Darwin’s Corner

The lower animals, like man, manifestly feel pleasure and pain, happiness and misery. Happiness is never better exhibited than by young animals, such as puppies, kittens, lambs, &c., when playing together, like our own children.

In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God … I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.

Man, wonderful man, must collapse, into nature’s cauldron, he is no deity, he is no exception.

… my success as a man of science, whatever this may have amounted to, has been determined, as far as I can judge, by complex and diversified mental qualities and conditions. Of these, the most important have been–the love of science–unbounded patience in long reflecting over any subject–industry in observing and collecting facts–and a fair share of invention as well as of common sense.

A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives – of approving of some and disapproving of others.

At no time am I a quick thinker or writer: whatever I have done in science has solely been by long pondering, patience and industry.

In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation.

There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties…The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.

… probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed.

I conclude that the musical notes and rhythms were first acquired by the male or female progenitors of mankind for the sake of charming the opposite sex.

It is a cursed evil to any man to become as absorbed in any subject as I am in mine.

The assumed instinctive belief in God has been used by many persons as an argument for his existence. But this is a rash argument, as we should thus be compelled to believe in the existence of many cruel and malignant spirits, only a little more powerful than man; for the belief in them is far more general than in a beneficent deity.

We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universes, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act..

Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws.

It is absurd to talk of one animal being higher than another…we consider those, where the intellectual faculties most developed as the highest. – A bee doubtless would [use] … instincts as a criteria.

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.

Nothing before had ever made me thoroughly realise, though I had read various scientific books, that science consists in grouping facts so that general laws or conclusions may be drawn from them

It is a truly wonderful fact – the wonder of which we are apt to overlook from familiarity – that all animals and all plants throughout all time and space should be related to each other in group subordinate to group.

When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Cambrian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled.

To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact.

On the theory of natural selection we can clearly understand the full meaning of that old canon in natural history, “Natura non facit saltum.” This canon, if we look only to the present inhabitants of the world, is not strictly correct, but if we include all those of past times, it must by my theory be strictly true.

We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention and curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed 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.

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.

That there is much suffering in the world no one disputes. Which is more likely, that pain and evil are the result of an all-powerful and good God, or the product of uncaring natural forces? The presence of much suffering agrees well with the view that all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural selection.

Building a better mousetrap merely results in smarter mice.

How so many absurd rules of conduct, as well as so many absurd religious beliefs, have originated, we do not know; nor how it is that they have become, in all quarters of the world, so deeply impressed on the minds of men; but it is worthy of remark that a belief constantly inculcated during the early years of life, while the brain is impressionable, appears to acquire almost the nature of an instinct; and the very essence of an instinct is that it is followed independently of reason.

The more one thinks, the more one feels the hopeless immensity of man’s ignorance.

The world will not be inherited by the strongest, it will be inherited by those most able to change.

By considering the embryological structure of man – the homologies which he presents with the lower animals – the rudiments which he retains – and the reversions to which he is liable, we can partly recall in imagination the former condition of our early progenitors; and we can approximately place them in their proper position in the zoological series. We thus learnt that man is descended from a hairy quadruped, furnished with a tail and pointed ears, probably arboreal in its habit, and an inhabitant of the Old World. This creature, if its whole structure had been examined by a naturalist, would have been classed among the Quadrumana, as surely as would be the common and still more ancient progenitor of the Old and New World monkeys.

It is not the biggest, the brightest or the best that will survive, but those who adapt the quickest.

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

I am turned into a sort of machine for observing facts and grinding out conclusions.

A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, – a mere heart of stone.

Animals, whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equal.

We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universes, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act.

I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.

I am not apt to follow blindly the lead of other men

It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and in organic conditions of life. We see nothing of these slow changes in progress, until the hand of time has marked the long lapse of ages, and then so imperfect is our view into long-past geological ages, that we only see that the forms of life are now different from what they formerly were.

Man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped, probably arboreal in its habits.

My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.