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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Lyell   15 June 1860

June 15— 1860

Your comparison of Selection to the Architect—variations to the stones, is what I deduced from some passages but cannot accept.1 The architect who plans beforehand & executes his thoughts & invents the Corinthian & other styles of architecture & then by means of machinery, living & inanimate, cranes & horses & even sometimes intelligent men (forman allowed some discretion & power of choosing) such an architect must not be confounded in his functions with the humble office of the most sagacious of breeders. As I have said all along it is the deification of Natural Selection.


See preceding letter and letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 [June 1860]. The transcript has been taken from Lyell’s scientific journal. It is headed by the note ‘Extract from letter of C. L. to Darwin’. It is also printed in Wilson ed. 1970, p. 445.


Rejects CD’s comparison of natural selection with the architect of a building. The architect who plans and oversees construction should not be confused in his function with the wisest breeder. That would be to deify natural selection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Charles Robert Darwin
Source of text
Kinnordy MS, Charles Lyell’s journal VI, pp. 108–9
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2832A,” accessed on 21 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8