The particular way in which Darwin presents Natural Selection to us involves even greater ambiguities than those implicit in his presentation of the Struggle for Existence.   Ostensibly he was exposing Paley’s mythical and metaphysical designing Deity and replacing him with scientifically attested laws of nature.  But, most curiously, he does this in language implying not a physical replacement but an alternative metaphysical being.   No Medieval poet celebrating Dame Nature could have committed the pathetic fallacy  – or more accurately, perhaps, the unpathetic fallacy, for in Darwin’s horrified account nature is emotionally quite unconcerned  with the creatures she so brutally exterminates – with more enthusiasm.  Natural Selection is ‘a power incessantly ready for action’.  ‘Man selects only for his own good; Nature only for the good of the being which she tends’  ‘It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good. ‘Natural selection will modify the structure of the young in relation to the parent, and of the parent in relation to the young. In social animals it will adapt the structure of each individual for the benefit of the community…..’ ‘Though nature grants vast periods of time for the work of natural selection, she does not grant an indefinite period……if any one species does not become modified and improved in a corresponding degree with its competitors, it will soon be exterminated’ .  If this is not language describing a cosmic designer it is difficult to know what is. There is, in fact, no meaning to the word select which does not involve the conscious, intelligent and deliberate choosing of one candidate and the rejection of another, with the corollary that selection is therefore the one thing nature cannot possibly do. Why did Darwin choose an expression for his central concept implying the precise opposite of what he meant?




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