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Who said: “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it... That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index E > Category: Evolution

Evolution Quotes (517 quotes)
Evolve Quotes, Evolved Quotes, Evolving Quotes

From thus meditating on the great similarity of the structure of the warm-blooded animals, and at the same time of the great changes they undergo both before and after their nativity; and by considering in how minute a portion of time many of the changes of animals above described have been produced; 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 would it be too bold to imagine 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!
Zoonomia, Or, The Laws of Organic Life, in three parts (1803), Vol. 1, 397.

'Time's noblest offspring is the last.' This line of Bishop Berkeley's expresses the real cause of the belief in progress in the animal creation.
Leonard G. Wilson (ed.), Sir Charles Lyell's Scientific Journals on the Species Question (1970), 162.

“They were apes only yesterday. Give them time.”
“Once an ape—always an ape.”…
“No, it will be different. … Come back here in an age or so and you shall see. ...”
[The gods, discussing the Earth, in the movie version of Wells' The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936).]
The Man Who Could Work Miracles: a film by H.G. Wells based on the short story (1936), 105-106. Quoted in Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain (1986), 3.
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Ode to The Amoeba
Recall from Time's abysmal chasm
That piece of primal protoplasm
The First Amoeba, strangely splendid,
From whom we're all of us descended.
That First Amoeba, weirdly clever,
Exists today and shall forever,
Because he reproduced by fission;
He split himself, and each division
And subdivision deemed it fitting
To keep on splitting, splitting, splitting;
So, whatsoe'er their billions be,
All, all amoebas still are he.
Zoologists discern his features
In every sort of breathing creatures,
Since all of every living species,
No matter how their breed increases
Or how their ranks have been recruited,
From him alone were evoluted.
King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba
And Hoover sprang from that amoeba;
Columbus, Shakespeare, Darwin, Shelley
Derived from that same bit of jelly.
So famed is he and well-connected,
His statue ought to be erected,
For you and I and William Beebe
Are undeniably amoebae!
(1922). Collected in Gaily the Troubadour (1936), 18.
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Clarke's Law of Evolution: It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.
M. S. Thambirajah, Psychological Basis of Psychiatry (2005), 33.
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Dilbert: Evolution must be true because it is a logical conclusion of the scientific method.
Dogbert: But science is based on the irrational belief that because we cannot perceive reality all at once, things called “time” and “cause and effect” exist.
Dilbert: That’s what I was taught and that’s what I believe.
Dogbert: Sounds cultish.
Dilbert comic strip (8 Feb 1992).
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Dinosaur: I plan to use punctuated equilibrium to turn this zit into a third eye.
Catbert: That's not a natural advantage. You'd better stay away from the fitter dinosaurs.
Dilbert comic strip (30 Aug 2002).
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E canchis amnia.
Everything from shells.
Motto on his bookplate, 1771, expressing his evolutionary beliefs.

Nature and nurture are an inseparable blend of influences that work together to produce our behavior. A growing band of researchers are demonstrating that the bedrock of behaviors that make up the concerns of everyday life, such as sex, language, cooperation, and violence have been carved out by evolution over the eons, and this Stone Age legacy continues to influence modern life today.
In Stone Age Present: How Evolution Has Shaped Modern Life: From Sex, Violence and Language to Emotions, Morals and Communities, (1995), 25-26.
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Ron Hutcheson, a Knight-Ridder reporter: [Mr. President, what are your] personal views [about the theory of] intelligent design?
President George W. Bush: [Laughing. You're] doing a fine job of dragging me back to the past [days as governor of Texas]. ... Then, I said that, first of all, that decision should be made to local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught...”
Hutcheson: Both sides ought to be properly taught?
President: Yes ... so people can understand what the debate is about.
Hutcheson: So the answer accepts the validity of “intelligent design” as an alternative to evolution?
President: I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought, and I'm not suggesting—you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.
Hutcheson: So we've got to give these groups—...
President: [interrupting] Very interesting question, Hutch. [Laughter from other reporters]
From conversation with reporters at the White House (1 Aug 2005), as quoted by Matthew Cooper in 'Fanning the Controversy Over “Intelligent Design”', Time (3 Aug 2005). The Time writer stated, “The president has gone farther in questioning the widely-taught theories of evolution and natural selection than any president since Ronald Reagan, who advocated teaching creationism in public schools alongside evolution.” Just a few months later, in the nation's first case on that point, on 20 Dec 2005, “a federal judge [John E. Jones] ruled it was unconstitutional for a Pennsylvania school district to present intelligent design as an alternative in high school biology courses, because it is a religious viewpoint,” as reported by Laurie Goodstein in 'Judge Rejects Teaching Intelligent Design', New York Times (21 Dec 2005). Goodstein also wrote “Judge Jones, a Republican appointed by President Bush, concluded that intelligent design was not science,” and that “the evidence in the trial proved that intelligent design was 'creationism relabeled.' The Supreme Court has already ruled that creationism ... cannot be taught as science in a public school.”
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The Water-baby story character, Tom, asks: 'I heard, ma'am, that you were always making new beasts out of old.'
Mother Carey [Mother Nature] replies: 'So people fancy. But I am not going to trouble myself to make things, my little dear. I sit here and make them make themselves.'
[The author's indirect reference to evolution.]
The Water-babies (1886), 307.

Zweck sein selbst ist jegliches Tier.
Each animal is an end in itself.
'Metamorphose der Tiere' (1806), in David Luke (ed.), Goethe (1964), 152.
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[Concerning the former belief that there were no genetic connections among species:] This view, as a rounded whole and in all its essential elements, has very recently disappeared from science. It died a royal death with Agassiz.
Asa Gray
From lecture 'Scientific Beliefs', as published in Natural Science and Religion: Two Lectures delivered to the Theological School of Yale College (1880), Vol. 3, Lecture 1, 35.
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[In refutation of evolution] There is not enough evidence, consistent evidence to make it as fact, and I say that because for theory to become a fact, it needs to consistently have the same results after it goes through a series of tests. The tests that they put—that they use to support evolution do not have consistent results. Now too many people are blindly accepting evolution as fact. But when you get down to the hard evidence, it’s merely a theory.
[In favor of the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in schools.]
From interview by Miles O'Brien on CNN (30 Mar 1996). Reported from transcript, via Nexis, in New York Magazine (15 Sep 2010).
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[In refutation of evolution] You know what, evolution is a myth. … Why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?
From interview on TV show, Politically Incorrect (15 Oct 1998).
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A comparatively small variety of species is found in the older rocks, although of some particular ones the remains are very abundant; ... Ascending to the next group of rocks, we find the traces of life become more abundant, the number of species extended.
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844), 60-1.
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A complete theory of evolution must acknowledge a balance between ‘external’ forces of environment imposing selection for local adaptation and ‘internal’ forces representing constraints of inheritance and development. Vavilov placed too much emphasis on internal constraints and downgraded the power of selection. But Western Darwinians have erred equally in practically ignoring (while acknowledging in theory) the limits placed on selection by structure and development–what Vavilov and the older biologists would have called ‘laws of form.’
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A fire-mist and a planet,
A crystal and a cell,
A jellyfish and a saurian,
And caves where the cavemen dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty,
And a face turned from the clod—
Some call it Evolution,
And others call it God.
'Each in his Own Tongue', in Kansas in Literature: Part One, Poetry (1900), 83.
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A living organism must be studied from two distinct aspects. One of these is the causal-analytic aspect which is so fruitfully applicable to ontogeny. The other is the historical descriptive aspect which is unravelling lines of phylogeny with ever-increasing precision. Each of these aspects may make suggestions concerning the possible significance of events seen under the other, but does not explain or translate them into simpler terms.
'Embryology and Evolution', in G. R. de Beer (ed.), Evolution: Essays on Aspects of Evolutionary Biology presented to Professor E. S. Goodrich on his Seventieth Birthday (1938), 76-7.
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A man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would rather be a man—a man of restless and versatile intellect—who … plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them by an aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice.
As recollected in a letter written by an undergraduate, John Richard Green, writing to his friend, afterwards Professor Boyd Dawkins. This was Huxley's rebuttal to Bishop Samuel Wilberforce who ridiculed Darwin's theory of evolution at a meeting of the British Association at Oxford (30 Jun 1860). After hearing Wilberforce's speech, and before rising himself, Huxley is said to have remarked, “The Lord has delivered him into my hands!” (No transcript was taken at the time, so the words are not verbatim. The version above is commonly seen, and was said by Huxley to be fair in substance, if not wholely accurate. The letter excerpt is in Leonard Huxley (ed.), Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1916), Vol. 1, 199. Additional accounts of the debate are given in the book.
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A new species develops if a population which has become geographically isolated from its parental species acquires during this period of isolation characters which promote or guarantee reproductive isolation when the external barriers break down.
Systematics and the Origin of Species: From the Viewpoint of a Zoologist (1942), 155.
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A species consists of a group of populations which replace each other geographically or ecologically and of which the neighboring ones integrate or hybridise wherever they are in contact or which are potentially capable of doing so (with one or more of the populations) in those cases where contact is prevented by geographical or ecological barriers.
'Speciation Phenomena in Birds', The American Naturalist (1940), 74, 256.
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A very sincere and serious freshman student came to my office with a question that had clearly been troubling him deeply. He said to me, ‘I am a devout Christian and have never had any reason to doubt evolution, an idea that seems both exciting and well documented. But my roommate, a proselytizing evangelical, has been insisting with enormous vigor that I cannot be both a real Christian and an evolutionist. So tell me, can a person believe both in God and in evolution?’ Again, I gulped hard, did my intellectual duty, a nd reassured him that evolution was both true and entirely compatible with Christian belief –a position that I hold sincerely, but still an odd situation for a Jewish agnostic.
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Absorbed in the special investigation, I paid no heed to the edifice which was meanwhile unconsciously building itself up. Having however completed the comparison of the fossil species in Paris, I wanted, for the sake of an easy revision of the same, to make a list according to their succession in geological formations, with a view of determining the characteristics more exactly and bringing them by their enumeration into bolder relief. What was my joy and surprise to find that the simplest enumeration of the fossil fishes according to their geological succession was also a complete statement of the natural relations of the families among themselves; that one might therefore read the genetic development of the whole class in the history of creation, the representation of the genera and species in the several families being therein determined; in one word, that the genetic succession of the fishes corresponds perfectly with their zoological classification, and with just that classification proposed by me.
Quoted in Elizabeth Cary Agassiz (ed.), Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence (1885), Vol. I, 203-4.
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According to my derivative hypothesis, a change takes place first in the structure of the animal, and this, when sufficiently advanced, may lead to modifications of habits… . “Derivation” holds that every species changes, in time, by virtue of inherent tendencies thereto. “Natural Selection” holds that no such change can take place without the influence of altered external circumstances educing or selecting such change… . The hypothesis of “natural selection” totters on the extension of a conjectural condition, explanatory of extinction to the majority of organisms, and not known or observed to apply to the origin of any species.
In On the Anatomy of Vertebrates (1868), Vol. 3, 808.
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Adam is fading out. It is on account of Darwin and that crowd. I can see that he is not going to last much longer. There's a plenty of signs. He is getting belittled to a germ—a little bit of a speck that you can't see without a microscope powerful enough to raise a gnat to the size of a church. They take that speck and breed from it: first a flea; then a fly, then a bug, then cross these and get a fish, then a raft of fishes, all kinds, then cross the whole lot and get a reptile, then work up the reptiles till you've got a supply of lizards and spiders and toads and alligators and Congressmen and so on, then cross the entire lot again and get a plant of amphibiums, which are half-breeds and do business both wet and dry, such as turtles and frogs and ornithorhyncuses and so on, and cross-up again and get a mongrel bird, sired by a snake and dam'd by a bat, resulting in a pterodactyl, then they develop him, and water his stock till they've got the air filled with a million things that wear feathers, then they cross-up all the accumulated animal life to date and fetch out a mammal, and start-in diluting again till there's cows and tigers and rats and elephants and monkeys and everything you want down to the Missing Link, and out of him and a mermaid they propagate Man, and there you are! Everything ship-shape and finished-up, and nothing to do but lay low and wait and see if it was worth the time and expense.
'The Refuge of the Derelicts' collected in Mark Twain and John Sutton Tuckey, The Devil's Race-Track: Mark Twain's Great Dark Writings (1980), 340-41. - 1980
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Admit for a moment, as a hypothesis, that the Creator had before his mind a projection of the whole life-history of the globe, commencing with any point which the geologist may imagine to have been a fit commencing point, and ending with some unimaginable acme in the indefinitely distant future. He determines to call this idea into actual existence, not at the supposed commencing point, but at some stage or other of its course. It is clear, then, that at the selected stage it appears, exactly as it would have appeared at that moment of its history, if all the preceding eras of its history had been real.
Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot (1857), 351.

After having produced aquatic animals of all ranks and having caused extensive variations in them by the different environments provided by the waters, nature led them little by little to the habit of living in the air, first by the water's edge and afterwards on all the dry parts of the globe. These animals have in course of time been profoundly altered by such novel conditions; which so greatly influenced their habits and organs that the regular gradation which they should have exhibited in complexity of organisation is often scarcely recognisable.
Hydrogéologie (1802), trans. A. V. Carozzi (1964), 69-70.
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After innumerable dynasties of giant creatures, after endless generations of fish and families of molluscs, man finally arrives, the degenerate product of a grandiose type, his mould perhaps broken by his Creator. Fired by his retrospection, these timid humans, born but yesterday, can now leap across chaos, sing an endless hymn, and configure the history of the universe in a sort of retrograde Apocalypse.
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated as by Helen Constantine The Wild Ass’s Skin (2012), 19.
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All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in very special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.
The Blind Watchmaker (1986), 5.
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All fossil anthropoids found hitherto have been known only from mandibular or maxillary fragments, so far as crania are concerned, and so the general appearance of the types they represented had been unknown; consequently, a condition of affairs where virtually the whole face and lower jaw, replete with teeth, together with the major portion of the brain pattern, have been preserved, constitutes a specimen of unusual value in fossil anthropoid discovery. Here, as in Homo rhodesiensis, Southern Africa has provided documents of higher primate evolution that are amongst the most complete extant. Apart from this evidential completeness, the specimen is of importance because it exhibits an extinct race of apes intermediate between living anthropoids and man ... Whether our present fossil is to be correlated with the discoveries made in India is not yet apparent; that question can only be solved by a careful comparison of the permanent molar teeth from both localities. It is obvious, meanwhile, that it represents a fossil group distinctly advanced beyond living anthropoids in those two dominantly human characters of facial and dental recession on one hand, and improved quality of the brain on the other. Unlike Pithecanthropus, it does not represent an ape-like man, a caricature of precocious hominid failure, but a creature well advanced beyond modern anthropoids in just those characters, facial and cerebral, which are to be anticipated in an extinct link between man and his simian ancestor. At the same time, it is equally evident that a creature with anthropoid brain capacity and lacking the distinctive, localised temporal expansions which appear to be concomitant with and necessary to articulate man, is no true man. It is therefore logically regarded as a man-like ape. I propose tentatively, then, that a new family of Homo-simidæ be created for the reception of the group of individuals which it represents, and that the first known species of the group be designated Australopithecus africanus, in commemoration, first, of the extreme southern and unexpected horizon of its discovery, and secondly, of the continent in which so many new and important discoveries connected with the early history of man have recently been made, thus vindicating the Darwinian claim that Africa would prove to be the cradle of mankind.
'Australopithicus africanus: The Man-Ape of South Africa', Nature, 1925, 115, 195.
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All geologic history is full of the beginning and the ends of species–of their first and last days; but it exhibits no genealogies of development.
Lecture to the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution, 'Geology in its Bearings on the Two Theologies, Part 1', collected in The Testimony of the Rocks: or, Geology in Its Bearings on the Two Theologies, Natural and Revealed (1857), 220.
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All I ever aim to do is to put the Development hypothesis in the same coach as the creation one. It will only be a question of who is to ride outside & who in after all.
Letter to Asa Gray (31 May 1859). Quoted in A. Hunter Dupree, Asa Gray: American Botanist, Friend of Darwin (1988), 265. Originally published as Asa Gray: 1810-1888 (1959).
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All living forms are the results of physical influences which are still in operation, and vary only in degree and direction
Entry for Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus in Encyclopedia Britannica (1911), Vol. 27, 256.
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All Modern Men are descended from a Wormlike creature but it shows more on some people.
The Great Bustard and Other People (1944), 30.
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All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.
[Revealing his anti-science views, contrary to the qualifications needed to make important public policy on matters of science.]
From speech (27 Sep 2012) to a sportman's banquet at Liberty Baptist Church, Hartwell, Georgia, as quoted in Matt Pearce, 'U.S. Rep. Paul Broun: Evolution a lie ‘from the pit of hell’', Los angeles Times (7 Oct 2012).
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All the different classes of beings which taken together make up the universe are, in the ideas of God who knows distinctly their essential gradations, only so many ordinates of a single curve so closely united that it would be impossible to place others between any two of them, since that would imply disorder and imperfection. Thus men are linked with the animals, these with the plants and these with the fossils which in turn merge with those bodies which our senses and our imagination represent to us as absolutely inanimate. And, since the law of continuity requires that when the essential attributes of one being approximate those of another all the properties of the one must likewise gradually approximate those of the other, it is necessary that all the orders of natural beings form but a single chain, in which the various classes, like so many rings, are so closely linked one to another that it is impossible for the senses or the imagination to determine precisely the point at which one ends and the next begins?all the species which, so to say, lie near the borderlands being equivocal, at endowed with characters which might equally well be assigned to either of the neighboring species. Thus there is nothing monstrous in the existence zoophytes, or plant-animals, as Budaeus calls them; on the contrary, it is wholly in keeping with the order of nature that they should exist. And so great is the force of the principle of continuity, to my thinking, that not only should I not be surprised to hear that such beings had been discovered?creatures which in some of their properties, such as nutrition or reproduction, might pass equally well for animals or for plants, and which thus overturn the current laws based upon the supposition of a perfect and absolute separation of the different orders of coexistent beings which fill the universe;?not only, I say, should I not be surprised to hear that they had been discovered, but, in fact, I am convinced that there must be such creatures, and that natural history will perhaps some day become acquainted with them, when it has further studied that infinity of living things whose small size conceals them for ordinary observation and which are hidden in the bowels of the earth and the depth of the sea.
Lettre Prétendue de M. De Leibnitz, à M. Hermann dont M. Koenig a Cité le Fragment (1753), cxi-cxii, trans. in A. O. Lovejoy, Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea (1936), 144-5.
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Among the multitude of animals which scamper, fly, burrow and swim around us, man is the only one who is not locked into his environment. His imagination, his reason, his emotional subtlety and toughness, make it possible for him not to accept the environment, but to change it. And that series of inventions, by which man from age to age has remade his environment, is a different kind of evolution—not biological, but cultural evolution. I call that brilliant sequence of cultural peaks The Ascent of Man. I use the word ascent with a precise meaning. Man is distinguished from other animals by his imaginative gifts. He makes plans, inventions, new discoveries, by putting different talents together; and his discoveries become more subtle and penetrating, as he learns to combine his talents in more complex and intimate ways. So the great discoveries of different ages and different cultures, in technique, in science, in the arts, express in their progression a richer and more intricate conjunction of human faculties, an ascending trellis of his gifts.
The Ascent of Man (1973), 19-20.
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An attempt to study the evolution of living organisms without reference to cytology would be as futile as an account of stellar evolution which ignored spectroscopy.
'Foreword', in C.D. Darlington, Recent Advances in Cytology (1937), v.
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An evolution is a series of events that in itself as series is purely physical, — a set of necessary occurrences in the world of space and time. An egg develops into a chick; … a planet condenses from the fluid state, and develops the life that for millions of years makes it so wondrous a place. Look upon all these things descriptively, and you shall see nothing but matter moving instant after instant, each instant containing in its full description the necessity of passing over into the next. … But look at the whole appreciatively, historically, synthetically, as a musician listens to a symphony, as a spectator watches a drama. Now you shall seem to have seen, in phenomenal form, a story.
In The Spirit of Modern Philosophy: An Essay in the Form of Lectures (1892), 425.
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An evolutionary perspective of our place in the history of the earth reminds us that Homo sapiens sapiens has occupied the planet for the tiniest fraction of that planet's four and a half thousand million years of existence. In many ways we are a biological accident, the product of countless propitious circumstances. As we peer back through the fossil record, through layer upon layer of long-extinct species, many of which thrived far longer than the human species is ever likely to do, we are reminded of our mortality as a species. There is no law that declares the human animal to be different, as seen in this broad biological perspective, from any other animal. There is no law that declares the human species to be immortal.
Co-author with American science writer Roger Amos Lewin (1946), Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of our Species and its Possible Future (1977), 256.
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An evolutionary view of human health and disease is not surprising or new; it is merely inevitable in the face of evidence and time.
Epigraph, without citation, in Robert Perlman, Evolution and Medicine (2013), xiii. Webmaster has not yet found the primary source; can you help?
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An extra-terrestrial philosopher, who had watched a single youth up to the age of twenty-one and had never come across any other human being, might conclude that it is the nature of human beings to grow continually taller and wiser in an indefinite progress towards perfection; and this generalization would be just as well founded as the generalization which evolutionists base upon the previous history of this planet.
Scientific Method in Philosophy (1914), 12.
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An irrefutable proof that such single-celled primaeval animals really existed as the direct ancestors of Man, is furnished according to the fundamental law of biogeny by the fact that the human egg is nothing more than a simple cell.
Natürlche Schöpfungsgeschichte, trans. E. R. Lankester, The History of Creation (1892), Vol. 2, 381.
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An old paleontological in joke proclaims that mammalian evolution is a tale told by teeth mating to produce slightly altered descendant teeth.
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And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
From Genesis, I, 24, in The Holy Bible (1756), 2.
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And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.
From Genesis, I, 31, in The Holy Bible (1756), 2.
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And Lady Luck remains tantalizingly in the shadows, pulling some of evolution's strings—but nobody knows how many.
'Weird Wonders', Scientific American, June 1992, 14.

