I finished The Voyage of The Beagle about Darwin’s early travels. People keep asking me who wrote it – as if all historical figures can only be seen in light of later historians! Well, he wrote it himself based on his personal journal. The trip was probably an inspiration for evolution but at the time, he held more conventional beliefs. The book focuses on observations while sailing and on land expeditions in the southern hemisphere. He discusses a wide variety of social, biological and natural phenomena – this generalist approach to science is refreshing. He occasionally makes positive religious references and comparisons. He feels great patriotic pride at being English and the improvement, as he saw it, of various peoples around the world, primarily through missionary activity. He often makes clear his strong feelings against slavery. A few observations are striking as possible foreshadowing his later work, including:

  • Certain species occur together and never occur separately
  • Certain species are unique to a particular habitat and do not occur in a distant similar habitat
  • Many species are comprised of sub-species
  • Habitats, geology, ground level and climate change in time, sometimes suddenly and sometimes slowly
  • Two nearby places can be completely different habitats
  • Some habitats often have new arrivals of species, others are isolated
  • The vast majority of fossils correspond to extinct species
  • Some species are very rare and are hardly ever seen by humans. (Why would God bother creating that?)
  • Rushing to hasty conclusions is a common mistake

Anyway, a good book there. I also have “Origin” but I will take a rest from biology for a few weeks.