On the Origin of Species | Study Guide

Charles Darwin

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On the Origin of Species | Chapter 15 : Recapitulation and Conclusion | Summary

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Summary

In the final chapter Darwin notes the book has been "one long argument," and his goal is to summarize the arguments in an attempt to convince the reader of the full strength of his case. He also readdresses some of the arguments that have been posited against the theory of natural selection, noting that in all cases, "They are by no means sufficient to overthrow" the theory of natural selection.

It is also in this chapter Darwin defines explicitly for the first time the difference between creatures "produced by special acts of creation" and varieties "produced by secondary laws." This puts his earlier argument—there is no distinction between species and varieties—into perspective. Darwin claims the current method of defining what constitutes a "species" versus a "variety" is flawed. He goes on to say basing the distinction on created versus non-created organisms is inherently ineffectual if natural selection is considered the main form of variation seen in the natural world.

Darwin ends the chapter by reiterating he does not find natural selection to be the only means by which variations in organisms occur. However, he claims it is the main form by which variation occurs. He notes the main reason people may fail to consider the theory of natural selection is because they are "slow in admitting great changes" when the process is not immediately apparent. However, he argues the natural world becomes inherently much more interesting when change is believed to occur due to natural selection, as opposed to acts of creation. In Darwin's words, "There is grandeur in this view of life."

Analysis

Darwin uses this chapter to reiterate the arguments he has made over the course of the book. He also explicitly addresses some of the implications of the theory of natural selection and is mainly concerned with readdressing some of his main points, explicitly noting arguments that have been attacked by previous critics. Darwin's goal is to leave the reader with a strong argument that leaves little room for disagreement. However, he agrees in some cases the arguments posited against his work are not born from a deep-seated issue, but rather arise from misunderstandings, or a gut reaction against the idea. Those objections he cannot argue against.

Darwin clearly states some of the implications against the creation of organisms implied by his theory. He does so by arguing for a more rigorous method of distinguishing species, rather than relying on the arbitrary distinction between organisms that have been intelligently designed and those created by other laws. Darwin uses the last couple of paragraphs to suggest the natural world becomes richer and more interesting when considered through the lens of the theory of natural selection in contrast to that of creationism.

Previous chapters hint at some of the implications Darwin explicitly states in this last chapter, and he draws on some of these arguments to make his case. It is clear he is aware the implication against creationism is what many individuals will critique. He is attempting to implore individuals to consider natural selection by appealing to their sense of scientific interest. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is still these same perceived issues that are put forth today against the theory of natural selection. The dispute between those who believe solely in creationism and those who believe in the theory of natural selection is an argument that began even before Darwin's time and continues today.

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