Wisdom of Life

Charles Darwin: On the Wisdom and the Attributes of Life & Man

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”

“Much love much trial, but what an utter desert is life without love.”

Nothing is easier than to admit in words the truth of the universal struggle for life, or more difficult–at least I have found it so–than constantly to bear this conclusion in mind. It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change, that lives within the means available and works co-operatively against common threats.

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.

The moral faculties are generally and justly esteemed as of higher value than the intellectual powers. A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives – of approving of some and disapproving of others. The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognise that we ought to control our thoughts.

A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.

I think it inevitably follows, that as new species in the course of time are formed through natural selection, others will become rarer and rarer, and finally extinct. The forms which stand in closest competition with those undergoing modification and improvement will naturally suffer most. Nevertheless so profound is our ignorance, and so high our presumption, that we marvel when we hear of the extinction of an organic being; and as we do not see the cause, we invoke cataclysms to desolate the world, or invent laws on the duration of the forms of life!

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week. The loss of these tastes [for poetry and music] is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.

“The world will not be inherited by the strongest, it will be inherited by those most able to change.”

“The most important factor in survival is neither intelligence nor strength but adaptability.”

“There is more in man than the mere breath of his body.”

***

~Charles Robert Darwin FRS FRGS FLS FZS was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended from common ancestors is now widely accepted and considered a fundamental concept in science.

Quotes from The Life & Letters of Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man

Excellence Reporter 2021

Categories: Wisdom of Life

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