And no one has the right to say that no water-babies exist, till they have seen no water-babies existing; which is quite a different thing, mind, from not seeing water-babies; and a thing which nobody ever did, or perhaps will ever do. But surely [if one were caught] ... they would have put it into spirits, or into the Illustrated News, or perhaps cut it into two halves, poor dear little thing, and sent one to Professor Owen, and one to Professor Huxley, to see what they would each say about it.
The Water-babies (1886), 79-80.
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And yet I think that the Full House model does teach us to treasure variety for its own sake–for tough reasons of evolutionary theory and nature’s ontology, and not from a lamentable failure of thought that accepts all beliefs on the absurd rationale that disagreement must imply disrespect. Excellence is a range of differences, not a spot. Each location on the range can be occupied by an excellent or an inadequate representative– and we must struggle for excellence at each of these varied locations. In a society driven, of ten unconsciously, to impose a uniform mediocrity upon a former richness of excellence–where McDonald’s drives out the local diner, and the mega-Stop & Shop eliminates the corner Mom and Pop–an understanding and defense of full ranges as natural reality might help to stem the tide and preserve the rich raw material of any evolving system: variation itself.
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Animals have genes for altruism, and those genes have been selected in the evolution of many creatures because of the advantage they confer for the continuing survival of the species.
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony(1984), 143.
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Apparently the anti-evolutionist expects to see a monkey or an ass transformed into a man, though he must be familiar enough with the reverse process.
As quoted by E. Newton Harvey, in 'Edwin Grant Conklin: A Biographical Memoir', Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences(1958), Vol. 31, 59.
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Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life; ...
'So careful of the type', but no.
From scarped cliff and quarried stone
She cries, 'A thousand types are gone:
I care for nothing, all shall go' ...
Man, her last work, who seemed so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who rolled the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law—
Tho’ Nature red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shrieked against his creed...
In Memoriam A. H. H. (1850), Cantos 56-57. Collected in Alfred Tennyson and William James Rolfe (ed.) The Poetic and Dramatic works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1898), 176.
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As evolutionary time is measured, we have only just turned up and have hardly had time to catch breath, still marveling at our thumbs, still learning to use the brand-new gift of language. Being so young, we can be excused all sorts of folly and can permit ourselves the hope that someday, as a species, we will begin to grow up.
From 'Introduction' written by Lewis Thomas for Horace Freeland Judson, The Search for Solutions (1980, 1987), xvii.
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As for me ... I would much rather be a perfected ape than a degraded Adam. Yes, if it is shown to me that my humble ancestors were quadrupedal animals, arboreal herbivores, brothers or cousins of those who were also the ancestors of monkeys and apes, far from blushing in shame for my species because of its genealogy and parentage, I will be proud of all that evolution has accomplished, of the continuous improvement which takes us up to the highest order, of the successive triumphs that have made us superior to all of the other species ... the splendid work of progress.
I will conclude in saying: the fixity of species is almost impossible, it contradicts the mode of succession and of the distribution of species in the sequence of extant and extinct creatures. It is therefore extremely likely that species are variable and are subject to evolution. But the causes, the mechanisms of this evolution are still unknown.
'Discussion sur la Machoire Humaine de la Naulette (Belgique)', Bulletin de la Societé d'Anthropologie de Paris, 2nd Series, I (1866), 595. Trans. Erik Trinkaus and Pat Shipman, The Neanderthals: Changing the Image of Mankind (1993), 103-4.

As for the presence of large NGF [nerve growth factor] sources in snake venom and male genital organs, they may be conceived as instances of bizarre evolutionary gene expression.
The Nerve Growth Factor: Thirty-five Years Later, Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1986).
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As our technology evolves, we will have the capacity to reach new, ever-increasing depths. The question is: What kind of technology, in the end, do we want to deploy in the far reaches of the ocean? Tools of science, ecology and documentation, or the destructive tools of heavy industry? Some parts of our oceans, like the rich and mysterious recesses of our Atlantic submarine canyons and seamounts, are so stunning and sensitive they deserve to be protected from destructive activities.
In 'Ocean Oases: Protecting Canyons & Seamounts of the Atlantic Coast', The Huffington Post (8 Jun 2011).
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As the human fetus develops, its changing form seems to retrace the whole of human evolution from the time we were cosmic dust to the time we were single-celled organisms in the primordial sea to the time we were four-legged, land-dwelling reptiles and beyond, to our current status as large­brained, bipedal mammals. Thus, humans seem to be the sum total of experience since the beginning of the cosmos.
From interview with James Reston, Jr., in Pamela Weintraub (ed.), The Omni Interviews (1984), 99. Previously published in magazine, Omni (May 1982).
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As you kind of get over the anxiety about [science and evolution], it actually adds to your sense of awe about this amazing universe that we live in, it doesn't subtract from it at all.
From video of interview with Huffington post reporter at the 2014 Davos Annual Meeting, World Economic Forum (25 Jan 2014). On web page 'Dr. Francis Collins: “There Is An Uneasiness” About Evolution'
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Asian Homo erectus died without issue and does not enter our immediate ancestry (for we evolved from African populations); Neanderthal people were collateral cousins, perhaps already living in Europe while we emerged in Africa... In other words, we are an improbable and fragile entity, fortunately successful after precarious beginnings as a small population in Africa, not the predictable end result of a global tendency. We are a thing, an item of history, not an embodiment of general principles.
Wonderful Life (1989), 319.
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At the end of the book [Zoonomia] he sums up his [Erasmus Darwin] views in the following sentences: “The world has been evolved, not created: it has arisen little by little from a small beginning, and has increased through the activity of the elemental forces embodied in itself, and so has rather grown than come into being at an almighty word.” “What a sublime idea of the infinite might of the great Architect, the Cause of all causes, the Father of all fathers, the Ens Entium! For if we would compare the Infinite, it would surely require a greater Infinite to cause the causes of effects than to produce the effects themselves.”
[This is a restatement, not a verbatim quote of the original words of Erasmus Darwin, who attributed the idea he summarized to David Hume.]
In August Weismann, John Arthur Thomson (trans.), Margaret R. Thomson (trans.) The Evolution Theory (1904), Vol. 1, 17-18. The verbatim form of the quote from Zoonomia, in context, can be seen on the webpage here for Erasmus Darwin. Later authors have quoted from Weismann's translated book, and given the reworded passage as a direct quote by Erasmus Darwin. Webmaster has found a verbatim form in Zoonomia (1794), but has been unable to find the wording used by Weismann in any primary source by Erasmus Darwin. The rewording is perhaps due to the translation of the quote into German for Weismann's original book, Vorträge über Descendenztheorie (1902) followed by another translation for the English edition.
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Available energy is the main object at stake in the struggle for existence and the evolution of the world.
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Being a fish out of water is tough, but that’s how you evolve. I think that’s scientifically accurate—I don’t know, I had a liberal arts education.
From Commencement Speech (22 May 2017) at Grinnell College, Iowa. As quoted in Jeff Charis-Carlson, 'Comedian Kumail Nanjiani offers advice for Grinnell grads, takes on Steve King', Des Moines Register (22 May 2017).
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Biological evolution is a system of constant divergence without subsequent joining of branches. Lineages, once distinct, are separate forever. In human history, transmission across lineages is, perhaps, the major source of cultural change. Europeans learned about corn and potatoes from Native Americans and gave them smallpox in return.
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Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.
What Mad Pursuit (1990), 138.
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Biology is a science of three dimensions. The first is the study of each species across all levels of biological organization, molecule to cell to organism to population to ecosystem. The second dimension is the diversity of all species in the biosphere. The third dimension is the history of each species in turn, comprising both its genetic evolution and the environmental change that drove the evolution. Biology, by growing in all three dimensions, is progressing toward unification and will continue to do so.
In 'Systematics and the Future of Biology', Systematics and the Origin of Species: on Ernst Mayr's 100th anniversary, Volume 102, Issues 22-26 (2005), 1.
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Borel makes the amusing supposition of a million monkeys allowed to play upon the keys of a million typewriters. What is the chance that this wanton activity should reproduce exactly all of the volumes which are contained in the library of the British Museum? It certainly is not a large chance, but it may be roughly calculated, and proves in fact to be considerably larger than the chance that a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen will separate into the two pure constituents. After we have learned to estimate such minute chances, and after we have overcome our fear of numbers which are very much larger or very much smaller than those ordinarily employed, we might proceed to calculate the chance of still more extraordinary occurrences, and even have the boldness to regard the living cell as a result of random arrangement and rearrangement of its atoms. However, we cannot but feel that this would be carrying extrapolation too far. This feeling is due not merely to a recognition of the enormous complexity of living tissue but to the conviction that the whole trend of life, the whole process of building up more and more diverse and complex structures, which we call evolution, is the very opposite of that which we might expect from the laws of chance.
The Anatomy of Science (1926), 158-9.
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But if we are to control evolution we shall have to find out how to influence gene reproduction in a definite direction, just as organic chemists nowadays work for definite ends. Such a possibility is at present entirely beyond our grasp, but a century hence it may not be so.
In 'The Biochemistry of the Individual' (1937), collected in Neurath Hans (ed.), Perspectives in Biochemistry (1989), 6.
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But in science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs. Not the man who finds a grain of new and precious quality but to him who sows it, reaps it, grinds it and feeds the world on it.
First Galton Lecture before the Eugenics Society', Eugenics Review, 1914, 6, 9.

But of all environments, that produced by man’s complex technology is perhaps the most unstable and rickety. In its present form, our society is not two centuries old, and a few nuclear bombs will do it in.
To be sure, evolution works over long periods of time and two centuries is far from sufficient to breed Homo technikos… .
The destruction of our technological society in a fit of nuclear peevishness would become disastrous even if there were many millions of immediate survivors.
The environment toward which they were fitted would be gone, and Darwin’s demon would wipe them out remorselessly and without a backward glance.
Asimov on Physics (1976), 151. Also in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 181.
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But the idea that any of the lower animals have been concerned in any way with the origin of man—is not this degrading? Degrading is a term, expressive of a notion of the human mind, and the human mind is liable to prejudices which prevent its notions from being invariably correct. Were we acquainted for the first time with the circumstances attending the production of an individual of our race, we might equally think them degrading, and be eager to deny them, and exclude them from the admitted truths of nature.
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But we shall not satisfy ourselves simply with improving steam and explosive engines or inventing new batteries; we have something much better to work for, a greater task to fulfill. We have to evolve means for obtaining energy from stores which are forev
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But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this;—we can perceive that events are brought about, not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular ease, but by the establishment of general laws.
In Astronomy and General Physics Considered with Reference to Natural Theology (1833), 356. Charles Darwin placed this quote on the title page of his On the Origin of Species, identified as from Whewell's 'Bridgewater Treatise'.
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By considering the embryological structure of man - the homologies which he presents with the lower animals - the rudiments which he retains - and the reversions to which he is liable, we can partly recall in imagination the former condition of our early progenitors; and we can approximately place them in their proper position in the zoological series. We thus learnt that man is descended from a hairy quadruped, furnished with a tail and pointed ears, probably arboreal in its habit, and an inhabitant of the Old World. This creature, if its whole structure had been examined by a naturalist, would have been classed among the Quadrumana, as surely as would be the common and still more ancient progenitor of the Old and New World monkeys.
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 389.
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By firm immutable immortal laws Impress’d on Nature by the GREAT FIRST CAUSE,
Say, MUSE! how rose from elemental strife
Organic forms, and kindled into life;
How Love and Sympathy with potent charm
Warm the cold heart, the lifted hand disarm;
Allure with pleasures, and alarm with pains,
And bind Society in golden chains.
From 'Production of Life', The Temple of Nature; or, The Origin of Society: A Poem, with Philosophical Notes (1803), 3, Canto I, lines 1-8.
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Chance alone is at the source of every innovaton, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, only chance, absolute but blind liberty is at the root of the prodigious edifice that is evolution... It today is the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one that squares with observed and tested fact.
Stating life began by the chance collision of particles of nucleic acid in the “prebiotic soup.”
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 112-113.
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Consider a cow. A cow doesn’t have the problem-solving skill of a chimpanzee, which has discovered how to get termites out of the ground by putting a stick into a hole. Evolution has developed the brain’s ability to solve puzzles, and at the same time has produced in our brain a pleasure of solving problems.
In John Tierney, 'For Decades, Puzzling People With Mathematics', New York Times (20 Oct 2009), D2.
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Considering the difficulties represented by the lack of water, by extremes of temperature, by the full force of gravity unmitigated by the buoyancy of water, it must be understood that the spread to land of life forms that evolved to meet the conditions of the ocean represented the greatest single victory won by life over the inanimate environment.
(1965). In Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 194.
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Contrary to popular parlance, Darwin didn't discover evolution. He uncovered one (most would say the) essential mechanism by which it operates: natural selection. Even then, his brainstorm was incomplete until the Modern Synthesis of the early/mid-20th century when (among other things) the complementary role of genetic heredity was fully realized. Thousands upon thousands of studies have followed, providing millions of data points that support this understanding of how life on Earth has come to be as it is.
In online article, 'The Day That Botany Took on Bobby Jindal by Just Being Itself', Huffington Post (5 Aug 2013).
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Contrary to the legend, Darwin's finches do not appear to have inspired his earliest theoretical views on evolution, even after he finally became an evolutionist in 1837; rather it was his evolutionary views that allowed him, retrospectively, to understand the complex case of the finches.
Quoted in Stephen Gould, The Flamingo's Smile (1987), 356. From Frank J. Sulloway, 'Darwin's Conversion: The Beagle Voyage and its Aftermath'. Journal of the History of Biology (1982), 15, 327-398.
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Coolidge is a better example of evolution than either Bryan or Darrow, for he knows when not to talk, which is the biggest asset the monkey possesses over the human.
[Referring to the Scopes trial, with Darrow defending a teacher being prosecuted for teaching evolution in the state of Tennessee.]
'Rogers Thesaurus'. Saturday Review (25 Aug 1962). In Will Rogers' Weekly Articles (1981), Vol. 2, 66.
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Creationists have also changed their name ... to intelligent design theorists who study 'irreducible complexity' and the 'abrupt appearance' of life—yet more jargon for 'God did it.' ... Notice that they have no interest in replacing evolution with native American creation myths or including the Code of Hammarabi alongside the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools.
'75 Years and Still No Peace'. Humanist (Sep 2000)
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Darwin abolished special creations, contributed the Origin of Species and hitched all life together in one unbroken procession of Siamese Twins, the whole evolved by natural and orderly processes from one microscopic parent germ.
'The Secret History of Eddypus', in Mark Twain and David Ketterer (ed.), Tales of Wonder (2003), 223.
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Darwin deals with evolution, not with origin.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), lvii.
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Darwin recognized that thus far the civilization of mankind has passed through four successive stages of evolution, namely, those based on the use of fire, the development of agriculture, the development of urban life and the use of basic science for technological advancement.
In The Science Matrix: The Journey, Travails, Triumphs (1992, 2012), 86.
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Darwin was a biological evolutionist, because he was first a uniformitarian geologist. Biology is pre-eminent to-day among the natural sciences, because its younger sister, Geology, gave it the means.
Presidential Address to the Geology Section, Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1892), 696.
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Darwinian fitness is compounded of a mutual relationship between the organism and the environment. Of this, fitness of environment is quite as essential a component as the fitness which arises in the process of organic evolution; and in fundamental characteristics the actual environment is the fittest possible abode of life.
His thesis for the book stated at the beginning of The Fitness of the Environment (1913), Preface, v.
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Death seems to have been a rather late invention in evolution. One can go a long way in evolution before encountering an authentic corpse.
In talk, 'Origin of Death' (1970). Evolution began with one-celled organisms reproducing indefinitely by cell division.
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Descended from the apes? My dear, we will hope it is not true. But if it is, let us pray that it may not become generally known.
Remark by the wife of a canon of Worcester Cathedral. Quoted in Ashley Montagu, Manʹs Most Dangerous Myth: the Fallacy of Race (1945), 27.
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Developmental Biology, in capitals, is the wave of the future. The creeping reductionism of biochemistry and molecular biology has taken over the cell and heredity, and looks covetously toward the heights of development and evolution. Recent literature is last year. Ancient literature is a decade ago. The rest is history, doubtfully alive. There is no time and often no opportunity to find and study the work of experimental biologists of 50 or 100 years ago, yet that was a time when the world was fresh.
Developmental biology was a lowercase phrase that graduated about 1950 and had previously lived under the cloak of Experimental Zoology
In obituary by Charles R. Scriver, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (Nov 1999), 45, 33.
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Differences between individuals are the raw materials for evolutionary change and for the evolution of adaptations, yet of course most physiologists treat these differences as noise that is to be filtered out. From the standpoint of physiological ecology, the traditional emphasis of physiologists on central tendencies rather than on variance has some unhappy consequences. Variation is not just noise; it is also the stuff of evolution and a central attribute of living systems. The physiological differences between individuals in the same species or population, and also the patterns of variation in different groups, must not be ignored.
From 'Interspecific comparison as a tool for ecological physiologists', collected in M.E. Feder, A.F. Bennett, W.W. Burggren, and R.B. Huey, (eds.), New Directions in Ecological Physiology (1987), 32-33,
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Direct observation of the testimony of the earth … is a matter of the laboratory, of the field naturalist, of indefatigable digging among the ancient archives of the earth’s history. If Mr. Bryan, with an open heart and mind, would drop all his books and all the disputations among the doctors and study first hand the simple archives of Nature, all his doubts would disappear; he would not lose his religion; he would become an evolutionist.
'Evolution and Religion', New York Times (5 Mar 1922), 91. Written in response to an article a few days earlier in which William Jennings Bryan challenged the theory of evolution as lacking proof.
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Distinguisht Link in Being’s endless Chain!
Midway from Nothing to the Deity!
The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality (1742, 1750), Night 1, 5.
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DNA that used to have some function way back in evolution but currently does not (and might possibly be revived if, say, an ancient parasite reappeared), DNA that controls how genes switch their protein manufacturing on and off, DNA that controls those, and so on. Some may actually be genuine junk. And some (so the joke goes) may encode a message like ‘It was me, I’m God, I existed all along, ha ha.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 218.
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DNA was the first three-dimensional Xerox machine.
From paper presented at Laramie College of Commerce and Industry, University of Wyoming, 'Energy and the Environment' (Jan 1976), 2, as quoted in Richard P. Beilock (ed.) Illustrating Economics: Beasts, Ballads and Aphorisms (1980, 2010), 160.
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Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts. ... the blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness.
In 'Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution', The American Biology Teacher (Mar 1973), 125-129.
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During cycles long anterior to the creation of the human race, and while the surface of the globe was passing from one condition to another, whole races of animals–each group adapted to the physical conditions in which they lived–were successively created and exterminated.
Siluria (1854), 5.
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During the half-century that has elapsed since the enunciation of the cell-theory by Schleiden and Schwann, in 1838-39, it has became ever more clearly apparent that the key to all ultimate biological problems must, in the last analysis, be sought in the cell. It was the cell-theory that first brought the structure of plants and animals under one point of view by revealing their common plan of organization. It was through the cell-theory that Kolliker and Remak opened the way to an understanding of the nature of embryological development, and the law of genetic continuity lying at the basis of inheritance. It was the cell-­theory again which, in the hands of Virchaw and Max Schultze, inaugurated a new era in the history of physiology and pathology, by showing that all the various functions of the body, in health and in disease, are but the outward expression of cell­-activities. And at a still later day it was through the cell-theory that Hertwig, Fol, Van Beneden, and Strasburger solved the long-standing riddle of the fertilization of the egg, and the mechanism of hereditary transmission. No other biological generalization, save only the theory of organic evolution, has brought so many apparently diverse phenomena under a common point of view or has accomplished more far the unification of knowledge. The cell-theory must therefore be placed beside the evolution-theory as one of the foundation stones of modern biology.
In The Cell in Development and Inheritance (1896), 1.
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Each species has evolved a special set of solutions to the general problems that all organisms must face. By the fact of its existence, a species demonstrates that its members are able to carry out adequately a series of general functions. … These general functions offer a framework within which one can integrate one’s view of biology and focus one’s research. Such a view helps one to avoid becoming lost in a morass of unstructured detail—even though the ways in which different species perform these functions may differ widely. A few obvious examples will suffice. Organisms must remain functionally integrated. They must obtain materials from their environments, and process and release energy from these materials. … They must differentiate and grow, and they must reproduce. By focusing one’s questions on one or another of these obligatory and universal capacities, one can ensure that one’s research will not be trivial and that it will have some chance of achieving broad general applicability.
In 'Integrative Biology: An Organismic Biologist’s Point of View', Integrative and Comparative Biology (2005), 45, 331.
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Each worldview was a cultural product, but evolution is true and separate creation is not ... Worldviews are social constructions, and they channel the search for facts. But facts are found and knowledge progresses, however fitfully. Fact and theory are intertwined, and all great scientists understand the interaction.
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Even in the dark times between experimental breakthroughs, there always continues a steady evolution of theoretical ideas, leading almost imperceptibly to changes in previous beliefs.
In Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1989), 'Conceptual Foundations of the Unified Theory of Weak and Electromagnetic Interactions.'
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Every breath you draw, every accelerated beat of your heart in the emotional periods of your oratory depend upon highly elaborated physical and chemical reactions and mechanisms which nature has been building up through a million centuries. If one of these mechanisms, which you owe entirely to your animal ancestry, were to be stopped for a single instant, you would fall lifeless on the stage. Not only this, but some of your highest ideals of human fellowship and comradeship were not created in a moment, but represent the work of ages.
Quoted in Closing Address by Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin, president of the Union Theological Seminary, New York, at the Memorial Service for Osborn at St. Bartholomew's Church, N.Y. (18 Dec 1935). In 'Henry Fairfield Osborn', Supplement to Natural History (Feb 1936), 37:2, 133-34. Bound in Kofoid Collection of Pamphlets on Biography, University of California.
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Every great anthropologic and paleontologic discovery fits into its proper place, enabling us gradually to fill out, one after another, the great branching lines of human ascent and to connect with the branches definite phases of industry and art. This gives us a double means of interpretation, archaeological and anatomical. While many branches and links in the chain remain to be discovered, we are now in a position to predict with great confidence not only what the various branches will be like but where they are most like to be found.
In Henry Fairfield Osborn, 'Osborn States the Case For Evolution', New York Times (12 Jul 1925), XX1
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Everything that comes into being seeks room for itself and desires duration: hence it drives something else from its place and shortens its duration.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 199.
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Evolution ... is really two theories, the vague theory and the precise theory. The vague theory has been abundantly proved.... The precise theory has never been proved at all. However, like relativity, it is accepted on faith.... On getting down to actual details, difficulties begin.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 101 & 103.
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Evolution advances, not by a priori design, but by the selection of what works best out of whatever choices offer. We are the products of editing, rather than of authorship.
In 'The Origin of Optical Activity', Annals of the New York Academy of Science (1957), 69, 367.
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Evolution ever climbing after some ideal good,
And Reversion ever dragging Evolution in the mud.
'Locksley Hall Sixty Years After' (1886), collected in Alfred Tennyson and William James Rolfe (ed.) The Poetic and Dramatic Works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1898), 522.
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Evolution has encountered no intellectual trouble; no new arguments have been offered. Creationism is a home-grown phenomenon of American sociocultural history—a splinter movement … who believe that every word in the Bible must be literally true, whatever such a claim might mean.
Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History (1998), 270.
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Evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection, although human vanity cherishes the absurd notion that our species is the final goal of evolution.
The Blind Watchmaker (1996), 50.
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Evolution in the biosphere is therefore a necessarily irreversible process defining a direction in time; a direction which is the same as that enjoined by the law of increasing entropy, that is to say, the second law of thermodynamics. This is far more than a mere comparison: the second law is founded upon considerations identical to those which establish the irreversibility of evolution. Indeed, it is legitimate to view the irreversibility of evolution as an expression of the second law in the biosphere.
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 123.
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Evolution is a blind giant who rolls a snowball down a hill. The ball is made of flakes—circumstances. They contribute to the mass without knowing it. They adhere without intention, and without foreseeing what is to result. When they see the result they marvel at the monster ball and wonder how the contriving of it came to be originally thought out and planned. Whereas there was no such planning, there was only a law: the ball once started, all the circumstances that happened to lie in its path would help to build it, in spite of themselves.
'The Secret History of Eddypus', in Mark Twain and David Ketterer (ed.), Tales of Wonder (2003), 222-23.
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Evolution is a hard, inescapable mistress. There is just no room for compassion or good sportsmanship. Too many organisms are born, so, quite simply, a lot of them are going to have to die because there isn't enough food and space to go around. You can be beautiful, fast and strong, but it might not matter. The only thing that does matter is, whether you leave more children carrying your genes than the next person leaves. It’s true whether you’re a prince, a frog, or an American elm.
From The Center of Life: A Natural History of the Cell (1977, 1978), 37.
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Evolution is a process which favors cooperating rather than disoperating groups and that “fitness” is a function of the group as a whole than of separate individuals. The fitness of the individual is largely derived from his membership on a group.
In On Being Human (1950), 45.
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Evolution is a theory of organic change, but it does not imply, as many people assume, that ceaseless flux is the irreducible state of nature and that structure is but a temporary incarnation of the moment. Change is more often a rapid transition between stable states than a continuous transformation at slow and steady rates. We live in a world of structure and legitimate distinction. Species are the units of nature’s morphology.
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Evolution is an integration of matter and concomitant dissipation of motion during which the matter passes from an indefinite incoherent homogeneity to a definite coherent heterogeneity, and during which the retained motion undergoes a parallel transformation.
First Principles of a New System of Philosophy (1864), 407.

