Workers Vanguard No. 948

4 December 2009


“There Is Grandeur in this View of Life”

November 24 marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. This seminal work outlined Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection, which forms the basis of modern biology. We print below the final paragraph of On the Origin of Species, as published in the first, 1859, edition. Of note, in subsequent editions of the book the words “by the Creator” were added after the phrase “having been originally breathed,” most likely due to pressure from religious “public opinion.”

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled 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 with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external 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 the higher animals, directly follows. 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.