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Finch Quotes (4 quotes)

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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It wasn’t the finches that put the idea [of natural selection] in Darwin’s head, it was the tortoises. The reason he didn’t use the tortoises [in writing On the Origin of Species] was that, when he got back, he found he didn’t have localities on the tortoise specimens. Here the great god, the greatest naturalist we have records of, made a mistake. His fieldwork wasn’t absolutely perfect.
From interview with Brian Cox and Robert Ince, in 'A Life Measured in Heartbeats', New Statesman (21 Dec 2012), 141, No. 5138, 33.
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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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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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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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