Evolution is an obstacle course not a freeway; the correct analogue for long-term success is a distant punt receiver evading legions of would-be tacklers in an oddly zigzagged path toward a goal, not a horse thundering down the flat.
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Evolution is chaos with feedback.
In Clifford A. Pickover, Computers, Pattern, Chaos, and Beauty (2001), 203.
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Evolution is cleverer than you are.
In Jack D. Dunitz and Gerald F. Joyce, 'Leslie Eleazer Orgel', Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (2013), Vol. 59, 286.
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Evolution is either an innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about; or, if it is anything more than this, it is an attack upon thought itself. If evolution destroys anything, it does not destroy religion but rationalism.
In Orthodoxy (1918, 2008), 25.
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Evolution is the conviction that organisms developed their current forms by an extended history of continual transformation, and that ties of genealogy bind all living things into one nexus. Panselectionism is a denial of history, for perfection covers the tracks of time. A perfect wing may have evolved to its current state, but it may have been created just as we find it. We simply cannot tell if perfection be our only evidence. As Darwin himself understood so well, the primary proofs of evolution are oddities and imperfections that must record pathways of historical descent–the panda’s thumb and the flamingo’s smile of my book titles (chosen to illustrate this paramount principle of history).
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Evolution is the law of policies: Darwin said it, Socrates endorsed it, Cuvier proved it and established it for all time in his paper on 'The Survival of the Fittest.' These are illustrious names, this is a mighty doctrine: nothing can ever remove it from its firm base, nothing dissolve it, but evolution.
'Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes', Which Was the Dream? (1967), Chap. 8. In Mark Twain and Brian Collins (ed.), When in Doubt, Tell the Truth: and Other Quotations from Mark Twain (1996), 47.
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Evolution on the large scale unfolds, like much of human history, as a succession of dynasties.
In The Diversity of Life (1999), 94.
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Evolution pays and that is why there is evolution
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-Book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 183.
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Evolution triumphs because it turns to natural selection, the plodding accumulation of error.
Almost Like a Whale: The Origin of Species Updated (1999), 9.
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Evolution: At the Mind's Cinema
I turn the handle and the story starts:
Reel after reel is all astronomy,
Till life, enkindled in a niche of sky,
Leaps on the stage to play a million parts.
Life leaves the slime and through all ocean darts;
She conquers earth, and raises wings to fly;
Then spirit blooms, and learns how not to die,-
Nesting beyond the grave in others' hearts.
I turn the handle: other men like me
Have made the film: and now I sit and look
In quiet, privileged like Divinity
To read the roaring world as in a book.
If this thy past, where shall they future climb,
O Spirit, built of Elements and Time?
'Evolution: At the Mind's Cinema' (1922), in The Captive Shrew and Other Poems of a Biologist (1932), 55.
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Evolution: The Modern Synthesis.
Book title
Evolution: The Modern Synthesis (1942).
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Evolutionary plasticity can be purchased only at the ruthlessly dear price of continuously sacrificing some individuals to death from unfavourable mutations. Bemoaning this imperfection of nature has, however, no place in a scientific treatment of this subject.
Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937), 127.
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Evolution… is the most powerful and the most comprehensive idea that has ever arisen on Earth.
'Education and Humanism', in Essays of a Humanist (1964), 125.
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Few scientists acquainted with the chemistry of biological systems at the molecular level can avoid being inspired. Evolution has produced chemical compounds exquisitely organized to accomplish the most complicated and delicate of tasks. Many organic chemists viewing crystal structures of enzyme systems or nucleic acids and knowing the marvels of specificity of the immune systems must dream of designing and synthesizing simpler organic compounds that imitate working features of these naturally occurring compounds.
In 'The Design of Molecular Hosts, Guests, and Their Complexes', Nobel Lecture, 8 December 1987. In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1981-1990 (1992), 419.
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Fifty years from now if an understanding of man's origins, his evolution, his history, his progress is not in the common place of the school books we shall not exist.
The Long Childhood episode, The Ascent of Man, TV series
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Finally in a large population, divided and subdivided into partially isolated local races of small size, there is a continually shifting differentiation among the latter (intensified by local differences in selection but occurring under uniform and static conditions) which inevitably brings about an indefinitely continuing, irreversible, adaptive, and much more rapid evolution of the species. Complete isolation in this case, and more slowly in the preceding, originates new species differing for the most part in nonadaptive parallel orthogenetic lines, in accordance with the conditions. It is suggested, in conclusion, that the differing statistical situations to be expected among natural species are adequate to account for the different sorts of evolutionary processes which have been described, and that, in particular, conditions in nature are often such as to bring about the state of poise among opposing tendencies on which an indefinitely continuing evolutionary process depends.
In 'Evolution In Mendelian Populations', Genetics, (1931), 16, 158.
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First Law
In every animal which has not passed the limit of its development, a more frequent and continuous use of any organ gradually strengthens, develops and enlarges that organ, and gives it a power proportional to the length of time it has been so used; while the permanent disuse of any organ imperceptibly weakens and deteriorates it, and progressively diminishes its functional capacity, until it finally disappears.
Philosophie Zoologique (1809), Vol. 1, 235, trans. Hugh Elliot (1914), 113.
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Five per cent vision is better than no vision at all. Five per cent hearing is better than no hearing at all. Five per cent flight efficiency is better than no flight at all. It is thoroughly believable that every organ or apparatus that we actually see is the product of a smooth trajectory through animal space, a trajectory in which every intermediate stage assisted survival and reproduction.
[Rebutting the Creationist assertion that fully developed organs could not have arisen 'by chance.']
The Blind Watchmaker (1986, 1996) 90-91.
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For forty-nine months between 1968 and 1972, two dozen Americans had the great good fortune to briefly visit the Moon. Half of us became the first emissaries from Earth to tread its dusty surface. We who did so were privileged to represent the hopes and dreams of all humanity. For mankind it was a giant leap for a species that evolved from the Stone Age to create sophisticated rockets and spacecraft that made a Moon landing possible. For one crowning moment, we were creatures of the cosmic ocean, an epoch that a thousand years hence may be seen as the signature of our century.
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For in disease the most voluntary or most special movements, faculties, etc., suffer first and most, that is in an order the exact opposite of evolution. Therefore I call this the principle of Dissolution.
'On the Anatomical and Physiological Localisation of Movements in the Brain' (1875), Preface. In James Taylor (ed.), Selected Writings of John Hughlings Jackson, Vol. 1 (1931), 38.
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For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old baboon, who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs—as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 404-5.
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For science, God is simplythe stream of tendency in which all things seek to fulfil the law of their being.
In Literature and Dogma: An Essay Towards a Better Apprehension of the Bible (1873), 41.
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For three million years we were hunter-gatherers, and it was through the evolutionary pressures of that way of life that a brain so adaptable and so creative eventually emerged. Today we stand with the brains of hunter-gatherers in our heads, looking out on a modern world made comfortable for some by the fruits of human inventiveness, and made miserable for others by the scandal of deprivation in the midst of plenty.
Co-author with American science writer Roger Amos Lewin (1946), Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of our Species and its Possible Future (1977), 249.
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For, the great enemy of knowledge is not error, but inertness. All that we want is discussion, and then we are sure to do well, no matter what our blunders may be. One error conflicts with another; each destroys its opponent, and truth is evolved.
In History of Civilization in England (1861), Vol. 2, 408.
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Formerly one sought the feeling of the grandeur of man by pointing to his divine origin: this has now become a forbidden way, for at its portal stands the ape, together with other gruesome beasts, grinning knowingly as if to say: no further in this direction! One therefore now tries the opposite direction: the way mankind is going shall serve as proof of his grandeur and kinship with God. Alas this, too, is vain! At the end of this way stands the funeral urn of the last man and gravedigger (with the inscription “nihil humani a me alienum puto”). However high mankind may have evolved—and perhaps at the end it will stand even lower than at the beginning!— it cannot pass over into a higher order, as little as the ant and the earwig can at the end of its “earthly course” rise up to kinship with God and eternal life. The becoming drags the has-been along behind it: why should an exception to this eternal spectacle be made on behalf of some little star or for any little species upon it! Away with such sentimentalities!
Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality (1881), trans. R. J. Hollingdale (1982), 32.
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Forty thousand years of evolution and we've barely even tapped the vastness of human potential.
Movie, Spider-Man (2002). In Gary Westfahl, Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits (2006), 116.

From the sexual, or amatorial, generation of plants new varieties, or improvements, are frequently obtained; as many of the young plants from seeds are dissimilar to the parent, and some of them superior to the parent in the qualities we wish to possess... Sexual reproduction is the chef d'oeuvre, the master-piece of nature.
Phytologia. (1800), 115, 103.
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Furthermore, it’s equally evident that what goes on is actually one degree better than self-reproduction, for organisms appear to have gotten more elaborate in the course of time. Today's organisms are phylogenetically descended from others which were vastly simpler than they are, so much simpler, in fact, that it’s inconceivable, how any kind of description of the latter, complex organism could have existed in the earlier one. It’s not easy to imagine in what sense a gene, which is probably a low order affair, can contain a description of the human being which will come from it. But in this case you can say that since the gene has its effect only within another human organism, it probably need not contain a complete description of what is to happen, but only a few cues for a few alternatives. However, this is not so in phylogenetic evolution. That starts from simple entities, surrounded by an unliving amorphous milieu, and produce, something more complicated. Evidently, these organisms have the ability to produce something more complicated than themselves.
From lecture series on self-replicating machines at the University of Illinois, Lecture 5 (Dec 1949), 'Re-evaluation of the Problems of Complicated Automata—Problems of Hierarchy and Evolution', Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata (1966).
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Genius and science have burst the limits of space, and few observations, explained by just reasoning, have unveiled the mechanism of the universe. Would it not also be glorious for man to burst the limits of time, and, by a few observations, to ascertain the history of this world, and the series of events which preceded the birth of the human race?
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 3-4.
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Geologists have not been slow to admit that they were in error in assuming that they had an eternity of past time for the evolution of the earth's history. They have frankly acknowledged the validity of the physical arguments which go to place more or less definite limits to the antiquity of the earth. They were, on the whole, disposed to acquiesce in the allowance of 100 millions of years granted to them by Lord Kelvin, for the transaction of the whole of the long cycles of geological history. But the physicists have been insatiable and inexorable. As remorseless as Lear's daughters, they have cut down their grant of years by successive slices, until some of them have brought the number to something less than ten millions. In vain have the geologists protested that there must somewhere be a flaw in a line of argument which tends to results so entirely at variance with the strong evidence for a higher antiquity, furnished not only by the geological record, but by the existing races of plants and animals. They have insisted that this evidence is not mere theory or imagination, but is drawn from a multitude of facts which become hopelessly unintelligible unless sufficient time is admitted for the evolution of geological history. They have not been able to disapprove the arguments of the physicists, but they have contended that the physicists have simply ignored the geological arguments as of no account in the discussion.
'Twenty-five years of Geological Progress in Britain', Nature, 1895, 51, 369.
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Geology depends on impressions made by floods, earthquakes, volcanoes. The mountains tell the story of their oppressions and rebellions. The outstanding data of this science of Mother Earth are those furnished by the most violent impressions that mark an epoch in evolution
In I Am an Impure Thinker (1970), 16.
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Geology fully proves that organic creation passed through a series of stages before the highest vegetable and animal forms appeared.
Explanations (1845), 31
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Historians will have to face the fact that natural selection determined the evolution of cultures in the same manner as it did that of species.
On Aggression, trans. M. Latzke (1966), 260.
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History employs evolution to structure biological events in time.
The Flamingo's Smile (1987), 18.
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How I hate the man who talks about the 'brute creation', with an ugly emphasis on Brute. Only Christians are capable of it. As for me, I am proud of my close kinship with other animals. I take a jealous pride in my Simian ancestry. I like to think that I was once a magnificent hairy fellow living in the trees and that my frame has come down through geological time via sea jelly and worms and Amphioxus, Fish, Dinosaurs, and Apes. Who would exchange these for the pallid couple in the Garden of Eden?
W. N. P. Barbellion, The Journal of a Disappointed Man (1919), 27-8.
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How like to us is that filthy beast the ape.
From the original Latin, “Simia quam similis, turpissima bestia, nobis!” In De Natura Deorum, i, 35. As translated in Craufurd Tait Ramage, Beautiful Thoughts from Latin Authors, With English Translations (1864), 52. Also seen translated as “What an ugly beast the ape, and how like us.”
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How many and how curious problems concern the commonest of the sea-snails creeping over the wet sea-weed! In how many points of view may its history be considered! There are its origin and development, the mystery of its generation, the phenomena of its growth, all concerning each apparently insignificant individual; there is the history of the species, the value of its distinctive marks, the features which link it with the higher and lower creatures, the reason why it takes its stand where we place it in the scale of creation, the course of its distribution, the causes of its diffusion, its antiquity or novelty, the mystery (deepest of mysteries) of its first appearance, the changes of the outline of continents and of oceans which have taken place since its advent, and their influence on its own wanderings.
On the Natural History of European Seas. In George Wilson and Archibald Geikie, Memoir of Edward Forbes F.R.S. (1861), 547-8.
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However, if we consider that all the characteristics which have been cited are only differences in degree of structure, may we not suppose that this special condition of organization of man has been gradually acquired at the close of a long period of time, with the aid of circumstances which have proved favorable? What a subject for reflection for those who have the courage to enter into it!
In Recherches sur l'Organization des corps vivans (1802), as translated in Alpheus Spring Packard, Lamarck, the Founder of Evolution: His Life and Work (1901), 363. Packard's italics.
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Human evolution is nothing else but the natural continuation, at a collective level, of the perennial and cumulative process of “psychogenetic” arrangement of matter which we call life. … The whole history of mankind has been nothing else (and henceforth it will never be anything else) but an explosive outburst of ever-growing cerebration. … Life, if fully understood, is not a freak in the universe—nor man a freak in life. On the contrary, life physically culminates in man, just as energy physically culminates in life.
(1952). As quoted in Stephen Jay Gould, Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History (1984, 1994), 246.
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Human language is in some ways similar to, but in other ways vastly different from, other kinds of animal communication. We simply have no idea about its evolutionary history, though many people have speculated about its possible origins. There is, for instance, the “bow-bow” theory, that language started from attempts to imitate animal sounds. Or the “ding-dong” theory, that it arose from natural sound-producing responses. Or the “pooh-pooh” theory, that it began with violent outcries and exclamations.
We have no way of knowing whether the kinds of men represented by the earliest fossils could talk or not…
Language does not leave fossils, at least not until it has become written.
Man in Nature (1961), 10.
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Human nature, as manifested in tribalism and nationalism, provides the momentum of the machinery of human evolution.
From Essays on Human Evolution (1946, 1947), 76.
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Humans arose, rather, as a fortuitous and contingent outcome of thousands of linked events, any one of which could have occurred differently and sent history on an alternative pathway that would not have led to consciousness.
'The Evolution of Life on Earth' Scientific American (Oct 1994) reprinted in The Scientific American Book of the Cosmos (2000), 274.
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I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God's, or Nature's method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way.
In 'Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution', The American Biology Teacher (Mar 1973), 125-129.
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I am above the forest region, amongst grand rocks & such a torrent as you see in Salvator Rosa's paintings vegetation all a scrub of rhodods. with Pines below me as thick & bad to get through as our Fuegian Fagi on the hill tops, & except the towering peaks of P. S. [perpetual snow] that, here shoot up on all hands there is little difference in the mt scenery—here however the blaze of Rhod. flowers and various colored jungle proclaims a differently constituted region in a naturalists eye & twenty species here, to one there, always are asking me the vexed question, where do we come from?
Letter to Charles Darwin (24 Jun 1849). Quoted in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin (1988), Vol. 4, 1847-1850, 242.
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I am afraid all we can do is to accept the paradox and try to accommodate ourselves to it, as we have done to so many paradoxes lately in modern physical theories. We shall have to get accustomed to the idea that the change of the quantity R, commonly called the 'radius of the universe', and the evolutionary changes of stars and stellar systems are two different processes, going on side by side without any apparent connection between them. After all the 'universe' is an hypothesis, like the atom, and must be allowed the freedom to have properties and to do things which would be contradictory and impossible for a finite material structure.
Kosmos (1932), 133.
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I am not insensible to natural beauty, but my emotional joys center on the improbable yet sometimes wondrous works of that tiny and accidental evolutionary twig called Homo sapiens. And I find, among these works, nothing more noble than the history of our struggle to understand nature—a majestic entity of such vast spatial and temporal scope that she cannot care much for a little mammalian afterthought with a curious evolutionary invention, even if that invention has, for the first time in so me four billion years of life on earth, produced recursion as a creature reflects back upon its own production and evolution. Thus, I love nature primarily for the puzzles and intellectual delights that she offers to the first organ capable of such curious contemplation.
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I am quite sure that our views on evolution would be very different had biologists studied genetics and natural selection before and not after most of them were convinced that evolution had occurred.
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I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.
Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931), 97.
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I believe that life can go on forever. It takes a million years to evolve a new species, ten million for a new genus, one hundred million for a class, a billion for a phylum—and that’s usually as far as your imagination goes. In a billion years, it seems, intelligent life might be as different from humans as humans are from insects. But what would happen in another ten billion years? It’s utterly impossible to conceive of ourselves changing as drastically as that, over and over again. All you can say is, on that kind of time scale the material form that life would take is completely open. To change from a human being to a cloud may seem a big order, but it’s the kind of change you’d expect over billions of years.
Quoted in Omni (1986), 8, 38.
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I can hear the sizzle of newborn stars, and know anything of meaning, of the fierce magic emerging here. I am witness to flexible eternity, the evolving past, and I know we will live forever, as dust or breathe in the face of stars, in the shifting pattern of winds.
Joy Harjo
Secrets from the Centre of the World
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I can think of a few microorganisms, possibly the tubercle bacillus, the syphilis spirochete, the malarial parasite, and a few others, that have a selective advantage in their ability to infect human beings, but there is nothing to be gained, in an evolutionary sense, by the capacity to cause illness or death. Pathogenicity may be something of a disadvantage for most microbes…
In 'Germs', The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), 90.
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I confess freely to you I could never look long upon a Monkey, without very mortifying reflections.
Letter to John Dennis (10 Jul 1695). In William Makepeace Thackeray, Lectures on the English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century (1885), 21.
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I do feel that evolution is being controlled by some sort of divine engineer.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 38
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I do not personally want to believe that we already know the equations that determine the evolution and fate of the universe; it would make life too dull for me as a scientist. … I hope, and believe, that the Space Telescope might make the Big Bang cosmology appear incorrect to future generations, perhaps somewhat analogous to the way that Galileo’s telescope showed that the earth-centered, Ptolemaic system was inadequate.
From 'The Space Telescope (the Hubble Space Telescope): Out Where the Stars Do Not Twinkle', in NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1978: Hearings before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, United States Senate, 95th Congress, first session on S.365 (1977), 124. This was testimony to support of authorization for NASA beginning the construction of the Space Telescope, which later became known as the Hubble Space Telescope.
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I do not think evolution is supremely important because it is my specialty. On the contrary, it is my specialty because I think it is supremely important.
This View of Life: the World of an Evolutionist (1964), 27-28.
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I don’t believe in evolution, like people believe in God … Science and technology are not advanced by people who believe, but by people who don’t know but are doing their best to find out.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 41.
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I don’t understand why people insist on pitting concepts of evolution and creation against each other. Why can’t they see that spiritualism and science are one? That bodies evolve and souls evolve and the universe is a fluid package that marries them both in a wonderful package called a human being.
The Art of Racing in the Rain. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 43
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I expect to think that I would rather be author of your book [The Origin of Species] than of any other on Nat. Hist. Science.
Letter to Darwin (12 Dec 1859). Quoted in Leonard Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1918), Vol. 1, 511.
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I have attempted to form a judgment as to the conditions for evolution based on the statistical consequences of Mendelian heredity. The most general conclusion is that evolution depends on a certain balance among its factors. There must be a gene mutation, but an excessive rate gives an array of freaks, not evolution; there must be selection, but too severe a process destroys the field of variability, and thus the basis for further advance; prevalence of local inbreeding within a species has extremely important evolutionary consequences, but too close inbreeding leads merely to extinction. A certain amount of crossbreeding is favorable but not too much. In this dependence on balance the species is like a living organism. At all levels of organization life depends on the maintenance of a certain balance among its factors.
In Proceedings of the Sixth International Congress of Genetics: Ithaca, New York, 1932 (1932) Vol. 1, 365.
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I have devoted my whole life to the study of Nature, and yet a single sentence may express all that I have done. I have shown that there is a correspondence between the succession of Fishes in geological times and the different stages of their growth in the egg,—this is all. It chanced to be a result that was found to apply to other groups and has led to other conclusions of a like nature.
In Methods of Study in Natural History (1863), 23.
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I have stated, that in the thirteen species of ground-finches [in the Galapagos Islands], a nearly perfect gradation may be traced, from a beak extraordinarily thick, to one so fine, that it may be compared to that of a warbler. I very much suspect, that certain members of the series are confined to different islands; therefore, if the collection had been made on any one island, it would not have presented so perfect a gradation. It is clear, that if several islands have each their peculiar species of the same genera, when these are placed together, they will have a wide range of character. But there is not space in this work, to enter on this curious subject.
Journal of Researches: into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World (1839), ch. XIX, 475.
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I have watched all the work going on there, and the more I see of it the more I am convinced that Mendelism has nothing to do with evolution.
Letter, 'Embryology and Evolution,' Nature (1931), 127, 56.
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I know no study which is so unutterably saddening as that of the evolution of humanity, as it is set forth in the annals of history. Out of the darkness of prehistoric ages man emerges with the marks of his lowly origin strong upon him. He is a brute, only more intelligent than the other brutes, a blind prey to impulses, which as often as not led him to destruction; a victim to endless illusions, which make his mental existence a terror and a burden, and fill his physical life with barren toil and battle.
'Agnosticism' (1889). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 5, 256.
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I like people. I like animals, too—whales and quail, dinosaurs and dodos. But I like human beings especially, and I am unhappy that the pool of human germ plasm, which determines the nature of the human race, is deteriorating.
[Stating his alarm for the effect of radioactive fallout on human heredity. The article containing the quote was published three days after he was awarded the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize.]
Quoted in The New York Times (13 Oct 1962), 179.
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I never know whether to be more surprised at Darwin himself for making so much of natural selection, or at his opponents for making so little of it.
Selections from His Notebook. Reprinted in Memories and Portraits, Memoirs of Himself and Selections from His Notebook (1924, 2003), 184.
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I prefer a God who once and for all impressed his will upon creation, to one who continually busied about modifying what he had already done.
Attributed. As stated in W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter, Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (2005), 575.
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I presume that few who have paid any attention to the history of the Mathematical Analysis, will doubt that it has been developed in a certain order, or that that order has been, to a great extent, necessary—being determined, either by steps of logical deduction, or by the successive introduction of new ideas and conceptions, when the time for their evolution had arrived. And these are the causes that operate in perfect harmony. Each new scientific conception gives occasion to new applications of deductive reasoning; but those applications may be only possible through the methods and the processes which belong to an earlier stage.
Explaining his choice for the exposition in historical order of the topics in A Treatise on Differential Equations (1859), Preface, v-vi.
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I understood that you would take the human race in the concrete, have exploded the absurd notion of Pope’s Essay on Man, [Erasmus] Darwin, and all the countless believers even (strange to say) among Christians of man’s having progressed from an ouran-outang state—so contrary to all History, to all religion, nay, to all possibility—to have affirmed a Fall in some sense as a fact….
Letter to William Wordsworth (30 May 1815). In William Knight, The Life of William Wordsworth (1889), Vol. 2, 259. [Note: “ouran” is as written. Erasmus identified in footnote.]
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I was suffering from a sharp attack of intermittent fever, and every day during the cold and succeeding hot fits had to lie down for several hours, during which time I had nothing to do but to think over any subjects then particularly interesting me. One day something brought to my recollection Malthus's 'Principles of Population', which I had read about twelve years before. I thought of his clear exposition of 'the positive checks to increase'—disease, accidents, war, and famine—which keep down the population of savage races to so much lower an average than that of more civilized peoples. It then occurred to me that these causes or their equivalents are continually acting in the case of animals also; and as animals usually breed much more rapidly than does mankind, the destruction every year from these causes must be enormous in order to keep down the numbers of each species, since they evidently do not increase regularly from year to year, as otherwise the world would long ago have been densely crowded with those that breed most quickly. Vaguely thinking over the enormous and constant destruction which this implied, it occurred to me to ask the question, Why do some die and some live? The answer was clearly, that on the whole the best fitted live. From the effects of disease the most healthy escaped; from enemies, the strongest, swiftest, or the most cunning; from famine, the best hunters or those with the best digestion; and so on. Then it suddenly flashed upon me that this self-acting process would necessarily improve the race, because in every generation the inferior would inevitably be killed off and the superior would remain—that is, the fittest would survive.
[The phrase 'survival of the fittest,' suggested by the writings of Thomas Robert Malthus, was expressed in those words by Herbert Spencer in 1865. Wallace saw the term in correspondence from Charles Darwin the following year, 1866. However, Wallace did not publish anything on his use of the expression until very much later, and his recollection is likely flawed.]
My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions (1905), Vol. 1, 361-362, or in reprint (2004), 190.
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Iconography becomes even more revealing when processes or concepts, rather than objects, must be depicted–for the constraint of a definite ‘thing’ cedes directly to the imagination. How can we draw ‘evolution’ or ‘social organization,’ not to mention the more mundane ‘digestion’ or ‘self-interest,’ without portraying more of a mental structure than a physical reality? If we wish to trace the history of ideas, iconography becomes a candid camera trained upon the scholar’s mind.
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If a single cell, under appropriate conditions, becomes a man in the space of a few years, there can surely be no difficulty in understanding how, under appropriate conditions, a cell may, in the course of untold millions of years, give origin to the human race.
Principles of Biology (1865, 1872), 350.
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If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?
As quoted in Weekly World News (5 Sep 1995), 30.
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If history and science have taught us anything, it is that passion and desire are not the same as truth. The human mind evolved to believe in the gods. It did not evolve to believe in biology.
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998, 1999), 286
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If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 171.
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If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?
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If matter is not eternal, its first emergence into being is a miracle beside which all others dwindle into absolute insignificance. But, as has often been pointed out, the process is unthinkable; the sudden apocalypse of a material world out of blank nonentity cannot be imagined; its emergence into order out of chaos when “without form and void” of life, is merely a poetic rendering of the doctrine of its slow evolution.
In Nineteenth Century (Sep c.1879?). Quoted in John Tyndall, 'Professor Virchow and Evolution', Fragments of Science (1879), Vol. 2, 377.
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If one small and odd lineage of fishes had not evolved fins capable of bearing weight on land (though evolved for different reasons in lakes and seas,) terrestrial vertebrates would never have arisen. If a large extraterrestrial object—the ultimate random bolt from the blue—had not triggered the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago, mammals would still be small creatures, confined to the nooks and crannies of a dinosaur's world, and incapable of evolving the larger size that brains big enough for self-consciousness require. If a small and tenuous population of protohumans had not survived a hundred slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (and potential extinction) on the savannas of Africa, then Homo sapiens would never have emerged to spread throughout the globe. We are glorious accidents of an unpredictable process with no drive to complexity, not the expected results of evolutionary principles that yearn to produce a creature capable of understanding the mode of its own necessary construction.
Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin (1996), 216.
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If our intention had been merely to bring back a handful of soil and rocks from the lunar gravel pit and then forget the whole thing, we would certainly be history's biggest fools. But that is not our intention now—it never will be. What we are seeking in tomorrow's [Apollo 11] trip is indeed that key to our future on earth. We are expanding the mind of man. We are extending this God-given brain and these God-given hands to their outermost limits and in so doing all mankind will benefit. All mankind will reap the harvest…. What we will have attained when Neil Armstrong steps down upon the moon is a completely new step in the evolution of man.
Banquet speech on the eve of the Apollo 11 launch, Royal Oaks Country Club, Titusville (15 Jul 1969). In "Of a Fire on the Moon", Life (29 Aug 1969), 67, No. 9, 34.
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If the germ plasm wants to swim in the ocean, it makes itself a fish; if the germ plasm wants to fly in the air, it makes itself a bird. If it wants to go to Harvard, it makes itself a man. The strangest thing of all is that the germ plasm that we carry around within us has done all those things. There was a time, hundreds of millions of years ago, when it was making fish. Then … amphibia … reptiles … mammals, and now it’s making men.
In talk, 'Origin of Death' (1970). Wald gave the context whereby the most one-celled organisms continued to reproduce by cell division.
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If they believe it [evolution], they go back to scoff at the religion of their parents.
From the transcript of the Scopes Monkey Trial fifth day's proceedings (16 Jul 1925) in John Thomas Scopes, The World's Most Famous Court Trial: Tennessee Evolution Case: a Complete Stenographic Report of the Famous Court Test of the Tennessee Anti-Evolution Act, at Dayton, July 10 to 21, 1925, Including Speeches and Arguments of Attorneys (1925), 175.
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If they [enlightened men] take any interest in examining, in the infancy of our species, the almost obliterated traces of so many nations that have become extinct, they will doubtless take a similar interest in collecting, amidst the darkness which covers the infancy of the globe, the traces of those revolutions which took place anterior to the existence of all nations.
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 3.
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If this [human kind’s extinction] happens I venture to hope that we shall not have destroyed the rat, an animal of considerable enterprise which stands as good a chance as any … of evolving toward intelligence.
In The Inequality of Man: And Other Essays (1937), 143.
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If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism are ever busy and need feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers; tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lecturers, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, Your Honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.
Darrow’s concluding remarks before adjournment of the second day of the Scopes Monkey Trial, Dayton, Tennessee (Monday, 13 Jul 1925). In The World's Most Famous Court Trial: Tennessee Evolution Case: a Complete Stenographic Report of the Famous Court Test of the Tennessee Anti-Evolution Act, at Dayton, July 10 to 21, 1925 (1925), Second Day's Proceedings, 87.
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If we are correct in understanding how evolution actually works, and provided we can survive the complications of war, environmental degradation, and possible contact with interstellar planetary travelers, we will look exactly the same as we do now. We won’t change at all. The species is now so widely dispersed that it is not going to evolve, except by gradualism.
In Pamela Weintraub, The Omni Interviews (1984), 75.
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If we evolved a race of Isaac Newtons, that would not be progress. For the price Newton had to pay for being a supreme intellect was that he was incapable of friendship, love, fatherhood, and many other desirable things. As a man he was a failure; as a monster he was superb.
Interview with J.W.N. Sullivan, Contemporary Mind, London, 1934. As cited in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 4, 2222.
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If we look into ourselves we discover propensities which declare that our intellects have arisen from a lower form; could our minds be made visible we should find them tailed.
In The Martyrdom of Man (1876), 242.
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If we look round the world, there seem to be not above six distinct varieties in the human species, each of which is strongly marked, and speaks the kind seldom to have mixed with any other. But there is nothing in the shape, nothing in the faculties, that shows their coming from different originals; and the varieties of climate, of nourishment, and custom, are sufficient to produce every change.
In History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774, 1812), Vol. 2, 154.
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If we were capable of following the progress of increase of the number of the parts of the most perfect animal, as they first formed in succession, from the very first to its state of full perfection, we should probably be able to compare it with some one of the incomplete animals themselves, of every order of animals in the Creation, being at no stage different from some of the inferior orders; or, in other words, if we were to take a series of animals, from the more imperfect to the perfect, we should probably find an imperfect animal, corresponding with some stage of the most perfect.
R. Owen (ed.), John Hunter's Observations on Animal Development (1841), 14.

