To Samuel Pickworth Woodward 6 March 1
Down. | Bromley. Kent.
My dear Sir.
I will not fail to speak what I think about your high merits if consulted by any of the Senate.2
I should be very glad of any criticisms on the origin— I imagine you have not finished it. I suspect that we are at cross purposes about “typical” & “specialisation”— I look at the latter (ie. specialisation of organs) with all physiologists as a great advantage to each being & therefore as not likely to lead to their extinction.— And with respect to Typical—I observe that Naturalists use it in two very different senses; hence I have almost entirely or entirely avoided its use—
You will see something about the preservation of old former forms in islands & in isolated situations—a subject on which I could have much enlarged.— I doubt whether you understand my notions on extinction; but when we meet you can explain what you mean by “Specialisation” & “typical”.
The fair way to view the argument of my book, I think, is to look at Natural Selection as a mere hypothesis (though rendered in some degree probable by the analogy of method of production of domestic races; & by what we know of the struggle for existence) & then to judge whether the mere hypothesis explains a large body of facts in Geographical Distribution, Geological Succession, & more especially in Classification, Homology, Embryology, Rudimentary Organs The hypothesis to me does seem to explain several independent large classes of facts; & this being so, I view the hypothesis as a theory having a high degree of probability of truth. All turns on whether the above classes of facts seem to you satisfactorily explained or not.— The difficulties are great; but they concern the “imperfection of the Geological record,” “means of distribution” & “possibility of transitions of organs” And on these classes of facts we are confessedly ignorant, & we do not know how ignorant.— I simply believe that we are far more ignorant than any one supposed—
Forgive me for troubling you with this harangue, for I should very much like to stagger you,—to pervert you or any good man ought & must require months of self reflection.3
Yours very sincerely | C Darwin.
It may be a vain & silly thing to say, but I believe my Book must be read twice carefully to be fully understood.— You will perhaps think it by no means worth the labour.
Will be glad to have SPW’s criticisms of Origin.
Discusses his use of terms, "typical" and "specialisation".
Emphasises large body of facts explained by his theory of species.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2724,” accessed on 27 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-2724