Darwin on the Evolution of Complex Structures

Darwin on the Evolution of Complex Structures

Speaking of the evolution of complex structures, here are some additional quotations from Darwin found in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volumes I & II, edited by his son, Francis Darwin:

  • "I cannot too strongly express my conviction of the general truth of my doctrines, and God knows I have never shirked a difficulty."

    (Darwin to Charles Lyell Sept. 20, 1859)
  • "About the weak points I agree. The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder, but when I think of the fine known gradations, my reason tells me I ought to conquer the cold shudder."

    (Darwin to Asa Gray [a Christian minister] Feb. ?, 1860)
  • "Henslow [says he]... will go a very little way with us [in accepting the Darwinian theory of evolution], but brings up no real argument against going further. He also shudders at the eye! It is really curious (and perhaps is an argument in our favour) how differently different opposers view the subject... Baden Powell says he never read anything so conclusive as my statement about the eye!"

    (Darwin to Charles Lyell Feb. 15, 1860)
  • "To recur to the eye. I really think it would have been dishonest, not to have faced the difficulty; and worse... it would have been impolitic I think, for it would have been thrown in my teeth, as H. Holland threw the bones of the ear, till Huxley shut him up by showing what a fine gradation occurred amongst living creatures."

    (Darwin to Charles Lyell Feb. 23, 1860)
  • "...I remember well the time when the thought of the eye made me cold all over, but I have got over this stage of the complaint, and now small trifling particulars of structure often make me feel uncomfortable. The sight of a feather in a peacock's tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!"

    (Darwin to Asa Gray Apr. 3, 1860)
    [Fifteen years later, Darwin wrote of the "black-shouldered peacock, the so-called Pavo nigripennis given in my 'Var. under Domest.;'...the variety is in many respects intermediate between the two known species." (Darwin to August Weismann Dec. 6, 1875) So, Darwin did not doubt that peacocks and their complex feathers had evolved. - ED.]
  • "For the life of me I cannot see any difficulty in natural selection producing the most exquisite structure, if such structure can be arrived at by gradation, and I know from experience how hard it is to name any structure towards which at least some gradations are not known."

    (Darwin to Charles Lyell Apr. 1860)


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