In 1906 I indulged my temper by hurling invectives at Neo-Darwinians in the following terms. “I really do not wish to be abusive [to Neo-Darwinians]; but when I think of these poor little dullards, with their precarious hold of just that corner of evolution that a blackbeetle can understand—with their retinue of twopenny-halfpenny Torquemadas wallowing in the infamies of the vivisector’s laboratory, and solemnly offering us as epoch-making discoveries their demonstrations that dogs get weaker and die if you give them no food; that intense pain makes mice sweat; and that if you cut off a dog’s leg the three-legged dog will have a four-legged puppy, I ask myself what spell has fallen on intelligent and humane men that they allow themselves to be imposed on by this rabble of dolts, blackguards, imposters, quacks, liars, and, worst of all, credulous conscientious fools.”
In Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), lxi
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In 1925 [state legislators] prohibited by law the teaching of evolution in Tennessee. … Anti-evolutionists feared that a scientific idea would undermine religious belief. In the present…, pro-evolutionists fear that a religious idea will undermine scientific belief. The former had insufficient confidence in religion; the latter, insufficient confidence in science.
In Building a Bridge to the 18th Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future (1999), 167.
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In consequence of Darwin's reformed Theory of Descent, we are now in a position to establish scientifically the groundwork of a non-miraculous history of the development of the human race. ... If any person feels the necessity of conceiving the coming into existence of this matter as the work of a supernatural creative power, of the creative force of something outside of matter, we have nothing to say against it. But we must remark, that thereby not even the smallest advantage is gained for a scientific knowledge of nature. Such a conception of an immaterial force, which as the first creates matter, is an article of faith which has nothing whatever to do with human science.
In Ernst Haeckel and E. Ray Lankester (trans.), The History of Creation (1880), Vol. 1, 6-9.
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In due time the evolution theory will have to abate its vehemence, cannot be allow’d to dominate everything else, and will have to take its place as a segment of the circle, the cluster—as but one of many theories, many thoughts, of profoundest value—and readjusting the differentiating much, yet leaving the divine secrets just as inexplicable and unreachable as before—maybe more so.
In Specimen days & Collect (1883), 326.
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In its earliest development knowledge is self-sown. Impressions force themselves upon men’s senses whether they will or not, and often against their will. The amount of interest in which these impressions awaken is determined by the coarser pains and pleasures which they carry in their train or by mere curiosity; and reason deals with the materials supplied to it as far as that interest carries it, and no further. Such common knowledge is rather brought than sought; and such ratiocination is little more than the working of a blind intellectual instinct. It is only when the mind passes beyond this condition that it begins to evolve science. When simple curiosity passes into the love of knowledge as such, and the gratification of the æsthetic sense of the beauty of completeness and accuracy seems more desirable that the easy indolence of ignorance; when the finding out of the causes of things becomes a source of joy, and he is accounted happy who is successful in the search, common knowledge passes into what our forefathers called natural history, whence there is but a step to that which used to be termed natural philosophy, and now passes by the name of physical science.
In this final state of knowledge the phenomena of nature are regarded as one continuous series of causes and effects; and the ultimate object of science is to trace out that series, from the term which is nearest to us, to that which is at the farthest limit accessible to our means of investigation.
The course of nature as it is, as it has been, and as it will be, is the object of scientific inquiry; whatever lies beyond, above, or below this is outside science. But the philosopher need not despair at the limitation on his field of labor; in relation to the human mind Nature is boundless; and, though nowhere inaccessible, she is everywhere unfathomable.
The Crayfish: an Introduction to the Study of Zoölogy (1880), 2-3. Excerpted in Popular Science (Apr 1880), 16, 789-790.
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In its essence, the theory of natural selection is primarily an attempt to give an account of the probable mechanism of the origin of the adaptations of the organisms to their environment, and only secondarily an attempt to explain evolution at large. Some modern biologists seem to believe that the word 'adaptation' has teleological connotations, and should therefore be expunged from the scientific lexicon. With this we must emphatically disagree. That adaptations exist is so evident as to be almost a truism, although this need not mean that ours is the best of all possible worlds. A biologist has no right to close his eyes to the fact that the precarious balance between a living being and its environment must be preserved by some mechanism or mechanisms if life is to endure.
Genetics and Origin of Species (1937), 150.
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In science “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
'Evolution as Fact and Theory', in Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History (1983), 255.
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In summary, very large populations may differentiate rapidly, but their sustained evolution will be at moderate or slow rates and will be mainly adaptive. Populations of intermediate size provide the best conditions for sustained progressive and branching evolution, adaptive in its main lines, but accompanied by inadaptive fluctuations, especially in characters of little selective importance. Small populations will be virtually incapable of differentiation or branching and will often be dominated by random inadaptive trends and peculiarly liable to extinction, but will be capable of the most rapid evolution as long as this is not cut short by extinction.
Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1944), 70-1.
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In the animal world we have seen that the vast majority of species live in societies, and that they find in association the best arms for the struggle for life: understood, of course, in its wide Darwinian sense—not as a struggle for the sheer means of existence, but as a struggle against all natural conditions unfavourable to the species. The animal species, in which individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development, are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the most open to further progress. The mutual protection which is obtained in this case, the possibility of attaining old age and of accumulating experience, the higher intellectual development, and the further growth of sociable habits, secure the maintenance of the species, its extension, and its further progressive evolution. The unsociable species, on the contrary, are doomed to decay.
Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902), 293.
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In the animal world, on the other hand, the process of evolution is characterised by the progressive discrimination of the animal and vegetative functions, and a consequent differentiation of these two great provinces into their separate departments.

In the beginning was the book of Nature. For eon after eon, the pages of the book turned with no human to read them. No eye wondered at the ignition of the sun, the coagulation of the earth, the birth of the moon, the solidification of a terrestrial continent, or the filling of the seas. Yet when the first primitive algae evolved to float on the waters of this ocean, a promise was born—a hope that someday all the richness and variety of the phenomena of the universe would be read with appreciative eyes.
Opening paragraph in Gary G. Tibbetts, How the Great Scientists Reasoned: The Scientific Method in Action (2012), 1.
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In the nature of life and in the principles of evolution we have had our answer. Of men elsewhere, and beyond, there will be none, forever.
In 'Little Men and Flying Sources', The Immense Journey (1957), 162.
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In the process of natural selection, then, any device that can insert a higher proportion of certain genes into subsequent generations will come to characterize the species.
'The Morality of the Gene'.; Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975, 1980), 3.
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Inheritance by itself leads to no change, and variation leads to no permanent change, unless the variations themselves are heritable. Thus it is not inheritance and variation which bring about evolution, but the inheritance of variation.
In 'Variation Due to Change in the Individual Gene', The American Naturalist (Jan-Feb 1922), 56, No. 642, 35.
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Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforth if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow. ... The consciousness of each of us is evolution looking at itself and reflecting upon itself....Man is not the center of the universe as once we thought in our simplicity, but something much more wonderful—the arrow pointing the way to the final unification of the world in terms of life. Man alone constitutes the last-born, the freshest, the most complicated, the most subtle of all the successive layers of life. ... The universe has always been in motion and at this moment continues to be in motion. But will it still be in motion tomorrow? ... What makes the world in which we live specifically modern is our discovery in it and around it of evolution. ... Thus in all probability, between our modern earth and the ultimate earth, there stretches an immense period, characterized not by a slowing-down but a speeding up and by the definitive florescence of the forces of evolution along the line of the human shoot.
In The Phenomenon of Man (1975), pp 218, 220, 223, 227, 228, 277.
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Is it possible that a promiscuous Jumble of Printing Letters should often fall into a Method and Order, which should stamp on Paper a coherent Discourse; or that a blind fortuitous Concourse of Atoms, not guided by an Understanding Agent, should frequently constitute the Bodies of any Species of Animals.
In 'Of Wrong Assent, or Error', An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding (1706), Book 4, 601.
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It has become accepted doctrine that we must attempt to study the whole man. Actually we cannot study even a whole tree or a whole guinea pig. But it is a whole tree and a whole guinea pig that have survived and evolved, and we must make the attempt.
Personality (1947), 5.
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It has been stated that the research should be discontinued because it involved “meddling with evolution.” Homo sapiens has been meddling with evolution in many ways and for a long time. We started in a big way when we domesticated plants and animals. We continue every time we alter the environment. In general, recombinant DNA research docs not seem to represent a significant increase in the risks associated with such meddling—although it may significantly increase the rate at which we meddle.
In letter to the Board of Directors of Friends of the Earth, published in The Coevolutionary Quarterly (Spring 1978), as abstracted and cited in New Scientist (6 Jul 1978), 35.
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It is an error to imagine that evolution signifies a constant tendency to increased perfection. That process undoubtedly involves a constant remodeling of the organism in adaptation to new conditions; but it depends on the nature of those conditions whether the direction of the modifications effected shall be upward or downward.
'The Struggle for Existence in Human Society' (1888). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 9, 199.
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It is because of his brain that [modern man] has risen above the animals. Guess which animals he has risen above.
The Great Bustard and Other People (1944), 30.
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It is certainly true in the United States that there is an uneasiness about certain aspects of science, particularly evolution, because it conflicts, in some people’s minds, with their sense of how we all came to be. But you know, if you are a believer in God, it’s hard to imagine that God would somehow put this incontrovertible evidence in front of us about our relationship to other living organisms and expect us to disbelieve it. I mean, that doesn't make sense at all.
From video of interview with Huffington post reporter at the 2014 Davos Annual Meeting, World Economic Forum (25 Jan 2014). On web page 'Dr. Francis Collins: “There Is An Uneasiness” About Evolution'
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It is entirely unprecedented that evolution should provide a species with an organ which it does not know how to use. … But the evolution of man’s brain has so wildly overshot man’s immediate needs that he is still breathlessly catching up with its unexploited, unexplored possibilities.
In The Ghost in the Machine (1967), 298-299. This is often seen paraphrased as “The evolution of the brain not only overshot the needs of prehistoric man, it is the only example of evolution providing a species with an organ which it does not know how to use.”
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It is evident that certain genes which either initially or ultimately have beneficial effects may at the same time produce characters of a non-adaptive type, which will therefore be established with them. Such characters may sometimes serve most easily to distinguish different races or species; indeed, they may be the only ones ordinarily available, when the advantages with which they are associated are of a physiological nature. Further, it may happen that the chain of reactions which a gene sets going is of advantage, while the end-product to which this gives rise, say a character in a juvenile or the adult stage, is of no adaptive significance.
Mendelism and Evolution (1931), 78-9.
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It is grindingly, creakingly, crashingly obvious that, if Darwinism were really a theory of chance, it couldn't work. You don't need to be a mathematician or physicist to calculate that an eye or a haemoglobin molecule would take from here to infinity to self-assemble by sheer higgledy-piggledy luck. Far from being a difficulty peculiar to Darwinism, the astronomic improbability of eyes and knees, enzymes and elbow joints and all the other living wonders is precisely the problem that any theory of life must solve, and that Darwinism uniquely does solve. It solves it by breaking the improbability up into small, manageable parts, smearing out the luck needed, going round the back of Mount Improbable and crawling up the gentle slopes, inch by million-year inch. Only God would essay the mad task of leaping up the precipice in a single bound.
Climbing Mount Improbable (1996), 67-8.

