Book Review of the Origin of Species

by Cliff Lillo

The Illustrated Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, Abridged and Introduced by Richard E. Leakey, 1979. Hill and Wang, New York. 240 pages.

Charles Darwin had many strange beliefs, some of which are pointed out in the book review on the next page. One of the strangest may have been his belief that the Eozoon existed in countless numbers and certainly preyed on other minute organic beings. The Eozoon were later shown to be nothing more than crystalline formations.

Many of Charles Darwin’s mistakes are admitted by Richard Leakey in this abridged edition of Darwin’s most famous work, but he, nevertheless, claims that “Darwin’s genius transcends the century . . .” on page 13. Regarding the book. He says in his Introduction:

It was an important book in Darwin’s time and it remains so today, for the theory of evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology and Darwin’s book forms the foundation of that theory, p. 9.

Leakey does not wish to discredit Darwin in any way when he points out Darwin’s errors and he frequently tries to explain away the differences between Darwin’s views and those of modern evolutionists. Yet when he does tell us is that in many ways Darwin was wrong!

In his Introduction Leakey says:

Sometimes . . . when subsequent research has shown Darwin’s discussions to be wrong. I have added short explanatory notes . . . p. 12. 13.

Darwin brought many different kinds of information to bear on the question of evolution, among them: heredity and variation, fossils, geological formations, geographical distribution, embryology, taxonomy and homology . . . Since Darwin’s time, there have been advances in all these individual disciplines, and some have changed beyond recognition in the past century. p. 21.

Expressed in other terms, in each of the areas mentioned, Darwin wrote his opinion but there has been change of thought over the years in the scientific community, and, in some cases the change is beyond recognition from previous views.

We must give Leakey credit for pointing out Darwin’s mistakes, but I believe that a creationist would have done it differently. Leakey uses an Introduction to the book, comments within some chapters, and comments under his illustrations to tell us of Darwin’s errors. Still, in reading Darwin’s text. It is easy for the reader to forget that Darwin was wrong when he says that science has not yet proved Lamarck in error about spontaneous generation, wrong when he says that changes in habit can be inherited, and wrong when he says that use or disuse of an organ can be passed along from parent to child, etc. Leakey lets Darwin’s statements continue to be expressed unchallenged in the text of this abridged edition. As a creationist. I would have put parenthetical statements immediately after each wrong statement by Darwin, such as. “He is wrong here because . . .” Leakey’s illustration captions present another problem, in that they give some present beliefs and facts, which the reader accepts, causing him to accept the text in the same way. Leakey wants us to admire tins self-trained naturalist, who took his observations about God’s beautiful creation and extrapolated small differences within species to the preposterous conclusion that no Creator was necessary, or even existed. What does it take to discredit a man like Darwin?

Here is what Leakey says about spontaneous generation:

. . . in Darwin’s time it was widely believed that . . . “spontaneous generation could occur, since tiny creatures could be observed under the microscope, in liquid in which vegetable matter had been infused. . . . At the very time The Origin of Species was published, Louis Pasteur was conducting his experiments demonstrating that spontaneous generation did not occur . . . but Darwin still kept an open mind on the subject as late as 1872. p. .35.

It should be noted that the sixth and last edition of The Origin of Species was published in January 1872. Darwin says:

Lamarck, who believed in an innate tendency towards perfection in all organic beings, seems to have felt this difficulty so strongly that he was led to suppose that new and simple forms are continually being produced by spontaneous generation. Science has not as yet proved the truth of this belief, whatever the future may reveal, p. 91, 92.

To Darwin, science had not yet proved the truth of spontaneous generation but a scientist, Louis Pasteur (who was also a Christian) had already proven it to he fallacious!

Darwin was also wrong about variability with domestication. Leakey says:

Darwin’s idea that domestication can, in itself cause greater variability to arise between individuals is now known to be wrong . . . Gene recombination and mutation are what give rise to variation, and these will occur at the same rate in the wild as under domestication. But in the wild, variation will usually be far more ruthlessly weeded out. p. 50.

Darwin thought that habits could be passed from parent to child. He says on page 50, “Changed habits produce an inherited effect . . .” Leakey counters this with, “Characters acquired by an individual during its lifetime cannot be passed on to its offspring.”

Darwin believed that the use or disuse of an organ would be inherited. His statement was, “I think there can be no doubt that use in our domestic animals has strengthened and enlarged certain parts, and disuse diminished them; and that such modifications are inherited.” p. 95. Is this true? If a farmer cut off a cow’s tail would her descendants be unable to swish their tails? Would they be born without tails? Leakey says.

Although Darwin wrongly thought that habit and the effects of use or disuse could be inherited, he did nut regard the inheritance of such acquired characters as essential to his theory. In the first edition of The Origin of Species there was less emphasis on this subject, but Darwin later gave it more prominence to answer criticisms that there had not been enough time for so much evolution to have occurred merely by the accumulation of random variations, p. 50.

Darwin’s and Leakey’s comments regarding variations due to chance are also significant. Darwin said, “I have hitherto sometimes spoken as if variations were due to chance. This, of course, is a wholly incorrect expression . . .” page 95. In contrast, Leakey wrote, “Genetic variations are in fact. ‘due to chance.’ since the form they take is not influenced by the environmental conditions.” p. 95.

One of Darwin’s claims concerned the “eozoon.” (i.e., “dawn animal.”) Darwin says,

The Eozoon belongs to the most lowly organized of all classes of animals but is highly organized for its class: it existed in countless numbers and certainly preyed on oilier minute organic beings, which must have lived in great numbers, p. 164.

What made Darwin think that the eozoon was carnivorous? How did he determine that it preyed on anything at all? The eozoon was not an animal, not even a plant. This is what Leakey has to say about this:

He [Darwin] believed that numerous fossils of a tiny creature, which was given the name Eozoon, were present in certain Precambrian strata in Canada. But these were later shown to be nothing more than crystalline formations, p. 34.

These are only a few of the many wrong statements by Darwin that Leakey has admitted in this hook. Creationists are urged to get the book just to see how wrong Darwin was. The book should especially be read by theistic evolutionists. Since they do accept the reality of God, when they are shown that the basic theories of Darwin are wrong they may also accept the realities of Creationism.

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