Notion Of Perfection In Charles Darwin's On The Origin Of Species

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On the Notion of Perfection in Darwin’s On the Origin of Species
In On the Origin of Species (Origin) Charles Darwin argues that natural selection “works solely by and for the good of all being” (13). That which is “good” for a being is defined in a Darwinian sense as any combination of factors that provide an organism reproductive advantages over other organisms in its environment. Later on, Darwin connects this notion of “good” to the idea of perfection, claiming that natural selection eventually leads organisms towards corporeal and mental perfection (13). Yet at the same time, he also brings up the idea of relative perfection, emphasizing that natural selection “adapts [beings] only in relation to the degree of perfection of their associates”
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In several places, he seems to apply it to a “relative” state of perfection. For instance, at beginning of the final chapter he states that “natural selection…adapts the inhabitants of each country only in relation to the degree of perfection of their associates” (4). Darwin seems to argue that “perfection” is not a well-defined entity, but rather applies to organisms being the “fittest” in relation to their environment. An organism is perfect, or the “fittest,” if it possesses reproductive advantages over other organisms in the environment. This notion of “relative perfection” is further strengthened when he claims that natural selection may not always lead towards utter perfection: “Nor ought we to marvel if all the contrivances in nature be not, as far as we can judge, absolutely perfect” (4). Darwin’s use of the word “contrivances” seems to strengthen the fact that nature’s meticulous variation of certain characteristics does not always lead to absolute perfection. In his varied use “perfection,” Darwin seems to argue that there exists a spectrum of perfection. There is no truly “perfect” state, because constantly changing environmental factors make the process of adaptation a continuous process without an …show more content…
He starts out his argument by stating that due to natural selection, "all corporeal and mental endowments [of an organism] will tend to progress towards perfection" (13). Darwin seems to insinuate that due to the process of modification with variation, the descendants of an organism will eventually be "perfectly" adapted to their environment. Although Darwin never explicitly defines perfection, he does mention that what is "good" for an organism eventually leads to "perfection" (13). That which is "good" for an organism in a Darwinian sense can be defined as any combination of factors that improves the overall reproductive fitness of an organism. However, that which is "perfect" for an organism is difficult to establish due to Darwin 's versatile use of the word "perfection." Several times throughout the text, Darwin alludes to the notion of perfection as the utmost state of an organism—a culmination of evolution. For instance, he states that a naturalist would argue that "after a certain number of generations, some bird had given birth to a woodpecker, and some plant to the mistletoe, and that these had been produced perfect as we now see them" (2). Darwin 's use of the words "as we now see them" serve a dual purpose: not only does it insinuate that a being’s current corporeal structure is perfectly adapted to its environment,

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