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
Concluding remarks in final chapter, The Origin of Species (1859), 490. In the second edition, Darwin changed “breathed” to “breathed by the Creator”.
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It is most interesting to observe into how small a field the whole of the mysteries of nature thus ultimately resolve themselves. The inorganic has one final comprehensive law, GRAVITATION. The organic, the other great department of mundane things, rests in like manner on one law, and that is,—DEVELOPMENT. Nor may even these be after all twain, but only branches of one still more comprehensive law, the expression of that unity which man's wit can scarcely separate from Deity itself.
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844), 360.
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It is natural selection that gives direction to changes, orients chance, and slowly, progressively produces more complex structures, new organs, and new species. Novelties come from previously unseen association of old material. To create is to recombine.
'Evolution and Tinkering', Science (1977), 196, 1163.
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It is perhaps a law of nature that when a species (or group) fits itself to a place not previously occupied, and in which it is subject to no opposition from beings of its own class, or where it attains so great a perfection as to be able easily to overcome all opposition, the character eventually loses its original plasticity, or tendency to vary, since improvement in such a case would be superfluous, and becomes, so to speak, crystallized in that form which continues thereafter unaltered. … [Such as] the humming-bird.
In The Naturalist in La Plata (1895), 40.
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It is still false to conclude that man is nothing but the highest animal, or the most progressive product of organic evolution. He is also a fundamentally new sort of animal and one in which, although organic evolution continues on its way, a fundamentally new sort of evolution has also appeared. The basis of this new sort of evolution is a new sort of heredity, the inheritance of learning. This sort of heredity appears modestly in other mammals and even lower in the animal kingdom, but in man it has incomparably fuller development and it combines with man's other characteristics unique in degree with a result that cannot be considered unique only in degree but must also be considered unique in kind.
In The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 286.
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It is suitable to the magnificent harmony of the universe that the species of creatures should, by gentle degrees, ascend upward from us toward His perfection, as we see them gradually descend from us downward.
In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1849), Book 3, Chap 6, Sec. 12, 326.
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It is tautological to say that an organism is adapted to its environment. It is even tautological to say that an organism is physiologically adapted to its environment. However, just as in the case of many morphological characters, it is unwarranted to conclude that all aspects of the physiology of an organism have evolved in reference to a specific milieu. It is equally gratuitous to assume that an organism will inevitably show physiological specializations in its adaptation to a particular set of conditions. All that can be concluded is that the functional capacities of an organism are sufficient to have allowed persistence within its environment. On one hand, the history of an evolutionary line may place serious constraints upon the types of further physiological changes that are readily feasible. Some changes might require excessive restructuring of the genome or might involve maladaptive changes in related functions. On the other hand, a taxon which is successful in occupying a variety of environments may be less impressive in individual physiological capacities than one with a far more limited distribution.
In W.R. Dawson, G.A. Bartholomew, and A.F. Bennett, 'A Reappraisal of the Aquatic Specializations of the Galapagos Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus)', Evolution (1977), 31, 891.
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It is the intertwined and interacting mechanisms of evolution and ecology, each of which is at the same time a product and a process, that are responsible for life as we see it, and as it has been.
In Evolutionary Paleoecology of the Marine Biosphere (1973), 58.
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It is the task of science, as a collective human undertaking, to describe from the external side, (on which alone agreement is possible), such statistical regularity as there is in a world “in which every event has a unique aspect, and to indicate where possible the limits of such description. It is not part of its task to make imaginative interpretation of the internal aspect of reality—what it is like, for example, to be a lion, an ant or an ant hill, a liver cell, or a hydrogen ion. The only qualification is in the field of introspective psychology in which each human being is both observer and observed, and regularities may be established by comparing notes. Science is thus a limited venture. It must act as if all phenomena were deterministic at least in the sense of determinable probabilities. It cannot properly explain the behaviour of an amoeba as due partly to surface and other physical forces and partly to what the amoeba wants to do, with out danger of something like 100 per cent duplication. It must stick to the former. It cannot introduce such principles as creative activity into its interpretation of evolution for similar reasons. The point of view indicated by a consideration of the hierarchy of physical and biological organisms, now being bridged by the concept of the gene, is one in which science deliberately accepts a rigorous limitation of its activities to the description of the external aspects of events. In carrying out this program, the scientist should not, however, deceive himself or others into thinking that he is giving an account of all of reality. The unique inner creative aspect of every event necessarily escapes him.
In 'Gene and Organism', American Naturalist, (1953), 87, 17.
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It is with our entire past ... that we desire, will and act ... from this survival of the past it follows that consciousness cannot go through the same state twice. The circumstances may still be the same, but they will act no longer on the same person ... that is why our duration is irreversible.
Creative Evolution (1911), trans. Arthur Mitchell, 6.

It is, however, a most astonishing but incontestable fact, that the history of the evolution of man as yet constitutes no part of general education. Indeed, our so-called “educated classes” are to this day in total ignorance of the most important circumstances and the most remarkable phenomena which Anthropogeny has brought to light.
From Oliver Joseph Thatcher, The Library Of Original Sources (1907), 345.
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It is, I believe, justifiable to make the generalization that anything an organic chemist can synthesize can be made without him. All he does is increase the probability that given reactions will 'go.' So it is quite reasonable to assume that given sufficient time and proper conditions, nucleotides, amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids will arise by reactions that, though less probable, are as inevitable as those by which the organic chemist fulfills his predictions. So why not self-duplicating virus-like systems capable of further evolution?
The Place of Genetics in Modern Biology (1959),18.
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It might be thought … that evolutionary arguments would play a large part in guiding biological research, but this is far from the case. It is difficult enough to study what is happening now. To figure out exactly what happened in evolution is even more difficult. Thus evolutionary achievements can be used as hints to suggest possible lines of research, but it is highly dangerous to trust them too much. It is all too easy to make mistaken inferences unless the process involved is already very well understood.
In What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 138-139.
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It need scarcely be pointed out that with such a mechanism complete isolation of portion of a species should result relatively rapidly in specific differentiation, and one that is not necessarily adaptive. The effective inter­group competition leading to adaptive advance may be between species rather than races. Such isolation is doubtless usually geographic in character at the outset but may be clinched by the development of hybrid sterility. The usual difference of the chromosome complements of related species puts the importance of chromosome aberration as an evolutionary process beyond question, but, as I see it, this importance is not in the character differences which they bring (slight in balanced types), but rather in leading to the sterility of hybrids and thus making permanent the isolation of two groups.
How far do the observations of actual species and their subdivisions conform to this picture? This is naturally too large a subject for more than a few suggestions.
That evolution involves non-adaptive differentiation to a large extent at the subspecies and even the species level is indicated by the kinds of differences by which such groups are actually distinguished by systematics. It is only at the subfamily and family levels that clear-cut adaptive differences become the rule. The principal evolutionary mechanism in the origin of species must thus be an essentially nonadaptive one.
In Proceedings of the Sixth International Congress of Genetics: Ithaca, New York, 1932 (1932) Vol. 1, 363-364.
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It seems to me that the view toward which we are tending is that the specificity in gene action is always a chemical specificity, probably the production of enzymes which guide metabolic processes along particular channels. A given array of genes thus determines the production of a particular kind of protoplasm with particular properties—such, for example, as that of responding to surface forces by the formation of a special sort of semipermeable membrane, and that of responding to trivial asymmetries in the play of external stimuli by polarization, with consequent orderly quantitative gradients in all physiologic processes. Different genes may now be called into play at different points in this simple pattern, either through the local formation of their specific substrates for action, or by activation of a mutational nature. In either case the pattern becomes more complex and qualitatively differentiated. Successive interactions of differentiated regions and the calling into play of additional genes may lead to any degree of complexity of pattern in the organism as a largely self-contained system. The array of genes, assembled in the course of evolution, must of course be one which determines a highly self­regulatory system of reactions. On this view the genes are highly specific chemically, and thus called into play only under very specific conditions; but their morphological effects, if any, rest on quantitative influences of immediate or remote products on growth gradients, which are resultants of all that has gone on before in the organism.
In 'Genetics of Abnormal Growth in the Guinea Pig', Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology (1934), 2, 142.
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It took hundreds of millions of years to produce the life that now inhabits the earth–eons of time in which that developing and evolving and diversifying life reached a state of adjustment and balance with its surroundings.
In Silent Spring (1962), 6.
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It was Darwin’s chief contribution, not only to Biology but to the whole of natural science, to have brought to light a process by which contingencies a priori improbable are given, in the process of time, an increasing probability, until it is their non-occurrence, rather than their occurrence, which becomes highly improbable.
From essay 'Retrospect of the Criticisms of the Theory of Natural Selection', reproduced in Julian Huxley, A.C. Hardy, and E.B. Ford (eds.), Evolution as a Process (1954), 91, as cited in Elizabeth Knowles, What They Didn't Say: A Book of Misquotations (2006), 79-80. “Natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability,” which is seen more often, is a summary form of Fisher’s idea (not a verbatim quote) written by Julian Huxley, ibid, 5.
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It will be possible, through the detailed determination of amino-acid sequences of hemoglobin molecules and of other molecules too, to obtain much information about the course of the evolutionary process, and to illuminate the question of the origin of species.
'Molecular Disease and Evolution'. Typescript of the Rudolph Virchow Lecture (5 Nov 1962). Quoted in T. Hager, Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling (1997), 541.
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It would be an easy task to show that the characteristics in the organization of man, on account of which the human species and races are grouped as a distinct family, are all results of former changes of occupation, and of acquired habits, which have come to be distinctive of individuals of his kind. When, compelled by circumstances, the most highly developed apes accustomed themselves to walking erect, they gained the ascendant over the other animals. The absolute advantage they enjoyed, and the new requirements imposed on them, made them change their mode of life, which resulted in the gradual modification of their organization, and in their acquiring many new qualities, and among them the wonderful power of speech.
Quoted in Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel The Evolution of Man (1897), Vol. 1, 70.
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It’s fine if you as an adult want to run around pretending or claiming that you don’t believe in evolution, but if we educate a generation of people who don’t believe in science, that’s a recipe for disaster. … The main idea in all of biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong.
Bill Nye
As quoted in Sarah Fecht, 'Science Guy Bill Nye Explains Why Evolution Belongs in Science Education', Popular Mechanics (4 Feb 2011).
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Know, oh Brother (May God assist thee and us by the Spirit from Him) that God, Exalted Be His Praise, when He created all creatures and brought all things into being, arranged them and brought them into existence by a process similar to the process of generation of numbers from one, so that the multiplicity [of numbers] should be a witness to his Oneness, and their classification and order an indication of the perfection of His wisdom in creation. And this would be a witness to the fact, too, that they [creatures] are related to Him who created them, in the same way as the numbers are related to the One which is prior to two, and which is the principle, origin and source of numbers, as we have shown in our treatise on arithmetic.
Rasa'il. In Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Science and Civilisation in Islam (1968), 155-6.
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Knowing what we now know about living systems—how they replicate and how they mutate—we are beginning to know how to control their evolutionary futures. To a considerable extent we now do that with the plants we cultivate and the animals we domesticate. This is, in fact, a standard application of genetics today. We could even go further, for there is no reason why we cannot in the same way direct our own evolutionary futures. I wish to emphasize, however—and emphatically—that whether we should do this and, if so, how, are not questions science alone can answer. They are for society as a whole to think about. Scientists can say what the consequences might be, but they are not justified in going further except as responsible members of society.
The Place of Genetics in Modern Biology (1959), 20.
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Life arose as a living molecule or protogene, the progression from this stage to that of the ameba is at least as great as from ameba to man. All the essential problems of living organisms are already solved in the one-celled (or, as many now prefer to say, noncellular) protozoan and these are only elaborated in man or the other multicellular animals. The step from nonlife to life may not have been so complex, after all, and that from cell to multicellular organism is readily comprehensible. The change from protogene to protozoan was probably the most complex that has occurred in evolution, and it may well have taken as long as the change from protozoan to man.
The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 16
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Life is order, death is disorder. A fundamental law of Nature states that spontaneous chemical changes in the universe tend toward chaos. But life has, during milliards of years of evolution, seemingly contradicted this law. With the aid of energy derived from the sun it has built up the most complicated systems to be found in the universe—living organisms. Living matter is characterized by a high degree of chemical organisation on all levels, from the organs of large organisms to the smallest constituents of the cell. The beauty we experience when we enjoy the exquisite form of a flower or a bird is a reflection of a microscopic beauty in the architecture of molecules.
The Nobel Prize for Chemistry: Introductory Address'. Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1981-1990 (1992), 69.
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Life is the most important thing about the world, the most important thing about life is evolution. Thus, by consciously seeking what is most meaningful, I moved from poetry to mineralogy to paleontology to evolution.
This View of Life: the World of an Evolutionist (1964), 27-28.
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LITTRÉ. Snicker on hearing his name: “the gentleman who thinks we are descended from the apes.”
The Dictionary of Accepted Ideas (1881), trans. Jaques Barzun (1968), 59.
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Look Nature thro’, ’tis neat Gradation all.
By what minute Degrees her Scale ascends!
Each middle Nature join’d at each Extreme,
To that above it join’d, to that beneath.
The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality (1742, 1750), Night 6, 140.
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Man appears to be the missing link between anthropoid apes and human beings.
Quoted by John Pfeiffer in 'When Man First Stood Up', New York Times (11 Apr 1965), Sunday magazine, 83.
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Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is, I dunno. If The Eiffel Tower were now to represent the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that the skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.
[Declaiming Alfred Russel Wallace's 'anthropocentric' theory, that the universe was created specifically for the evolution of mankind.]
'Was the World Made for Man?' (1903) in What is Man?: and Other Philosophical Writings (1973), 106. Twain used the age of the earth accepted in his time; it is now estimated as 4,500 million years. Man's origin is now estimated as 250,000 years.
For the complete essay, see Was The World Made For Man?.
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Man has risen, not fallen. He can choose to develop his capacities as the highest animal and to try to rise still farther, or he can choose otherwise. The choice is his responsibility, and his alone. There is no automatism that will carry him upward without choice or effort and there is no trend solely in the right direction. Evolution has no purpose; man must supply this for himself. The means to gaining right ends involve both organic evolution and human evolution, but human choice as to what are the right ends must be based on human evolution.
The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 310.
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Man is a megalomaniac among animals—if he sees mountains he will try to imitate them by pyramids, and if he sees some grand process like evolution, and thinks it would be at all possible for him to be in on that game, he would irreverently have to have his whack at that too. That daring megalomania of his—has it not brought him to his present place?
'Application and Prospects', unpublished lecture, 1916. In Philip J. Pauly, Controlling Life: Jacques Loeb and the Engineering idea in Biology (1987), 179.
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Man is developed from an ovule, about 125th of an inch in diameter, which differs in no respect from the ovules of other animals.
The Descent of Man (1871, 1902), 25.
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Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hopes for a still higher destiny in the distant future. But we are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason allows us to discover it. I have given the evidence to the best of my ability; and we must acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system—with all these exalted powers—Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.
Concluding remarks. The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 405.
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Man … begins life as an ambiguous speck of matter which can in no way be distinguished from the original form of the lowest animal or plant. He next becomes a cell; his life is precisely that of the animalcule. Cells cluster round this primordial cell, and the man is so far advanced that he might be mistaken for an undeveloped oyster; he grows still more, and it is clear that he might even be a fish; he then passes into a stage which is common to all quadrupeds, and next assumes a form which can only belong to quadrupeds of the higher type. At last the hour of birth approaches; coiled within the dark womb he sits, the image of an ape; a caricature of the man that is to be. He is born, and for some time he walks only on all fours; he utters only inarticulate sounds; and even in his boyhood his fondness for climbing trees would seem to be a relic of the old arboreal life.
In The Martyrdom of Man (1876), 393.
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Many Species of Animals have been lost out of the World, which Philosophers and Divines are unwilling to admit, esteeming the Destruction of anyone Species a Dismembring of the Universe, and rendring the World imperfect; whereas they think the Divine Providence is especially concerned, and solicitous to secure and preserve the Works of the Creation. And truly so it is, as appears, in that it was so careful to lodge all Land Animals in the Ark at the Time of the general Deluge; and in that, of all Animals recorded in Natural Histories, we cannot say that there hath been anyone Species lost, no not of the most infirm, and most exposed to Injury and Ravine. Moreover, it is likely, that as there neither is nor can be any new Species of Animals produced, all proceeding from Seeds at first created; so Providence, without which one individual Sparrow falls not to the ground, doth in that manner watch over all that are created, that an entire Species shall not be lost or destroyed by any Accident. Now, I say, if these Bodies were sometimes the Shells and Bones of Fish, it will thence follow, that many Species have been lost out of the World... To which I have nothing to reply, but that there may be some of them remaining some where or other in the Seas, though as yet they have not come to my Knowledge. Far though they may have perished, or by some Accident been destroyed out of our Seas, yet the Race of them may be preserved and continued still in others.
John Ray
Three Physico-Theological Discourses (1713), Discourse II, 'Of the General Deluge, in the Days of Noah; its Causes and Effects', 172-3.
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Melvin Calvin was a fearless scientist, totally unafraid to venture into new fields such as hot atom chemistry, carcinogenesis, chemical evolution and the origin of life, organic geochemistry, immunochemistry, petroleum production from plants, farming, Moon rock analysis, and development of novel synthetic biomembrane models for plant photosystems.
Co-author with Andrew A. Benson, 'Melvin Calvin', Biographical Memoirs of the US National Academy of Science.
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Men are impatient, and for precipitating things; but the Author of Nature appears deliberate throughout His operations, accomplishing His natural ends by slow, successive steps. And there is a plan of things beforehand laid out, which, from the nature of it, requires various systems of means, as well as length of time, in order to the carrying on its several parts into execution.
Analogy of Religion (1860), 239-240.
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Men first appeared as fish. When they were able to help themselves they took to land.
These are certainly not exact words from Anaximander, though it summarizes Plutarch’s version of what Anaximander believed. Although the subject quote is widely seen, no original of Anaximander’s writings survived on this hypothesis. What we know of Anaximander is what other, later, ancient Greek writers handed down in a kind of ancient Greek telephone game. These include Hippolytus, Aetius and Plutarch. Their expressions of what Anaximander believed relate by a general theme, but notably differ in specifics. For the fragmentary evidence, see Felix M. Cleve, The Giants of Pre-Sophistic Greek Philosophy: An Attempt to Reconstruct Their Thoughts (2012), 145-148. An example of the subject quote is given by David M. Neuberger, without quotation marks: Anaximander said men were produced first in fishes and, that when they were able to help themselves, they were thrown up on the land. Opening sentence 'A Call to the Chemist to Purge Industry of its Contamination of Our Coast and Inland Waters', Chemical Age (Oct 1923), 31, No. 10, 431.
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Might one not say that in the chance combination of nature's production, since only those endowed with certain relations of suitability could survive, it is no cause for wonder that this suitability is found in all species that exist today? Chance, one might say, produced an innumerable multitude of individuals; a small number turned out to be constructed in such fashion that the parts of the animal could satisfy its needs; in another, infinitely greater number, there was neither suitability nor order: all of the later have perished; animals without a mouth could not live, others lacking organs for reproduction could not perpetuate themselves: the only ones to have remained are those in which were found order and suitability; and these species, which we see today, are only the smallest part of what blind fate produced.
'Essai de Cosmologie' in Oeuvres de Mr. De Maupertuis (1756), Vol. 1, 11-12. Quoted in Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought, ed. Keith R. Benson and trans. Robert Ellrich (1997), 381.
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Morphological information has provided the greatest single source of data in the formulation and development of the theory of evolution and that even now, when the preponderance of work is experimental, the basis for interpretation in many areas of study remains the form and relationships of structures.
'Morphology, Paleontology, and Evolution', in Sol Tax (ed.), Evolution After Darwin, Vol. 1, The Evolution of Life (1960), 524.
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Mutations and chromosomal changes arise in every sufficiently studied organism with a certain finite frequency, and thus constantly and unremittingly supply the raw materials for evolution. But evolution involves something more than origin of mutations. Mutations and chromosomal changes are only the first stage, or level, of the evolutionary process, governed entirely by the laws of the physiology of individuals. Once produced, mutations are injected in the genetic composition of the population, where their further fate is determined by the dynamic regularities of the physiology of populations. A mutation may be lost or increased in frequency in generations immediately following its origin, and this (in the case of recessive mutations) without regard to the beneficial or deleterious effects of the mutation. The influences of selection, migration, and geographical isolation then mold the genetic structure of populations into new shapes, in conformity with the secular environment and the ecology, especially the breeding habits, of the species. This is the second level of the evolutionary process, on which the impact of the environment produces historical changes in the living population.
Genetics and Origin of Species (1937), 13.
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Mutations merely furnish random raw material for evolution, and rarely, if ever determine the course of the process.
From 'Fisher and Ford on the Sewall Wright Effect', American Scientist (Jul 1951), 39, No. 3, 452. Collected in Sewall Wright and ‎William B. Provine, Evolution: Selected Papers (1986), 515.
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My many years of work and research as a biological and social anthropologist have made it abundantly clear to me that from an evolutionary and biological standpoint, the female is more advanced and constitutionally more richly endowed than the male.
In The Natural Superiority of Women (1952, 1999), 91.
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Nature ... tends to repeat the same organs in the same number and in the same relations, and varies to infinity only their form. In accordance with this principle I shall have to draw my conclusions, in the determining the bones of the fish's skull, not from a consideration of their form, but from a consideration of their connections.
'Considérations sur les pieces de la tête osseuse des animaux vertebras, et particulièrement sur celle du crane des oiseaux', Annales du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, 1807, 10, 344. Trans. E. S. Russell, Form and Function (1916), 71.
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Nature becomes fertile only by virtue of laws that oblige matter to organize itself into one of a number of necessarily very simple primitive forms. Because of their very simplicity, these are capable of constituting the basis for increasingly complex bodies, by the addition of organs calculated according to identical laws of possibility.
'Matiere', Dictionnaire Classique d' Histoire Naturelle (1822-31), Vol. 10, 277, trans. J. Mandelbaum. Quoted in Pietro Corsi, The Age of Lamarck (1988), 225.
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Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. … Everything science has taught me—and continues to teach me—strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.
Wehner von Braun article in This Week Magazine (24 Jan 1960), 2. Excerpted in Viola Walden, Sword Scrapbook (1980), 66.
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Nature gropes and blunders and performs the crudest acts. There is no steady advance upward. There is no design.
As quoted in Bob Fenster, Duh!: The Stupid History of the Human Race (2000) , 208. [No other source was found by Webmaster. If you have information on a primary source, please contact Webmaster.]
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Nature is an experimenter.
Prometheus (1961). In Down in the Black Gang: And Others; a Story Collection (1971), 141.
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Nature proceeds little by little from things lifeless to animal life in such a way that it is impossible to determine the exact line of demarcation, nor on which side thereof an intermediate form should lie. Thus, next after lifeless things comes the plant, and of plants one will differ from another as to its amount of apparent vitality; and, in a word, the whole genus of plants, whilst it is devoid of life as compared with an animal, is endowed with life as compared with other corporeal entities. Indeed, as we just remarked, there is observed in plants a continuous scale of ascent towards the animal. So, in the sea, there are certain objects concerning which one would be at a loss to determine whether they be animal or vegetable. For instance, certain of these objects are fairly rooted, and in several cases perish if detached.
History of Animals, 588b, 4-14. In Jonathan Barnes (ed.) The Complete Works of Aristotle (1984), Vol. 1, 922.
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Nature produces those things which, being continually moved by a certain principle contained in themselves, arrive at a certain end.
In 'Physics' as quoted by Henry Fairfield Osborn in Address (29 Dec 1925) for the Opening of the new Peabody Museum of Yale University, 'The Origin of Species 1859-1925', The Scientific Monthly (Mar 1926), Vol. 22, 190.
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Nature progresses by unknown gradations and consequently does not submit to our absolute division when passing by imperceptible nuances, from one species to another and often from one genus to another. Inevitably there are a great number of equivocal species and in-between specimens that one does not know where to place and which throw our general systems into turmoil.
Jean Piveteau (ed.), Oeuvres Philosophiques de Buffon (1965), 10. Trans. in Paul Farber, 'Buffon and the Concept of Species', in Journal of the History of Biology, 1972, 5, 260.
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Nature! … She creates needs because she loves action. Wondrous! that she produces all this action so easily. Every need is a benefit, swiftly satisfied, swiftly renewed.—Every fresh want is a new source of pleasure, but she soon reaches an equilibrium.
As quoted by T.H. Huxley, in Norman Lockyer (ed.), 'Nature: Aphorisms by Goethe', Nature (1870), 1, 10.
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Nature, displayed in its full extent, presents us with an immense tableau, in which all the order of beings are each represented by a chain which sustains a continuous series of objects, so close and so similar that their difference would be difficult to define. This chain is not a simple thread which is only extended in length, it is a large web or rather a network, which, from interval to interval, casts branches to the side in order to unite with the networks of another order.
'Les Oiseaux Qui Ne Peuvent Voler', Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux (1770), Vol. I, 394. Trans. Phillip R. Sloan.
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Nevertheless, it is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.
In a collection of his own work, which he selected, A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949, 1956), 618. He specifies the epigrams are his work, on p. 615. First appeared as a page-bottom filler, without attribution (there), in George Jean Nathan and H.L. Mencken (eds.), The Smart Set: A Magazine of Cleverness (1916), 48, No. 1, 200.
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Next to the word 'Nature,' 'the Great Chain of Being' was the sacred phrase of the eighteenth century, playing a part somewhat analogous to that of the blessed word 'evolution' in the late nineteenth.
The Great Chain of Being (1936), 184.
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No evidence is powerful enough to force acceptance of a conclusion that is emotionally distasteful.
'Review of Evolution, Creation and Science by F. L. Marsh', American Naturalist, 79, 1945, 75.
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No existing form of anthropoid ape is even remotely related to the stock which has given rise to man.
In Henry Fairfield Osborn, 'Osborn States the Case For Evolution', New York Times (12 Jul 1925), XX1. Written in rebuttal to the anti-evolution publicity by William Jennings Bryan at the time of the Scopes Monkey Trial.
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No man can run up the natural line of Evolution without coming to Christianity at the top.
The Ascent of Man (1894), 439.
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No serious student of human behavior denies the potent influence of evolved biology upon our cultural lives. Our struggle is to figure out how biology affects us, not whether it does.
In An Urchin in the Storm: Essays about Books and Ideas (1988, 2010), 152.
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Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.
Title of article, 'Nothing in Biology makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution', The American Biology Teacher (Mar 1973), 125. Used earlier, stated in a different word order in 'Biology, Molecular and Organismic', American Zoologist, 1964, 4, 449.
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Nothing is constant but change! All existence is a perpetual flux of “being and becoming!” That is the broad lesson of the evolution of the world.
As translated by Joseph McCabe in Haeckel's The Wonders of Life: a Popular Study of Biological Philosophy (1904), 100.
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Nothing is more consonant with Nature than that she puts into operation in the smallest detail that which she intends as a whole.
Jeremy Naydler (ed.), Goethe On Science: An Anthology of Goethe’s Scientific Writings (1996), 59.
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Nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution.
'Biology, Molecular and Organismic', American Zoologist, 1964, 4, 449. Later, worded slightly differently as an article title, 'Nothing in Biology makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution', The American Biology Teacher (Mar 1973), 125.
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Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
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Now it is a well-known principle of zoological evolution that an isolated region, if large and sufficiently varied in its topography, soil, climate and vegetation, will give rise to a diversified fauna according to the law of adaptive radiation from primitive and central types. Branches will spring off in all directions to take advantage of every possible opportunity of securing food. The modifications which animals undergo in this adaptive radiation are largely of mechanical nature, they are limited in number and kind by hereditary, stirp or germinal influences, and thus result in the independent evolution of similar types in widely-separated regions under the law of parallelism or homoplasy. This law causes the independent origin not only of similar genera but of similar families and even of our similar orders. Nature thus repeats herself upon a vast scale, but the similarity is never complete and exact.
'The Geological and Faunal Relations of Europe and America during the Tertiary Period and the Theory of the Successive Invasions of an African Fauna', Science (1900), 11, 563-64.
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Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them.
In (George Long, trans.), The Thoughts of the Emperor M. Aurelius Antoninus (1869), 101.
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Of these three essential factors, space might be said to be one with which biogeography is primarily concerned. However space necessarily interplays with time and form, therefore the three factors are as one of biogeographic concern.
Space, Time Form: The Biological Synthesis (1962, issued 1964)

