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Type: Correspondence
Published: 2010-12-24
Page range: 58–60
Abstract views: 135
PDF downloaded: 94

Why terms matter to biological theories: the term “origin” as used by Darwin

Why terms matter to biological theories the term “origin” as used by Darwin


Everybody now understands what Darwin meant when he published his epoch-making book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of favoured Races in the Struggle for life (1859). He, of course, meant evolution, i.e., the transformation of animals and plants, chance modifications, and speciation. Nevertheless, the very notion of “evolution” has aroused as much confusion as it has debate: some historians tend to suggest that Darwin intentionally avoided using the term, since it was supposedly full of progressive or embryological connotations; others claim that Darwin constantly employed the word (after all, they argue, the word “evolved” is the last one of the book). This disagreement regarding the supposed absence or presence of the term “evolution” is more than a sterile academic exercise: what is at stake in this debate is the very meaning of Darwin’s theory, as well as its relation to the contingent notions of “progress” and “development”.