Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: Or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life

By Charles Darwin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
NATURAL SELECTION; OR THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

Natural Selection: its power compared with man's selection; its power on characters of trifling importance; its power at all ages and on both sexes--Sexual Selection--On the generality of intercrosses between individuals of the same species--Circumstances favorable and unfavorable to the results of Natural Selection; namely, intercrossing, isolation, number of individuals--Slow action--Extinction caused by Natural Selection--Divergence of Character, related to the diversity of inhabitants of any small area, and to naturalization--Action of Natural Selection, through Divergence of Character, and Extinction, on the descendants from a common parent--Explains the grouping of all organic beings--Advance in organization--Low forms preserved-- Convergence of character--Indefinite multiplication of species--Summary

HOW WILL the struggle for existence, briefly discussed in the last chapter, act in regard to variation? Can the principle of selection, which we have seen is so potent in the hands of man, apply under nature? I think we shall see that it can act most efficiently. Let the endless number of slight variations and individual differences occurring in our domestic productions, and, in a lesser degree, in those under nature, be borne in mind; as well as the strength of the hereditary tendency. Under domestication, it may be truly said that the whole organization becomes in some degree plastic. But the variability, which we almost universally meet with in our domestic productions, is not directly produced, as Hooker and Asa Gray have well remarked, by man; he can neither originate varieties, nor prevent their

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