On consideration, it is not surprising that Darwin's finches should recognize their own kind primarily by beak characters. The beak is the only prominent specific distinction, and it features conspicuously both in attacking behaviour, when the birds face each other and grip beaks, and also in courtship, when food is passed from the beak of the male to the beak of the female. Hence though the beak differences are primarily correlated with differences in food, secondarily they serve as specific recognition marks, and the birds have evolved behaviour patterns to this end.
Darwin's Finches (1947), 54.
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On the whole, at least in the author's experience, the preparation of species-specific antiserum fractions and the differentiation of closely related species with precipitin sera for serum proteins does not succeed so regularly as with agglutinins and lysins for blood cells. This may be due to the fact that in the evolutional scale the proteins undergo continuous variations whereas cell antigens are subject to sudden changes not linked by intermediary stages.
The Specificity of Serological Reactions (1936), 12-3.
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Once life evolves, it tends to cover its tracks.
Quoted in Peter Douglas Ward and Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth (2000), 55.
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One cannot ignore half of life for the purposes of science, and then claim that the results of science give a full and adequate picture of the meaning of life. All discussions of “life” which begin with a description of man's place on a speck of matter in space, in an endless evolutionary scale, are bound to be half-measures, because they leave out most of the experiences which are important to use as human beings.
In Religion and the Rebel (1957), 309.
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One must believe that every living thing whatsoever must change insensibly in its organization and in its form... One must therefore never expect to find among living species all those which are found in the fossil state, and yet one may not assume that any species has really been lost or rendered extinct.
Système des Animaux sans Vertébres, (1801) trans. D. R. Newth, in Annals of Science (1952), 5, 253-4.
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One of the grandest generalizations formulated by modern biological science is that of the continuity of life; the protoplasmic activity within each living body now on earth has continued without cessation from the remote beginnings of life on our planet, and from that period until the present no single organism has ever arisen save in the form of a bit of living protoplasm detached from a pre-existing portion; the eternal flame of life once kindled upon this earth has passed from organism to organism, and is still, going on existing and propagating, incarnated within the myriad animal and plant forms of everyday life.
In History of the Human Body (1919), 1.
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One of the most striking results of modern investigation has been the way in which several different and quite independent lines of evidence indicate that a very great event occurred about two thousand million years ago. The radio-active evidence for the age of meteorites; and the estimated time for the tidal evolution of the Moon's orbit (though this is much rougher), all agree in their testimony, and, what is far more important, the red-shift in the nebulae indicates that this date is fundamental, not merely in the history of our system, but in that of the material universe as a whole.
The Solar System and its Origin (1935), 137.
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ORGANIC LIFE beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs'd in Ocean's pearly caves;
First, forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire, and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin, and feet, and wing.
Thus the tall Oak, the giant of the wood,
Which bears Britannia's thunders on the flood;
The Whale, unmeasured monster of the main,
The lordly Lion, monarch of the plain,
The Eagle soaring in the realms of air,
Whose eye undazzled drinks the solar glare,
Imperious man, who rules the bestial crowd,
Of language, reason, and reflection proud,
With brow erect, who scorns this earthy sod,
And styles himself the image of his God;
Arose from rudiments of form and sense,
An embryon point, or microscopic ens!
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 1, lines 295-314, pages 26-8.
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Organic life, we are told, has developed gradually from the protozoan to the philosopher, and this development, we are assured, is indubitably an advance. Unfortunately it is the philosopher, not the protozoon, who gives us this assurance.
From Herbert Spencer lecture delivered at Oxford (1914) 'On Scientific Method in Philosophy', collected in Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (1919), 106.
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Orgel's First Rule: Whenever a spontaneous process is too slow or too inefficient a protein will evolve to speed it up or make it more efficient.
In Jack D. Dunitz and Gerald F. Joyce, 'Leslie Eleazer Orgel', Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (2013), Vol. 59, 286.
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Our ancestor was an animal which breathed water, had a swim-bladder, a great swimming tail, an imperfect skull & undoubtedly was an hermaphrodite! Here is a pleasant genealogy for mankind.
Letter to C. Lyell, 10 January 1860. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1860 (1993), Vol. 8, 29.
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Over the years it has become clear that adjustments to the physical environment are behavioral as well as physiological and are inextricably intertwined with ecology and evolution. Consequently, a student of the physiology of adaptation should not only be a technically competent physiologist, but also be familiar with the evolutionary and ecological setting of the phenomenon that he or she is studying.
From 'Interspecific comparison as a tool for ecological physiologists', collected in M.E. Feder, A.F. Bennett, W.W. Burggren, and R.B. Huey, (eds.), New Directions in Ecological Physiology (1987), 17.
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Owing to the imperfection of language the offspring is termed a new animal, but it is in truth a branch or elongation of the parent; since a part of the embryon-animal is, or was, a part of the parent; and therefore in strict language it cannot be said to be entirely new at the time of its production; and therefore it may retain some of the habits of the parent-system. (1794)
Zoonomia, Or, The Laws of Organic Life, in three parts (1803), Vol. 1, 395.
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Paris ... On this side of the ocean it is difficult to understand the susceptibility of American citizens on the subject and precisely why they should so stubbornly cling to the biblical version. It is said in Genesis the first man came from mud and mud is not anything very clean. In any case if the Darwinian hypothesis should irritate any one it should only be the monkey. The monkey is an innocent animal—a vegetarian by birth. He never placed God on a cross, knows nothing of the art of war, does not practice lynch law and never dreams of assassinating his fellow beings. The day when science definitely recognizes him as the father of the human race the monkey will have no occasion to be proud of his descendants. That is why it must be concluded that the American Association which is prosecuting the teacher of evolution can be no other than the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
[A cynical article in the French press on the Scopes Monkey Trial, whether it will decide “a monkey or Adam was the grandfather of Uncle Sam.”]
Article from a French daily newspaper on the day hearings at the Scopes Monkey Trial began, Paris Soir (13 Jul 1925), quoted in 'French Satirize the Case', New York Times (14 Jul 1925), 3.
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Pavlov’s data on the two fundamental antagonistic nervous processes—stimulation and inhibition—and his profound generalizations regarding them, in particular, that these processes are parts of a united whole, that they are in a state of constant conflict and constant transition of the one to the other, and his views on the dominant role they play in the formation of the higher nervous activity—all those belong to the most established natural—scientific validation of the Marxist dialectal method. They are in complete accord with the Leninist concepts on the role of the struggle between opposites in the evolution, the motion of matter.
In E. A. Asratyan, I. P. Pavlov: His Life and Work (1953), 153.
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Perhaps the majority of paleontologists of the present time, who believe in orthogenesis, the irreversibility of evolution and the polyphyletic origin families, will assume that a short molar must keep on getting shorter, that it can never get longer and then again grow relatively shorter and therefore that Propliopithecus with its extremely short third molar and Dryopithecus its long m3 are alike excluded from ancestry of the Gorilla, in which the is a slight retrogression in length of m3. After many years reflection and constant study of the evolution of the vertebrates however, I conclude that 'orthogenesis' should mean solely that structures and races evolve in a certain direction, or toward a certain goal, only until the direction of evolution shifts toward some other goal. I believe that the 'irreversibility of evolution' means only that past changes irreversibly limit and condition future possibilities, and that, as a matter of experience, if an organ is once lost the same (homogenous) organ can be regained, although nature is fertile in substituting imitations. But this not mean, in my judgement, that if one tooth is smaller than its fellows it will in all cases continue to grow smaller.
'Studies on the Evolution of the Primates’, Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 1916, 35, 307.

Physio-philosophy has to show how, and in accordance indeed with what laws, the Material took its origin; and, therefore, how something derived its existence from nothing. It has to portray the first periods of the world's development from nothing; how the elements and heavenly bodies originated; in what method by self-evolution into higher and manifold forms, they separated into minerals, became finally organic, and in Man attained self-consciousness.
In Lorenz Oken, trans. by Alfred Tulk, Elements of Physiophilosophy (1847), 1.
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Populations of bacteria live in the spumes of volcanic thermal vents on the ocean floor, multiplying in water above the boiling point. And far beneath Earth's surface, to a depth of 2 miles (3.2 km) or more, dwell the SLIMES (subsurface lithoautotrophic microbial ecosystems), unique assemblages of bacteria and fungi that occupy pores in the interlocking mineral grains of igneous rock and derive their energy from inorganic chemicals. The SLIMES are independent of the world above, so even if all of it were burned to a cinder, they would carry on and, given enough time, probably evolve new life-forms able to re-enter the world of air and sunlight.
'Vanishing Before Our Eyes', Time (26 Apr 2000).
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Primates stand at a turning point in the course of evolution. Primates are to the biologist what viruses are to the biochemist. They can be analysed and partly understood according to the rules of a simpler discipline, but they also present another level of complexity: viruses are living chemicals, and primates are animals who love and hate and think.
'The Evolution of Primate Behavior: A survey of the primate order traces the progressive development of intelligence as a way of life', American Scientist (1985), 73, 288.
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Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.
As given, without citation, in Kate Louise Roberts (ed.), Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1922), 635.
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Psychology marks the triumph of human evolution. How many other species would need a science of the mind?
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 223.
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Quite recently the human descent theory has been stigmatized as the “gorilla theory of human ancestry.” All this despite the fact that Darwin himself, in the days when not a single bit of evidence regarding the fossil ancestors of man was recognized, distinctly stated that none of the known anthropoid apes, much less any of the known monkeys, should be considered in any way as ancestral to the human stock.
In Henry Fairfield Osborn, 'Osborn States the Case For Evolution', New York Times (12 Jul 1925), XX1. Written at the time of the Scopes Monkey Trial, in rebuttal of the anti-evolution position publicized by William Jennings Bryan.
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Religion and science ... constitute deep-rooted and ancient efforts to find richer experience and deeper meaning than are found in the ordinary biological and social satisfactions. As pointed out by Whitehead, religion and science have similar origins and are evolving toward similar goals. Both started from crude observations and fanciful concepts, meaningful only within a narrow range of conditions for the people who formulated them of their limited tribal experience. But progressively, continuously, and almost simultaneously, religious and scientific concepts are ridding themselves of their coarse and local components, reaching higher and higher levels of abstraction and purity. Both the myths of religion and the laws of science, it is now becoming apparent, are not so much descriptions of facts as symbolic expressions of cosmic truths.
'On Being Human,' A God Within, Scribner (1972).
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Science has found that nothing can disappear without a trace. Nature does not know extinction. All it knows is transformation.
In This Week Magazine (24 Jan 1960), 2. As quoted in Martin A. Recio, From the Threshold of Heaven (2008), 102.
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Science sees the process of evolution from the outside, as one might a train of cars going by, and resolves it into the physical and mechanical elements, without getting any nearer the reason of its going by, or the point of its departure or destination.
From Under the Apple-Trees (1916), 212.
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Science will continue to surprise us with what it discovers and creates; then it will astound us by devising new methods to surprise us. At the core of science’s self-modification is technology. New tools enable new structures of knowledge and new ways of discovery. The achievement of science is to know new things; the evolution of science is to know them in new ways. What evolves is less the body of what we know and more the nature of our knowing.
'Speculations on the Future of Science'. In Clifford A. Pickover, Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds Behind Them (2008), 172.
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Science, especially natural and medical science, is always undergoing evolution, and one can never hope to have said the last word upon any branch of it.
From Introduction to Alphonse Laveran and Felix Etienne Pierre Mesnil Trypanosomes and Trypanosomiasis (1904). English edition translated and much enlarged by David Nabarro, (1907), xvii.
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Scientific findings do not threaten anyone (except to the extent that Homo sapiens may prove incapable of controlling what science makes possible). But what is critical to understand is that our species (or, for that matter, God) is not in the least diminished by the idea that we emerged thanks to the processes of evolution.
In The Monkey in the Mirror: Essays on the Science of What Makes Us Human (2003), 55.
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Scientists and particularly the professional students of evolution are often accused of a bias toward mechanism or materialism, even though believers in vitalism and in finalism are not lacking among them. Such bias as may exist is inherent in the method of science. The most successful scientific investigation has generally involved treating phenomena as if they were purely materialistic, rejecting any metaphysical hypothesis as long as a physical hypothesis seems possible. The method works. The restriction is necessary because science is confined to physical means of investigation and so it would stultify its own efforts to postulate that its subject is not physical and so not susceptible to its methods.
The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 127.
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Second Law
All the acquisitions or losses wrought by nature on individuals, through the influence of the environment in which their race has long been placed, and hence through the influence of the predominant use or permanent disuse of any organ; all these are preserved by reproduction to the new individuals which arise, provided that the acquired modifications are common to both sexes, or at least to the individuals which produce the young.
Philosophie Zoologique (1809), Vol. 1, 235, trans. Hugh Elliot (1914), 113.
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Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends.
[Comment added to the second edition (1845) of Voyage of the Beagle (1839) concerning the variations he found of finches in the Galapagos Islands. In the first edition (p.461) he had merely described the thirteen allied species of finch but without further commentary.]
Voyage of the Beagle, 2nd ed., (1845), 380.
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Several very eminent living paleontologists frequently emphasise the abruptness of some of the major changes that have occurred, and seek for an external cause. This is a heady wine and has intoxicated palaeontologists since the days when they could blame it all on Noah's flood. In fact, books are still being published by the lunatic fringe with the same explanation. In case this book should be read by some fundamentalist searching for straws to prop up his prejudices, let me state categorically that all my experience (such as it is) has led me to an unqualified acceptance of evolution by natural selection as a sufficient explanation for what I have seen in the fossil record
In The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record (1973), 19-20.
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Siphonophores do not convey the message–a favorite theme of unthinking romanticism–that nature is but one gigantic whole, all its parts intimately connected and interacting in some higher, ineffable harmony. Nature revels in boundaries and distinctions; we inhabit a universe of structure. But since our universe of structure has evolved historically, it must present us with fuzzy boundaries, where one kind of thing grades into another.
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So says the most ancient book of the Earth; thus it is written on its leaves of marble, lime, sand, slate, and clay: ... that our Earth has fashioned itself, from its chaos of substances and powers, through the animating warmth of the creative spirit, to a peculiar and original whole, by a series of preparatory revolutions, till at last the crown of its creation, the exquisite and tender creature man, was enabled to appear.
Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man (1803). Translated from 1784 Original, Vol. I, Book 10, 465-6.
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So why fret and care that the actual version of the destined deed was done by an upper class English gentleman who had circumnavigated the globe as a vigorous youth, lost his dearest daughter and his waning faith at the same time, wrote the greatest treatise ever composed on the taxonomy of barnacles, and eventually grew a white beard, lived as a country squire just south of London, and never again traveled far enough even to cross the English Channel? We care for the same reason that we love okapis, delight in the fossil evidence of trilobites, and mourn the passage of the dodo. We care because the broad events that had to happen, happened to happen in a certain particular way. And something unspeakably holy –I don’t know how else to say this–underlies our discovery and confirmation of the actual details that made our world and also, in realms of contingency, assured the minutiae of its construction in the manner we know, and not in any one of a trillion other ways, nearly all of which would not have included the evolution of a scribe to record the beauty, the cruelty, the fascination, and the mystery.
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Sociobiology is not just any statement that biology, genetics, and evolutionary theory have something to do with human behavior. Sociobiology is a specific theory about the nature of genetic and evolutionary input into human behavior. It rests upon the view that natural selection is a virtually omnipotent architect, constructing organisms part by part as best solutions to problems of life in local environments. It fragments organisms into “traits,” explains their existence as a set of best solutions, and argues that each trait is a product of natural selection operating “for” the form or behavior in question. Applied to humans, it must view specific behaviors (not just general potentials) as adaptations built by natural selection and rooted in genetic determinants, for natural selection is a theory of genetic change. Thus, we are presented with unproved and unprovable speculations about the adaptive and genetic basis of specific human behaviors: why some (or all) people are aggressive, xenophobic, religious, acquisitive, or homosexual.
In Hen's Teeth and Horses Toes (1983, 2010), 242-243.
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Some filosifers think that a fakkilty’s granted
The minnit it’s felt to be thoroughly wanted.…
That the fears of a monkey whose holt chanced to fail
Drawed the vertibry out to a prehensile tail.
Satire, from 'Biglow Papers', as quoted in Horatio Hackett Newman (ed.), Readings in Evolution, Genetics, and Eugenics (1921), 330.
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Some folks seem to have descended from the chimpanzee much later than others.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips & Quotes (1968, 1995), 277.
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Some might accept evolution, if it allowed human beings to be created by God, but evolution won’t work halfway.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 192.
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Some primal termite knocked on wood.
And tasted it, and found it good.
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.
Good Intentions (1942), 261. In Gary William Flake, The Computational Beauty of Nature (2000), 261.
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Species do not grow more perfect: the weaker dominate the strong, again and again— the reason being that they are the great majority, and they are also cleverer. Darwin forgot the mind (—that is English!): the weak possess more mind. … To acquire mind, one must need mind—one loses it when one no longer needs it.
[Criticism of Darwin’s Origin of Species.]
The Twilight of the Idols (1888), translated by R. J. Hollingdale, Twilight of the Idols and the Anti Christ (1990), 67. Also see alternate translations.
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Species do not evolve towards perfection: the weak always prevail over the strong—simply because they are the majority, and because they are also the more crafty. Darwin forgot the intellect (that is English!), the weak have more intellect. In order to acquire intellect, one must be in need of it. One loses it when one no longer needs it.
[Criticism of Darwin's Origin of Species.]
The Twilight of the Idols (1888) collected in Twilight of the Idols, with The Antichrist and Ecce Homo, translated by Anthony M. Ludovici (2007), 56. Also see alternate translations.
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Step by step we cross great eras in the development of thought: there is no sudden gigantic stride; a theory proceeds by slow evolution until it dominates or is destroyed.
In 'Theory of Phlogiston', The London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science (Jan 1868), 35, 28-29.
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Take the rose—most people think it very beautiful: I don’t care for It at all. I prefer the cactus, for the simple reason that it has a more interesting personality. It has wonderfully adapted itself to its surroundings! It is the best illustration of the theory of evolution in plant life.
From George MacAdam, 'Steinmetz, Electricity's Mastermind, Enters Politics', New York Times (2 Nov 1913), SM3.
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Technology is an inherent democratizer. Because of the evolution of hardware and software, you’re able to scale up almost anything you can think up. … We’ll have to see if in our lifetime that means that everybody has more or less tools that are of equal power.
Guest Lecture, UC Berkeley, 'Search Engines, Technology, and Business' (3 Oct 2005). At 10:37 in the YouTube video.
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That man can interrogate as well as observe nature was a lesson slowly learned in his evolution. Of the two methods by which he can do this, the mathematical and the experimental, both have been equally fruitful—by the one he has gauged the starry heights and harnessed the cosmic forces to his will; by the other he has solved many of the problems of life and lightened many of the burdens of humanity.
In 'The Evolution of the Idea of Experiment in Medicine', in C.G. Roland, Sir William Osler, 1849-1919: A Selection for Medical Students (1982), 103. As cited in William Osler and Mark E. Silverman (ed.), The Quotable Osler (2002), 249
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The species and the genus are always the work of nature [i.e. specially created]; the variety mostly that of circumstance; the class and the order are the work of nature and art.
Philosophia Botanica (1751), aphorism 162. Trans. Frans A. Statfleu, Linnaeus and the Linnaeans: The Spreading of their Ideas in Systematic Botany, 1735-1789 (1971), 67.
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The admirable perfection of the adaptations of organisms and of their parts to the functions they perform has detracted attention from the fact that adaptedness does not consist of perfect fit, but capacity to fit or to adapt in a variety of ways: only in this sense is adaptedness a guarantee of further survival and evolutionary progress, for too perfect a fit is fatal to the species if not to the individual. This, I think, sets phylogeny and ontogeny in the correct perspective. It is the genotype which bears the marks of past experience of the species and defines the range of possible fits. What fit is actually chosen, what phenotype is actually evolved, is determined by the ever renewed individual history.
'The Interplay of Heredity and Environment in the Synthesis of Respiratory Enzymes in Yeast', The Harvey Lectures: Delivered under the auspices of The Harvey Society of New York 1950-1951, 1951, 156, 45-6.
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The advance from the simple to the complex, through a process of successive differentiations, is seen alike in the earliest changes of the Universe to which we can reason our way back, and in the earliest changes which we can inductively establish; it is seen in the geologic and climatic evolution of the Earth; it is seen in the unfolding of every single organism on its surface, and in the multiplication of kinds of organisms; it is seen in the evolution of Humanity, whether contemplated in the civilized individual, or in the aggregate of races; it is seen in the evolution of Society in respect alike of its political, its religious, and its economical organization; and it is seen in the evolution of all those endless concrete and abstract products of human activity which constitute the environment of our daily life. From the remotest past which Science can fathom, up to the novelties of yesterday, that in which Progress essentially consists, is the transformation of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous.
Progress: Its Law and Cause (1857), 35.
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The advance of science is not comparable to the changes of a city, where old edifices are pitilessly torn down to give place to new, but to the continuous evolution of zoologic types which develop ceaselessly and end by becoming unrecognisable to the common sight, but where an expert eye finds always traces of the prior work of the centuries past. One must not think then that the old-fashioned theories have been sterile and vain.
The Value of Science (1905), in The Foundations of Science: Science and Hypothesis, The Value of Science, Science and Method(1946), trans. by George Bruce Halsted, 208.
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The ancestors of the higher animals must be regarded as one-celled beings, similar to the Amœbæ which at the present day occur in our rivers, pools, and lakes. The incontrovertible fact that each human individual develops from an egg, which, in common with those of all animals, is a simple cell, most clearly proves that the most remote ancestors of man were primordial animals of this sort, of a form equivalent to a simple cell. When, therefore, the theory of the animal descent of man is condemned as a “horrible, shocking, and immoral” doctrine, tho unalterable fact, which can be proved at any moment under the microscope, that the human egg is a simple cell, which is in no way different to those of other mammals, must equally be pronounced “horrible, shocking, and immoral.”
Translated from his Ueber die Entstehung und den Stammbaum des Menschengeschlechts, (1873), Vol. 2, as an epigraph to Chap. 6, The Evolution of Man, (1879), Vol 1, 120-121.
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The Archetypal idea was manifested in the flesh, under divers such modifications, upon this planet, long prior to the existence of those animal species that actually exemplify it. To what natural laws or secondary causes the orderly succession and progression of such organic phaenomena may have been committed we as yet are ignorant. But if, without derogation of the Divine power, we may conceive the existence of such ministers, and personify them by the term 'Nature,' we learn from the past history of our globe that she has advanced with slow and stately steps, guided by the archetypal light, amidst the wreck of worlds, from the first embodiment of the Vertebrate idea under its old Ichthyic vestment, until it became arrayed in the glorious garb of the Human form.
On the Nature of Limbs (1849), 86.
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The attempted synthesis of paleontology and genetics, an essential part of the present study, may be particularly surprising and possibly hazardous. Not long ago, paleontologists felt that a geneticist was a person who shut himself in a room, pulled down the shades, watched small flies disporting themselves in milk bottles, and thought that he was studying nature. A pursuit so removed from the realities of life, they said, had no significance for the true biologist. On the other hand, the geneticists said that paleontology had no further contributions to make to biology, that its only point had been the completed demonstration of the truth of evolution, and that it was a subject too purely descriptive to merit the name 'science'. The paleontologist, they believed, is like a man who undertakes to study the principles of the internal combustion engine by standing on a street corner and watching the motor cars whiz by.
Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1944), 1.
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The book of Nature is the book of Fate. She turns the gigantic pages,—leaf after leaf,—never re-turning one. One leaf she lays down, a floor of granite; then a thousand ages, and a bed of slate; a thousand ages, and a measure of coal; a thousand ages, and a layer of marl and mud: vegetable forms appear; her first misshapen animals, zoophyte, trilobium, fish; then, saurians,—rude forms, in which she has only blocked her future statue, concealing under these unwieldy monsters the fine type of her coming king. The face of the planet cools and dries, the races meliorate, and man is born. But when a race has lived its term, it comes no more again.
From 'Fate', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Volume 6: The Conduct of Life (1860), 15. This paragraph is the prose version of his poem, 'Song of Nature'.
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The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.
In The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974, 1979), 28.
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The central problem of biological evolution is the nature of mutation, but hitherto the occurrence of this has been wholly refractory and impossible to influence by artificial means, although a control of it might obviously place the process of evolution in our hands.
'The Recent Findings in Heredity' (unpublished lecture, 1916, Lilly Library), 3. Quoted in Elof Axel Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society: The Life and Work of H. J. Muller (1981), 104.
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The chemical differences among various species and genera of animals and plants are certainly as significant for the history of their origins as the differences in form. If we could define clearly the differences in molecular constitution and functions of different kinds of organisms, there would be possible a more illuminating and deeper understanding of question of the evolutionary reactions of organisms than could ever be expected from morphological considerations.
'Uber das Vorkommen von Haemoglobin in den Muskeln der Mollusken und die Verbreitung desselben in den lebenden Organismen', Pflügers Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und der Tiere, 1871, 4, 318-9. Trans. Joseph S. Fruton, Proteins, Enzymes, Genes: The Interplay of Chemistry and Biology (1999), 270.
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The claims of certain so-called scientific men as to 'science overthrowing religion' are as baseless as the fears of certain sincerely religious men on the same subject. The establishment of the doctrine of evolution in out time offers no more justification for upsetting religious beliefs than the discovery of the facts concerning the solar system a few centuries ago. Any faith sufficiently robust to stand the—surely very slight—strain of admitting that the world is not flat and does not move round the sun need have no apprehensions on the score of evolution, and the materialistic scientists who gleefully hail the discovery of the principle of evolution as establishing their dreary creed might with just as much propriety rest it upon the discovery of the principle of gravity.
'The Search for Truth in a Reverent Spirit', (originally published in The Outlook, 2 Dec 1911). In The Works of Theodore Roosevelt (1913), Vol. 26, 256.
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The conditions that direct the order of the whole of the living world around us, are marked by their persistence in improving the birthright of successive generations. They determine, at much cost of individual comfort, that each plant and animal shall, on the general average, be endowed at its birth with more suitable natural faculties than those of its representative in the preceding generation.
In 'The Observed Order of Events', Inquiries Into Human Faculty and Its Development (1882), 229.
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The construction of an analogue computer or a supersonic airplane is simple when compared to the mixture of space and evolutionary eons represented by a cell.
In 'The Wisdom of Wilderness', Life (22 Dec 1967), 63, No. 25, 10.
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The decisive step in evolution, the first step toward macroevolution, the step from one species to another, requires another evolutionary method than that of sheer accumulation of micromutations.

