The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex

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John Murray, 1874 - Evolution - 688 pages
Charles Darwin's "The Descent of Man: And Selection in Relation to Sex" is his second work on his theory of evolution and natural selection. Originally published in 1871, Darwin applies evolutionary analysis to human development. He then narrows his focus to "sexual selection," which he uses to explain various adaptations in species. The book was met with mixed reviews. Alfred Russel Wallace, a leading evolutionary theorist who is co-credited with discovering natural selection, disagreed with Darwin's views on sexual selection. He argued that Darwin's discussion of female choice attributed advanced cognitive function to species without such abilities, like insects. Wallace, however, was a believer in spiritualism and asserted that natural selection could not explain certain traits, like artistic ability, musical genius, or humor. Today, "The Descent of Man" remains as a must-read for anyone interested in biology, Darwinism and early evolutionary theory.
 

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User Review  - Britt84 - LibraryThing

Very interesting to read, and definitely a very important work of science, though nowadays somewhat outdated... I do very much enjoy and appreciate Darwin's writings. He is very thorough and really ... Read full review

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User Review  - P_S_Patrick - LibraryThing

This is a difficult book to read in some ways. The main one being that it is so dense, the amount of information, observations, and evidence presented to the reader is staggering, all of it with the ... Read full review

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Page 563 - For my own part, I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old baboon who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs, — as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.
Page 65 - If no organic being excepting man had possessed any mental power, or if his powers had been of a wholly different nature from those of the lower animals, then we should never have been able to convince ourselves that our high faculties had been gradually developed. But it can be shown that there is no fundamental difference of this kind.
Page 165 - The Simiadae then branched off into two great stems, the New World and Old World monkeys : and from the latter, at a remote period, Man, the wonder and glory of the universe, proceeded.
Page 563 - We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar systemwith all these exalted powers- Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.
Page 557 - I am aware that the conclusions arrived at in this work will be denounced by some as highly irreligious ; but he who denounces them is bound to show why it is more irreligious to explain the origin of man as a distinct species by descent from some lower form, through the laws of variation and natural selection, than to explain the birth of the individual through the laws of ordinary reproduction.
Page 160 - We should then be justified in believing that at an extremely remote period a group of animals existed, resembling in many respects the larvae of our present Ascidians, which diverged into two great branches— the one retrograding in development and producing the present class of Ascidians, the other rising to the crown and summit of the animal kingdom by giving birth to the Vertebrata.
Page 134 - It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but, excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
Page 94 - The question is of course wholly distinct from that higher one, whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the universe; and this has been answered in the affirmative by some of the highest intellects that have ever existed. If, however, we include under the term "religion...
Page 116 - Thus at last man comes to feel through acquired and perhaps inherited habit, that it is best for him to obey his more persistent instincts. The imperious word ought...
Page 126 - We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, 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.

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