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intrinsic, necessary feature of nature, but only an extrinsic, general feature instituted by natural selection (Darwin, 1909, p. 47, and 1871, Vol. 1, p. 177). Darwin’s concluding analysis suggested that the promise of the Origin could indeed be realized despite the Irish. However, let me conclude by more carefully specifying that promise and what has been made of it.


When Darwin traveled through the interior of South America, he always stuck in his saddlebags his well-worn copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost, a favorite of both English and German Romantics. In Milton’s great poem, he pictures Satan approaching the Garden of Eden, although the evil one is stopped by an entangled bank:

Now to the ascent of that steep savage hill

Satan had journeyed on, pensive and slow,

But further way found none, so thick entwined,

As one continued brake, the undergrowth

Of shrubs and tangling bushes had perplexed

All path of man or beast that passed that way…

Thence up he flew, and on the Tree of Life,

The middle tree and highest there that grew,

Sat like a cormorant, yet not true life

Thereby regained, but sat devising death

To them who lived, not on the virtue thought

Of that life-giving plant, but only used

For prospect what, well-used, had been the pledge

Of Immortality.

John Milton, Paradise Lost, 4.ll.172–301

With the Fall, Milton yet foresees the coming of the Redeemer whose own death will transform the world and bring a transformed life.

At the end of the Origin, Darwin as well imagines an “entangled bank, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth” (1859, p. 489). He wishes his reader to reflect that these very different forms have been produced by laws acting on them, the chief of which is natural selection, the struggle for life. Darwin then concludes:

Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely the production of the higher animals directly follows.

Darwin (1859, p. 490)

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