The distinguishing of the strata, or layers, in the embryonic membrane was a turning-point in the study of the history of evolution, and placed later researches in their proper light. A division of the (disc-shaped) embryo into an animal and a plastic part first takes place. In the lower part (the plastic or vegetative layer) are a serous and a vascular layer, each of peculiar organization. In the upper part also (the animal or serous germ-layer) two layers are clearly distinguishable, a flesh-layer and a skin-layer. (1828)
Quoted in Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel, The Evolution of Man (1897), Vol 1, 185.
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The doctrine of evolution implies the passage from the most organised to the least organised, or, in other terms, from the most general to the most special. Roughly, we say that there is a gradual 'adding on' of the more and more special, a continual adding on of new organisations. But this 'adding on' is at the same time a 'keeping down'. The higher nervous arrangements evolved out of the lower keep down those lower, just as a government evolved out of a nation controls as well as directs that nation.
'Evolution and Dissolution of the Nervous System', British Medical Journal (1884), I, 662.
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The Doctrine of Evolution states the fact that the present is the child of the past and the parent of the future.
In Outline of Science: A Plain Story Simply Told (1922), Vol. 1, 185.
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The Earth Speaks, clearly, distinctly, and, in many of the realms of Nature, loudly, to William Jennings Bryan, but he fails to hear a single sound. The earth speaks from the remotest periods in its wonderful life history in the Archaeozoic Age, when it reveals only a few tissues of its primitive plants. Fifty million years ago it begins to speak as “the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life.” In successive eons of time the various kinds of animals leave their remains in the rocks which compose the deeper layers of the earth, and when the rocks are laid bare by wind, frost, and storm we find wondrous lines of ascent invariably following the principles of creative evolution, whereby the simpler and more lowly forms always precede the higher and more specialized forms.
The earth speaks not of a succession of distinct creations but of a continuous ascent, in which, as the millions of years roll by, increasing perfection of structure and beauty of form are found; out of the water-breathing fish arises the air-breathing amphibian; out of the land-living amphibian arises the land-living, air-breathing reptile, these two kinds of creeping things resembling each other closely. The earth speaks loudly and clearly of the ascent of the bird from one kind of reptile and of the mammal from another kind of reptile.
This is not perhaps the way Bryan would have made the animals, but this is the way God made them!
The Earth Speaks to Bryan (1925), 5-6. Osborn wrote this book in response to the Scopes Monkey Trial, where William Jennings Bryan spoke against the theory of evolution. They had previously been engaged in the controversy about the theory for several years. The title refers to a Biblical verse from the Book of Job (12:8), “Speak to the earth and it shall teach thee.”
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The entire cosmos is made out of one and the same world-stuff, operated by the same energy as we ourselves. “Mind” and “matter” appears as two aspects of our unitary mind-bodies. There is no separate supernatural realm: all phenomena are part of one natural process of evolution. There is no basic cleavage between science and religion; they are both organs of evolving humanity.
In essay, 'The New Divinity', originally published in The Twentieth Century (1962), 170, 9. Collected in Essays of a Humanist (1964), 218.
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The Epicureans, according to whom animals had no creation, doe suppose that by mutation of one into another, they were first made; for they are the substantial part of the world; like as Anaxagoras and Euripides affirme in these tearmes: nothing dieth, but in changing as they doe one for another they show sundry formes.
Fom Morals, translated by Philemon Holland, The Philosophie, Commonlie Called, the Moral Written by the Learned Philosopher Plutarch of Chæronea (1603), 846. As cited in Harris Hawthorne Wilder, History of the Human Body (1909), 26.
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The epoch of intense cold which preceded the present creation has been only a temporary oscillation of the earth’s temperature, more important than the century-long phases of cooling undergone by the Alpine valleys. It was associated with the disappearance of the animals of the diluvial epoch of the geologists, as still demonstrated by the Siberian mammoths; it preceded the uplifting of the Alps and the appearance of the present-day living organisms, as demonstrated by the moraines and the existence of fishes in our lakes. Consequently, there is complete separation between the present creation and the preceding ones, and if living species are sometimes almost identical to those buried inside the earth, we nevertheless cannot assume that the former are direct descendants of the latter or, in other words, that they represent identical species.
From Discours de Neuchâtel (1837), as translated by Albert V. Carozzi in Studies on Glaciers: Preceded by the Discourse of Neuchâtel (1967), lviii.
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The equation of evolution with progress represents our strongest cultural impediment to a proper understanding of this greatest biological revolution in the history of human thought.
Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History (1998), 173.
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Edwin Grant Conklin quote: The ethics of science regards the search for truth as one of the highest duties of man.
The ethics of science regards the search for truth as one of the highest duties of man; it regards noble human character as the finest product of evolution; it considers the service of all mankind as the universal good; it teaches that human nature and humane nurture may be improved, that reason may replace unreason, cooperation supplement competition, and the progress of the human race through future ages be promoted by intelligence and goodwill.
From Address as retiring president before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Indianapolis (27 Dec 1937). Published in 'Science and Ethics', Science (31 Dec 1937), 86, No. 2244, 602.
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The evolution of higher and of lower forms of life is as well and as soundly established as the eternal hills. It has long since ceased to be a theory; it is a law of Nature as universal in living things as is the law of gravitation in material things and in the motions of the heavenly spheres.
Evolution and Religion in Education (1926), 118.
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The evolution of the human race will not be accomplished in the ten thousand years of tame animals, but in the million years of wild animals, because man is, and always will be, a wild animal.
The Next Million Years (1953),133.
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The existence of trousers proves that God meant us to be bipeds.
Caption to cartoon showing one 19th century man holding a book, speaking to another holding a book titled “Darwin.” Accompanying article by Ralph Estling, 'The Trouble With Thinking Backwards', New Scientist (2 Jun 1983), 620.
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The extensive literature addressed to the definition or characterization of science is filled with inconsistent points of view and demonstrates that an adequate definition is not easy to attain. Part of the difficulty arises from the fact that the meaning of science is not fixed, but is dynamic. As science has evolved, so has its meaning. It takes on a new meaning and significance with successive ages.
Opening statement on 'The Meaning of “Science”', in Scientific Method: Optimizing Applied Research Decisions (1962), 1.
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The fertilized germ of one of the higher animals … is perhaps the most wonderful object in nature… . On the doctrine of reversion [atavism] … the germ becomes a far more marvelous object, for, besides the visible changes which it undergoes, we must believe that it is crowded with invisible characters … separated by hundreds or even thousands of generations from the present time: and these characters, like those written on paper with invisible ink, lie ready to be evolved whenever the organization is disturbed by certain known or unknown conditions.
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The first objection to Darwinism is that it is only a guess and was never anything more. It is called a “hypothesis,” but the word “hypothesis,” though euphonioous, dignified and high-sounding, is merely a scientific synonym for the old-fashioned word “guess.” If Darwin had advanced his views as a guess they would not have survived for a year, but they have floated for half a century, buoyed up by the inflated word “hypothesis.” When it is understood that “hypothesis” means “guess,” people will inspect it more carefully before accepting it.
'God and Evolution', New York Times (26 Feb 1922), 84. Rebuttals were printed a few days later from Henry Fairfield Osborn and Edwin Grant Conklin.
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The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.
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The geologist, in those tables of stone which form his records, finds no examples of dynasties once passed away again returning. There has no repetition of the dynasty of the fish, of the reptile, of the mammal. The dynasty of the future is to have glorified man for its inhabitant; but it is to be the dynasty—“the kingdom”—not of glorified man made in the image of God, but of God himself in the form man.
The Testimony of the Rocks: or, Geology in Its Bearings on the Two Theologies, Natural and Revealed (1857), 178.
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The great age of the earth will appear greater to man when he understands the origin of living organisms and the reasons for the gradual development and improvement of their organization. This antiquity will appear even greater when he realizes the length of time and the particular conditions which were necessary to bring all the living species into existence. This is particularly true since man is the latest result and present climax of this development, the ultimate limit of which, if it is ever reached, cannot be known.
Hydrogéologie (1802), trans. A. V. Carozzi (1964), 77.
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The great CREATOR of all things has infinitely diversified the works of his hands, but has at the same time stamped a certain similitude on the features of nature, that demonstrates to us, that the whole is one family of one parent.
Zoonomia (1794), Vol. 1, 1.
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The Historic Method may be described as the comparison of the forms of an idea, or a usage, or a belief, at any given time, with the earlier forms from which they were evolved, or the later forms into which they were developed and the establishment from such a comparison, of an ascending and descending order among the facts. It consists in the explanation of existing parts in the frame of society by connecting them with corresponding parts in some earlier frame; in the identification of present forms in the past, and past forms in the present. Its main process is the detection of corresponding customs, opinions, laws, beliefs, among different communities, and a grouping of them into general classes with reference to some one common feature. It is a certain way of seeking answers to various questions of origin, resting on the same general doctrine of evolution, applied to moral and social forms, as that which is being applied with so much ingenuity to the series of organic matter.
On Compromise (1874), 22-3.
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The History of Evolution is the real source of light in the investigation of organic bodies. It is applicable at every step, and all our ideas of the correlation of organic bodies will be swayed by our knowledge of the history of evolution. To carry the proof of it into all branches of research would be an almost endless task. (1828)
Quoted as an epigraph to Chap. 3, in Ernst Haeckel, The Evolution of Man, (1886), Vol 1, 48.
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The History of Evolution of Organisms consists of two kindred and closely connected parts: Ontogeny, which is the history of the evolution of individual organisms, and Phylogeny, which is the history of the evolution of organic tribes. Ontogency is a brief and rapid recapitulation of Phylogeny, dependent on the physiological functions of Heredity (reproduction) and Adaptation (nutrition). The individual organism reproduces in the rapid and short course of its own evolution the most important of the changes in form through which its ancestors, according to laws of Heredity and Adaptation, have passed in the slow and long course of their palaeontological evolution.
Translated from his Generelle Morphologie (1866) as an epigraph to Chap. 1, The Evolution of Man, (1886), Vol 1, 1-2.

