Descent Of Man Revisited

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Barzun quote from DMR

March 1st, 2013 · No Comments

Natural selection–doubts from the beginning

It should have been possible, even before Darwin come around to it, to criticize the whole imagery of natural selection and the survival of the fittest. But if we except Samuel Butler and one or two other unheeded critics, everybody preferred “Nature red in tooth and claw”, and either regretted or rejoiced that it was the only means of making improvements in species. Some obviously feared that if natural selection were discarded evolution would be endangered. They thought the two theories inseparable and foresaw a rebirth of superstition. But dropping natural selection leaves the evidence for evolution untouched. It was not even a question of dropping natural selection, for natural selection is an observed fact. It was a question of seeing—as Darwin came to see—that selection occurs after the useful change has come into being: therefore natural selection can cause nothing but the elimination of the unfit, not the production of the fit…
Jacques Barzun (1941), Darwin, Marx, Wagner: Critique of a Heritage (Doubleday Anchor, 1958), p. 62

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