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Darwin's Deliberations about Origin of Species

John St J. S. Buckeridge


Charles Darwin published his controversial ideas on natural selection in “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”. His deliberations whether to publish the book reflected:

  • Darwin’s anguish about reconciling religious beliefs and scepticism
  • his anxiety about the book’s acceptance by society
  • his uncertainty whether his colleagues would embrace his work

December 2009


“Man is but a worm.” An unkindly caricature, published by Punch magazine as part of their 1882 Almanac in 1881, just prior to Charles Darwin’s death. The message shows that there was still much conjecture about the origin of species at that time.
Public Domain image.

Darwin’s Environment

The book “Origin of Species” is 150 years old in 2009.

The English physician and naturalist Erasmus Darwin died in 1802, approximately seven years before Charles Darwin’s birth. Nonetheless, he provided the philosophical framework and intellectual environment for his grandson Charles’ work on evolutionary theory, which led to the publication of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, [hereafter shortened to Origin of Species] in 1859.1 In his publication Zoönomia, Erasmus Darwin stated:

Would it be too bold to imagine that, in the great length of time since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind… that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which the great First Cause endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions and associations, and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down these improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!2

Professor John Buckeridge is the Head of the School of Civil, Environmental, and Chemical Engineering at RMIT University. He is also Immediate Past President of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), Chairman of the IUBS Bioethics Committee, Past President of the International Society of Zoological Sciences, and he has acted as a consultant on environmental ethics to UNESCO’s COMEST (World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology). Professor Buckeridge is an Honorarprofessor at Wismar University, Germany, in recognition of his work in engineering ethics. He has published more than 250 books, journal articles, and reports, in subject areas that include geology, geological engineering, paleobiology, engineering systems, ethics, marine biology, forensics, and natural resources management.;ID=2aj3ctcy9apt

Darwin's Deliberations about Origin of Species


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  1. Darwin, C. 1859. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 1st ed. London: John Murray.
  2. Darwin, E. 1794. Zoönomia, Part 1. London: J. Johnson.
  3. Buckeridge, J.S. In press. The ongoing evolution of humanness: perspectives from Darwin to de Chardin. South African Journal of Science 105.
  4. Browne, J. 1995. Charles Darwin Voyaging: Part 1 of a Biography. London: Random House.
  5. Spencer, N. 2009. Darwin and God. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
  6. Darwin, C. 1871. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1st ed., p. 395. London: John Murray.
  7. Darwin, F. (ed.) 1887. The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter, Vol. 1, p. 304. London: John Murray.
  8. Taylor, J. H. (ed). 1982. The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim). In Ancient Christian Writers, Vol. 41. Mahwah, NJ: Newman Press.
  9. Buckeridge, J. S. 2007. Creationism and Intelligent Design: a critique. In Dossier Évolution et créationnisme. Natures Sciences Sociétés 15(4): 405–406.
  10. Wade, N. 2009. The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and why it Endures. New York: Penguin.


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