I missed the 200th birthday of Darwin last Thursday. I know everyone wondered what was wrong with me :-) I've never read the Origin of Species and figured I should this year, just as I am reading through Calvin's Institutes since it is the 500th birthday of John Calvin this year. It's on my list of "Things an Educated Person Has Read."
There are 15 chapters to the Origin. I won't try to do one a week--it's not easy reading for a non-zoologist type like me and I'm supposed to be being productive in writing for publication. Also, I've scarcely paid any attention to the infinite variations of pigeons all these years.
I suspect that what I will find as I move through is that 1) we will find a number of aspects to Darwin's thought that everyone considers wrong today, including macro-evolutionists, and 2) we will find a number of aspects to Darwin's thought that everyone considers right today, including creationists.
So today, chapter 1. Most of this chapter has to do with breeding animals and cultivating plants. This was an excellent way to begin from the standpoint of argument. I may not at all be in tune with all the varieties of pigeon, but I am aware of all the different kinds of dogs and cats. For nineteenth century England, there were also sheep, geese, etc.
The point at issue is this. Did the distinct varieties of dog all come from distinct proto-dogs, or as Darwin puts it "aboriginal" species. Darwin plays on the fact that, even within a lifetime, a breeder can witness significant variations in the same species. He mentions, for example, two neighbors whose sheep came from the same flock but that, fifty years later, had quite a bit of variety and distinction between the two flocks.
Breeders and farmers can intentionally "select" those animals with the desired characteristics and steer their offspring in a certain direction. The same thing can also take place accidentally.
Darwin had no sense of how the variations arose--"Variability is governed by many unknown laws" (57). But he did have a sense for how humans and nature seemed to "select" some of the diverse characteristics and not others.
I can't find anything in this chapter that a Christian today would necessarily have to disagree with. At the time, of course, some Christians took the phrase "after its kind" very narrowly in Genesis 1 and so wanted to see the various distinct pigeons going back to distinct proto-pigeons that God created and each of which was on the ark. Darwin argues that they must all go back to a common pigeon ancestor that was something like what he calls the "rock pigeon."
Ken Schenck, signing off on chapter one, with the pigeons.