“If Darwin could rename his most famous book.”
Through my readings of his writings, I believe Charles Darwin might today rename his famous book of 1859: “Origin of Species.”
When he wrote “Origin,” he did not have access to Mendel’s work on genetics. Over and over, I have written in my book margins: “If only Darwin had a simple Punnett square in hand!” Darwin repeatedly talked of reversion to ancestral species. When one looks at the cross of two pure-breeds for a given trait from a male and female, one homozygous dominant and one homozygous recessive, the result is 100% hybrid. Each member of the first filial generation is heterozygous dominant. The resulting cross of two hybrids is one homozygous dominant, two heterozygous dominants and one homozygous recessive possibility. When the hybrids are then crossed, the original parental/grandparent homozygous traits might just reappear. Darwin talked extensively about genetic themes before the discipline was solidified. I am referring to content in Chapter I of “Origins,” called “Under Domestication,” in the paragraphs beginning with “A long list could easily be given of sporting plants,” and the subsequent paragraph beginning with “Seedlings from the same fruit.”
In the paragraph beginning: “Geological research,” in Chapter IX: “Geological record,” Darwin lamented the lack of numerous transitional varieties to support his idea of gradualism. In effect, he acknowledged the effects and significance of the Cambrian explosion and punctuated equilibrium.
In his Chapter called “Recapitulation and Conclusion” in “Origin,” Darwin alluded to life “breathed” into a progenitor species, which is very reminiscent of the “breath of life” as indicated in Genesis 2:7. The paragraph to which I am referring in Chapter XIV begins with: “Analogy would lead me to one step further.”
In this same paragraph he talked about “Nevertheless all living things have much in common.” He was foreseeing DNA as the code, the library of words which are common to all living things.
Finally, in this opinion expressed by me, I will recapitulate and conclude:
#1 Darwin was a brilliant thinker in genetics before the discipline officially “became of age.”
#2 He acknowledged possible faults in his theory of gradualism.
#3 He at least suggested supernatural influence when discussing the beginning of things.
#4 Darwin recognized the influence of DNA in the commonality of things. One of my collaborators added: “But if Darwin had the benefit of knowing the genetic code like we do today, he would observe that the most salient example of gradualism is the code itself, as we compare a gene from lower to higher organisms.”
It is possible, that were Darwin alive today, he might retitle his work “Origin of Species,” to:
“How DNA works.”
By Darrell D. Barnes
February 6, 2019
The paragraphs cited in this opinion were taken from “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin, A Facsimile of the First Edition.