The human species was born when one isolated group of bipedal apes got itself stuck and then speciated to get better survival value out of eating meat.
In Pamela Weintraub, The Omni Interviews (1984), 66.
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The instinct for collecting, which began as in other animals as an adaptive property, could always in man spread beyond reason; it could become a hoarding mania. But in its normal form it provides a means of livelihood at the hunting and collecting stage of human evolution. It is then attached to a variety of rational aptitudes, above all in observing, classifying, and naming plants, animals and minerals, skills diversely displayed by primitive peoples. These skills with an instinctive beginning were the foundation of most of the civilised arts and sciences. Attached to other skills in advanced societies they promote the formation of museums and libraries; detached, they lead to acquisition and classification by eccentric individuals, often without any purpose or value at all.
As quoted in Richard Fifield, 'Cytologist Supreme', New Scientist (16 Apr 1981), 90, No. 1249, 179; citing C.D. Darlington, The Little Universe of Man (1978).
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The late Mr. David Hume, in his posthumous works, places the powers of generation much above those of our boasted reason; and adds, that reason can only make a machine, as a clock or a ship, but the power of generation makes the maker of the machine; … he concludes, that the world itself might have been generated, rather than created; that is, it might have been gradually produced from very small beginnings, increasing by the activity of its inherent principles, rather than by a sudden evolution of the whole by the Almighty fiat.—What a magnificent idea of the infinite power of THE GREAT ARCHITECT! THE CAUSE OF CAUSES! PARENT OF PARENTS! ENS ENTIUM!
For if we may compare infinities, it would seem to require a greater infinity of power to cause the causes of effects, than to cause the effects themselves.
'Generation', Zoonomia (1794), Vol. 1, 509. Note that this passage was restated in a 1904 translation of a book by August Weismann. That rewording was given in quotation marks and attributed to Erasumus Darwin without reference to David Hume. In the reworded form, it is seen in a number of later works as a direct quote made by Erasmus Darwin. For that restated form see the webpage for August Weismann. Webmaster has checked the quotation on this webpage in the original Zoonomia, and is the only verbatim form found so far.
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The Lunar landing of the astronauts is more than a step in history; it is a step in evolution.
Editorial, New York Times (20 Jul 1969).
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The main conclusion arrived at in this work, namely that man is descended from some lowly-organised form, will, I regret to think, be highly distasteful to many persons. But there can hardly be a doubt that we are descended from barbarians.
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 404.
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The main steps of my argument may be summarized thus:
1. Organisms are highly coordinated structures.
2. Only certain avenues of change are compatible with their conditions of coordination.
3. The formative and selective action of these internal conditions is theoretically and empirically different from that of Darwinian selection.
4. Mutations in the mode of coordination of the genetic system lie outside the scope of the classical arguments purporting to show that natural selection is the only directive agency.
5. The coordinative conditions constitute a second directive agency.
In Internal Factors in Evolution (1965), 73.
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The majority of evolutive movements are degenerative. Progressive cases are exceptional. Characters appear suddenly that have no meaning in the atavistic series. Evolution in no way shows a general tendency toward progress… . The only thing that could be accomplished by slow changes would be the accumulation of neutral characteristics without value for survival. Only important and sudden mutations can furnish the material which can be utilized by selection.
As quoted in Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 91. Please contact Webmaster if you know the primary source.
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The meaning of the evolution of culture is no longer a riddle to us. It must present to us the struggle between Eros and Death, between the instincts of life and the instincts of destruction, as it works itself out in the human species.
In Sigmund Freud and Joan Riviere (trans.), Civilization and Its Discontents (1930, 1994), 49.
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The meaning that we are seeking in evolution is its meaning to us, to man. The ethics of evolution must be human ethics. It is one of the many unique qualities of man, the new sort of animal, that he is the only ethical animal. The ethical need and its fulfillment are also products of evolution, but they have been produced in man alone.
The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 309.
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The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses. No creature who began as a mathematical improbability, who was selected through millions of years of unprecedented environmental hardship and change for ruggedness, ruthlessness, cunning, and adaptability, and who in the short ten thousand years of what we may call civilization has achieved such wonders as we find about us, may be regarded as a creature without promise.
African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man (1961), 348.
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The monkey is an organized sarcasm upon the human race.
In Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887),8.
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The moral principle inherent in evolution, that nothing can be gained in this world without an effort; the ethical principle inherent in evolution is that only the best has the right to survive; the spiritual principle in evolution is the evidence of beauty, of order, and of design in the daily myriad of miracles to which we owe our existence.
'Evolution and Religion', New York Times (5 Mar 1922), 91.
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The more you understand the significance of evolution, the more you are pushed away from the agnostic position and towards atheism. Complex, statistically improbable things are by their nature more difficult to explain than simple, statistically probable things.
From edited version of a speech, at the Edinburgh International Science Festival (15 Apr 1992), as reprinted from the Independent newspaper in Alec Fisher, The Logic of Real Arguments (2004), 84.
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The most consequential change in man's view of the world, of living nature and of himself came with the introduction, over a period of some 100 years beginning only in the 18th century, of the idea of change itself, of change over periods of time: in a word, of evolution.
'Evolution', Scientific American (Jul 1978), 239:1, 47.
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The most extensive computation known has been conducted over the last billion years on a planet-wide scale: it is the evolution of life. The power of this computation is illustrated by the complexity and beauty of its crowning achievement, the human brain.
In Gary William Flake, The Computational Beauty of Nature (2000), 415.
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The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention. Most of the organic productions are aboriginal creations, found nowhere else; there is even a difference between the inhabitants of the different islands; yet all show a marked relationship with those of America, though separated from that continent by an open space of ocean, between 500 and 600 miles in width. The archipelago is a little world within itself, or rather a satellite attached to America, whence it has derived a few stray colonists, and has received the general character of its indigenous productions. Considering the small size of these islands, we feel the more astonished at the number of their aboriginal beings, and at their confined range. Seeing every height crowned with its crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava-streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a period, geologically recent, the unbroken ocean was here spread out. Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhere near to that great fact—that mystery of mysteries—the first appearance of new beings on this earth.
Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World, 2nd edn. (1845), 377-8.
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The neutral zone of selective advantage in the neighbourhood of zero is thus so narrow that changes in the environment, and in the genetic constitution of species, must cause this zone to be crossed and perhaps recrossed relatively rapidly in the course of evolutionary change, so that many possible gene substitutions may have a fluctuating history of advance and regression before the final balance of selective advantage is determined.
'The Distribution of Gene Ratios for Rare Mutations', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1930, 50, 219.
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The notion of evolution predicts the nested pattern of relationships we find in the living world; supernatural creation, on the other hand, predicts nothing. It is concepts of this latter kind that are truly untestable.
In The Monkey in the Mirror: Essays on the Science of What Makes Us Human (2003), 15.
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The office of the leisure class in social evolution is to retard movement and to conserve what is obsolescent.
In Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (1899, 1912), 198.
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The only part of evolution in which any considerable interest is felt is evolution applied to man. A hypothesis in regard to the rocks and plant life does not affect the philosophy upon which one's life is built. Evolution applied to fish, birds and beasts would not materially affect man's view of his own responsibilities except as the acceptance of an unsupported hypothesis as to these would be used to support a similar hypothesis as to man. The evolution that is harmful—distinctly so—is the evolution that destroys man’s family tree as taught by the Bible and makes him a descendant of the lower forms of life. This … is a very vital matter.
'God and Evolution', New York Times (26 Feb 1922), 84. Rebuttals were printed a few days later from Henry Fairfield Osborn and Edwin Grant Conklin.
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The ordinary naturalist is not sufficiently aware that when dogmatizing on what species are, he is grappling with the whole question of the organic world & its connection with the time past & with Man; that it involves the question of Man & his relation to the brutes, of instinct, intelligence & reason, of Creation, transmutation & progressive improvement or development. Each set of geological questions & of ethnological & zool. & botan. are parts of the great problem which is always assuming a new aspect.
Leonard G. Wilson (ed.), Sir Charles Lyell's Scientific Journals on the Species Question (1970), 164.
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The organic creation, as we now see it ... was not placed upon the earth at once:—it observed a PROGRESS.
Explanations (1845), 30.
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The organism cannot be regarded as simply the passive object of autonomous internal and external forces; it is also the subject of its own evolution.
Co-author with American biologist Richard Charles Lewontin (1929- )
The Dialectical Biologist (1985), 89.
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The outlook seems grim. Natural selection under civilized conditions may lead mankind to evolve towards a state of genetic overspecialization for living in gadget-ridden environments. It is certainly up to man to decide whether this direction of his evolution is or is not desirable. If it is not, man has, or soon will have, the knowledge requisite to redirect the evolution of his species pretty much as he sees fit. Perhaps we should not be too dogmatic about this choice of direction. We may be awfully soft compared to paleolithic men when it comes to struggling, unaided by gadgets, with climatic difficulties and wild beasts. Most of us feel most of the time that this is not a very great loss. If our remote descendants grow to be even more effete than we are, they may conceivably be compensated by acquiring genotypes conducive to kindlier dispositions and greater intellectual capacities than those prevalent in mankind today.
[Co-author with American statistician Gordon Allen.]
Theodosius Dobzhansky and Gordon Allen, 'Does Natural Selection Continue to Operate in Modern Mankind?', American Anthropologist, 1956, 58 599.
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The plan followed by nature in producing animals clearly comprises a predominant prime cause. This endows animal life with the power to make organization gradually more complex, and to bring increasing complexity and perfection not only to the total organization but also to each individual apparatus when it comes to be established by animal life. This progressive complication of organisms was in effect accomplished by the said principal cause in all existing animals. Occasionally a foreign, accidental, and therefore variable cause has interfered with the execution of the plan, without, however, destroying it. This has created gaps in the series, in the form either of terminal branches that depart from the series in several points and alter its simplicity, or of anomalies observable in specific apparatuses of various organisms.
Histoire Naturelle des Animaux sans Vertèbres (1815-22), Vol. 1, 133. In Pietro Corsi, The Age of Lamarck: Evolutionary Theories in France 1790-1830, trans. J. Mandelbaum (1988), 189.
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The practice of that which is ethically best—what we call goodness or virtue—involves a course of conduct which, in all respects, is opposed to that which leads to success in the cosmic struggle for existence. In place of ruthless self-assertion it demands self-restraint; in place of thrusting aside, or treading down, all competitors, it requires that the individual shall not merely respect, but shall help his fellows… It repudiates the gladiatorial theory of existence… Laws and moral precepts are directed to the end of curbing the cosmic process.
'Evolution and Ethics' (1893). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 9, 81-2.
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The Primal Plant is going be the strangest creature in the world, which Nature herself must envy me. With this model and the key to it, it will be possible to go on for ever inventing plants and know that their existence is logical; that is to say, if they do not actually exist, they could, for they are not the shadowy phantoms of a vain imagination, but possess an inner necessity and truth. The same law will be applicable to all other living organisms.
To Herder, 17 May 1787. Italian Journey (1816-17), trans. W. H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer (1970), 310-11.
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The probable fact is that we are descended not only from monkeys but from monks.
Used as epigraph on cover of Harry Persons Taber and Elbert Hubbard, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest (Aug 1909), Vol. 14, 128.
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The problem [evolution] presented itself to me, and something led me to think of the positive checks described by Malthus in his Essay on Population, a work I had read several years before, and which had made a deep and permanent impression on my mind. These checks—war, disease, famine, and the like—must, it occurred to me, act on animals as well as man. Then I thought of the enormously rapid multiplication of animals, causing these checks to be much more effective in them than in the case of man; and while pondering vaguely on this fact, there suddenly flashed upon me the idea of the survival of the fittest—that the individuals removed by these checks must be on the whole inferior to those that survived. I sketched the draft of my paper … and sent it by the next post to Mr. Darwin.
In 'Introductory Note to Chapter II in Present Edition', Natural Selection and Tropical Nature Essays on Descriptive and Theoretical Biology (1891, New ed. 1895), 20.
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The process of mutation is the only known source of the raw materials of genetic variability, and hence of evolution. It is subject to experimental study, and considerable progress has been accomplished in this study in recent years. An apparent paradox has been disclosed. Although the living matter becomes adapted to its environment through formation of superior genetic patterns from mutational components, the process of mutation itself is not adaptive. On the contrary, the mutants which arise are, with rare exceptions, deleterious to their carriers, at least in the environments which the species normally encounters. Some of them are deleterious apparently in all environments. Therefore, the mutation process alone, not corrected and guided by natural selection, would result in degeneration and extinction rather than in improved adaptedness.
'On Methods of Evolutionary Biology and Anthropology', American Scientist, 1957, 45, 385.
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The progress of Science is generally regarded as a kind of clean, rational advance along a straight ascending line; in fact it has followed a zig-zag course, at times almost more bewildering than the evolution of political thought. The history of cosmic theories, in particular, may without exaggeration be called a history of collective obsessions and controlled schizophrenias; and the manner in which some of the most important individual discoveries were arrived at reminds one more of a sleepwalker’s performance than an electronic brain’s.
From 'Preface', in The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe (1959), 15.
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The proof given by Wright, that non-adaptive differentiation will occur in small populations owing to “drift,” or the chance fixation of some new mutation or recombination, is one of the most important results of mathematical analysis applied to the facts of neo-mendelism. It gives accident as well as adaptation a place in evolution, and at one stroke explains many facts which puzzled earlier selectionists, notably the much greater degree of divergence shown by island than mainland forms, by forms in isolated lakes than in continuous river-systems.
Evolution: The Modern Synthesis (1942), 199-200.
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The proposition that the meek (that is the adaptable and serviceable), inherit the earth is not merely a wishful sentiment of religion, but an iron law of evolution.
The Organizational Revolution (1953), 252.
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The publication of the Darwin and Wallace papers in 1858, and still more that of the 'Origin' in 1859, had the effect upon them of the flash of light, which to a man who has lost himself in a dark night, suddenly reveals a road which, whether it takes him straight home or not, certainly goes his way. That which we were looking for, and could not find, was a hypothesis respecting the origin of known organic forms, which assumed the operation of no causes but such as could be proved to be actually at work. We wanted, not to pin our faith to that or any other speculation, but to get hold of clear and definite conceptions which could be brought face to face with facts and have their validity tested. The 'Origin' provided us with the working hypothesis we sought.
'On the Reception of the Origin of Species'. In F. Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1888), Vol 2, 197.
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The puritanical potentialities of science have never been forecast. If it evolves a body of organized rites, and is established as a religion, hierarchically organized, things more than anything else will be done in the name of 'decency.' The coarse fumes of tobacco and liquors, the consequent tainting of the breath and staining of white fingers and teeth, which is so offensive to many women, will be the first things attended to.
Wyndham Lewis: an Anthology of his Prose (1969), 170.
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The purpose of the history of science is to establish the genesis and the development of scientific facts and ideas, taking into account all intellectual exchanges and all influences brought into play by the very progress of civilization. It is indeed a history of civilization considered from its highest point of view. The center of interest is the evolution of science, but general history remains always in the background.
In The Monist (1916), 26, 333; as cited in 'The Teaching of the History of Science', The Scientific Monthly (Sep 1918), 194.
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The question is not: How can we justify the unobstructed teaching of evolution in public schools? The question, of course, is: How can we not?
In online article, 'The Day That Botany Took on Bobby Jindal by Just Being Itself', Huffington Post (5 Aug 2013).
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The question is this: Is man an ape or an angel? I, my lord, am on the side of the angels.
[Debating Darwin's Origin of Species.]
Speech at the Diocesan Conference, Oxford (1864), chaired by Bishop Wilberforce. Quoted in James Anthony Froude, Lord Beaconsfield (4th ed. 1890), 176.
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The question now at issue, whether the living species are connected with the extinct by a common bond of descent, will best be cleared up by devoting ourselves to the study of the actual state of the living world, and to those monuments of the past in which the relics of the animate creation of former ages are best preserved and least mutilated by the hand of time.
The Antiquity of Man (1863), 470.
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The real question is, Did God use evolution as His plan? If it could be shown that man, instead of being made in the image of God, is a development of beasts we would have to accept it, regardless of its effort, for truth is truth and must prevail. But when there is no proof we have a right to consider the effect of the acceptance of an unsupported hypothesis.
'God and Evolution', New York Times (26 Feb 1922), 84. Rebuttals were printed a few days later from Henry Fairfield Osborn and Edwin Grant Conklin.
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The recent NSF study found that … only 54% agree that humans developed from earlier species of animals. Perhaps the rest have found a better way to explain their own tail bones.
In commentary, 'Justice Is Blind to Scientific Evidence', Los Angeles Times (31 Mar 1989).
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The reproduction of mankind is a great marvel and mystery. Had God consulted me in the matter, I should have advised him to continue the generation of the species by fashioning them of clay.
Martin Luther and William Hazlitt (trans.), Alexander Chalmers, The Table Talk of Martin Luther (1872), 307.
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The resources of the Deity cannot be so meagre, that, in order to create a human being endowed with reason, he must change a monkey into a man.
Methods of Study in Natural History (1863), Preface, iv.
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The rise of every man he loved to trace,
Up to the very pod O!
And, in baboons, our parent race
Was found by old Monboddo.
Their A, B, C, he made them speak.
And learn their qui, quæ, quod, O!
Till Hebrew, Latin, Welsh, and Greek
They knew as well’s Monboddo!
From Ballad, 'The Memory of Monboddo', in Blackwood’s Magazine (Sep 1861), 90, No. 551, 363, Verse 2 (of 6). Written to the Air, The Looking Glass. It is footnoted to explain that Lord (James Burnett) Monboddo “has written a book about the origin of language, in which he traces monkeys up to men.” The note is quoted and cited from Boswell’s Life of Johnson, Vol. 4, 73.
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The scientific doctrine of progress is destined to replace not only the myth of progress, but all other myths of human earthly destiny. It will inevitably become one of the cornerstones of man's theology, or whatever may be the future substitute for theology, and the most important external support for human ethics.
New Bottles for New Wine (1957), 21.
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The secrets of evolution are death and time—the deaths of enormous numbers of lifeforms that were imperfectly adapted to the environment; and time for a long succession of small mutations.
Cosmos (1980, 1985), 20.
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The Silurian Period—the grandest of all the Periods,—and, as yet, apparently the seed-time of all succeeding life.
Dedication page in Thesaurus Siluricus: The Flora and Fauna of the Silurian Period (1868), iv.
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The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm.
Co-authored with American biologist, R. C. Lewontin (1929- )
'The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptionist Programme', Proceedings of the Royal Society, 1979, 205, 581-98.

The species does not grow in perfection: the weak again and again get the upper hand of the strong,—and their large number and their greater cunning are the cause of it. Darwin forgot the intellect (that was English!); the weak have more intellect. ... One must need intellect in order to acquire it; one loses it when it is no longer necessary.
[Criticism of Darwin’s Origin of Species.]
In The Twilight of the Idols (1886) collected in Thomas Common (trans.), The Works of Nietzsche (1896), Vol. 11, 177. Also see alternate translations.
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The stars are laboratories in which the evolution of matter proceeds in the direction of large molecules.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 50. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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The starting point of Darwin’s theory of evolution is precisely the existence of those differences between individual members of a race or species which morphologists for the most part rightly neglect. The first condition necessary, in order that any process of Natural Selection may begin among a race, or species, is the existence of differences among its members; and the first step in an enquiry into the possible effect of a selective process upon any character of a race must be an estimate of the frequency with which individuals, exhibiting any given degree of abnormality with respect to that, character, occur. The unit, with which such an enquiry must deal, is not an individual but a race, or a statistically representative sample of a race; and the result must take the form of a numerical statement, showing the relative frequency with which the various kinds of individuals composing the race occur.
Biometrika: A Joumal for the Statistical Study of Biological Problems (1901), 1, 1-2.
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The succession of individuals, connected by reproduction and belonging to a species, makes it possible for the specific form itself to last for ages. In the end, however, the species is temporary; it has no “eternal life.” After existing for a certain period, it either dies or is converted by modification into other forms.
As translated by Joseph McCabe in Haeckel's The Wonders of Life: a Popular Study of Biological Philosophy (1904), 248.
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The theory here developed is that mega-evolution normally occurs among small populations that become preadaptive and evolve continuously (without saltation, but at exceptionally rapid rates) to radically different ecological positions. The typical pattern involved is probably this: A large population is fragmented into numerous small isolated lines of descent. Within these, inadaptive differentiation and random fixation of mutations occur. Among many such inadaptive lines one or a few are preadaptive, i.e., some of their characters tend to fit them for available ecological stations quite different from those occupied by their immediate ancestors. Such groups are subjected to strong selection pressure and evolve rapidly in the further direction of adaptation to the new status. The very few lines that successfully achieve this perfected adaptation then become abundant and expand widely, at the same time becoming differentiated and specialized on lower levels within the broad new ecological zone.
Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1944), 123.
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The theory of evolution by natural selection is an ecological theory—founded on ecological observation by perhaps the greatest of all ecologists. It has been adopted by and brought up by the science of genetics, and ecologists, being modest people, are apt to forget their distinguished parenthood.
'A Darwinian Approach to Plant Ecology', Journal of Ecology, 1967, 55, 247.
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The theory of evolution has often been perverted so as to indicate that what is merely animal and brutal must gain the ascendancy. The contrary seems to me to be the case, for in man it is the spirit, and not the body, which is the deciding factor.
In Proceedings of Linnean Society of London (1913), 36.
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The thesis which I venture to sustain, within limits, is simply this, that the savage state in some measure represents an early condition of mankind, out of which the higher culture has gradually been developed or evolved, by processes still in regular operation as of old, the result showing that, on the whole, progress has far prevailed over relapse.
In Primitive Culture (1871), Vol. 1, 28.
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The tide of evolution carries everything before it, thoughts no less than bodies, and persons no less than nations.
Little Essays (1920, 2008), 106.
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The tree of life should perhaps be called the coral of life, base of branches dead; so that passages cannot be seen—this again offers contradiction to constant succession of germs in progress.
P. H. Barrett et al. (eds.), Charles Darwin's Notebooks1836-1844: Geology, Transmutation of the Species, Metaphysical Enquiries, (1987), Notebook B, 25-6.
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The trick in discovering evolutionary laws is the same as it is in discovering laws of physics or chemistry—namely, finding the right level of generalization to make prediction possible. We do not try to find a law that says when and where explosions will occur. We content ourselves with saying that certain sorts of compounds are explosive under the right conditions, and we predict that explosions will occur whenever those conditions are realized.
In 'Paleoanthropology: Science or Mythical Charter?', Journal of Anthropological Research (Summer 2002), 58, No. 2, 193.
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The University of Cambridge, in accordance with that law of its evolution, by which, while maintaining the strictest continuity between the successive phases of its history, it adapts itself with more or less promptness to the requirements of the times, has lately instituted a course of Experimental Physics.
'Introductory Lecture on Experimental Physics', (1871). In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 241.Course;Experiment;Cambridge;History;Promptness;Adapt;Requirement
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The vigorous branching of life’s tree, and not the accumulating valor of mythical marches to progress, lies behind the persistence and expansion of organic diversity in our tough and constantly stressful world. And if we do not grasp the fundamental nature of branching as the key to life’s passage across the geological stage, we will never understand evolution aright.
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The way to eliminate the unfit is to keep them from being born… . We should not only check degeneration—negatively—but further evolution, positively, by artificial insemination and work for the production of a nobler and nobler race of beings.
(1910). In Elof Axel Carlson Genes, Radiation, and Society: The Life and Work of H.J. Muller (1981), 34.
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The year which has passed ... has not been unproductive in contributions of interest and value, in those sciences to which we are professedly more particularly addicted, as well as in every other walk of scientific research. It has not, indeed, been marked by any of those striking discoveries which at once revolutionize, so as to speak, the department of science on which they bear.
Summary of the year in which the Darwin-Wallace communication was read. 'Presidential Address', Proceedings of the Linnean Society, 24 May (1859), viii.
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The “hairy quadruped furnished with a tail and, pointed ears, probably arboreal in his habits,” this good fellow carried hidden in his nature, apparently, something destined to develop into a necessity for humane letters.
'Literature and Science', delivered as a lecture during Arnold's tour of the United States in 1883 and published in Discourses in America (1885). Taken from M. H. Abrams (ed.), The Norton Anthology of English Literature (1993), Vol. 2, 1441.

Theories rarely arise as patient inferences forced by accumulated facts. Theories are mental constructs potentiated by complex external prods (including, in idealized cases, a commanding push from empirical reality) . But the prods often in clude dreams, quirks, and errors–just as we may obtain crucial bursts of energy from foodstuffs or pharmaceuticals of no objective or enduring value. Great truth can emerge from small error. Evolution is thrilling, liberating, and correct. And Macrauchenia is a litoptern.
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There are as many species as the infinite being created diverse forms in the beginning, which, following the laws of generation, produced many others, but always similar to them: therefore there are as many species as we have different structures before us today.
Philosophia Botanica (1751), aphorism 157. Trans. Frans A. Stafleu, Linnaeus and the Linneans: The Spreading of their Ideas in Systematic Botany, 1735-1789 (1971), 63.
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There are three stages in the development of science: First, there is the observation of things and facts—the scientists map out and inventory the objects in each department of Nature; secondly, the interrelations are investigated, and this leads to a knowledge of forces and influences which produce or modify those objects…. This is the dynamic stage, the discovery of forces and laws connecting each fact with all other facts, and each province of Nature with all other provinces of Nature. The goal of this second stage of science is to make each fact in Nature throw light on all the other facts, and thus to illuminate each by all. … Science in its third and final stage learns to know everything in Nature as a part of a process which it studies in the history of its development. When it comes to see each thing in the perspective of its evolution, it knows it and comprehends it.
In Psychologic Foundations of Education: An Attempt to Show the Genesis of the Higher Faculties of the Mind (1907), 378.
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There is a finite number of species of plants and animals—even of insects—upon the earth. … Moreover, the universality of the genetic code, the common character of proteins in different species, the generality of cellular structure and cellular reproduction, the basic similarity of energy metabolism in all species and of photosynthesis in green plants and bacteria, and the universal evolution of living forms through mutation and natural selection all lead inescapably to a conclusion that, although diversity may be great, the laws of life, based on similarities, are finite in number and comprehensible to us in the main even now.
Presidential Address (28 Dec 1970) to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 'Science: Endless Horizons or Golden Age?', Science (8 Jan 1971), 171, No. 3866, 24.
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There is in Nature a general prototype in each species on which each individual is modeled, but which seems, in realizing itself, to alter itself or perfect itself according to circumstances. So that, relative to certain qualities, this is an extraordinary appearing variation in the succession of these individuals, and at the same time a constancy which appears wonderful in the entire species. The first animal, the first horse, for example, has been the external model and the interieur mold on which all horses which have been born, all those which now exist, and all those which will be born have been formed.
'Le Cheval', Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1753), Vol. 4, 215-6. Trans. Phillip R. Sloan.
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