.

    If anyone wants a contemporary update of the Origin, I can recommend Steve Jones’s Almost Like A Whale (published in the US under the title Darwin’s Ghost).

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