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Student Created Readers Guide

Created by IU South Bend student Amanda Groendyke and alumnae Amanda Fack (class of 2008).

Questions refer to first edition of work.

1. If this book was being published for the first time today, how would we react to it? How would that affect the development of scientific studies in the past 150 years? How would it have affected religion?
2. How many other people were coming up with theories similar to Darwin’s at that time? Why was it Darwin’s theory that stuck?
3. Which elements of Darwinism are like Capitalism?
4. How has the idea of natural selection morphed into other ideas, such as social darwinism?
5. Which parts of Darwin’s theories are still held true and which are known to be erroneous to the scientific community now?
6. How does Natural Selection as Darwin defines it compare to what most people think of evolution?
7. On page 287, Darwin dismisses arguments against his theory. How scientific is the last paragraph on this page?
8. Discuss the quote on page 302, where Darwin writes: “It is so easy to hide our ignorance under such expressions as the “plan of creation,” “unity of design,” etc. and to think that we give an explanation when we only restate a fact.”
9. Darwin references a “creator” on page 306. Discuss Darwin’s view of God, and how this doesn’t necessarily fit with today’s cultural image of Darwin.
10. Discuss Darwin’s view of evolution as an “ennobling” process versus the view of evolution as a dehumanizing, brutal means of creating new species.
11. How does his concepts for “sexual selection” work with humans?
12. What are the arguments for evolution/natural selection and what are the arguments for creationism/intelligent design? Do you think Darwin’s arguments in the book make a case for both? Explain why or why not.
13. Can Creationism/Intelligent Design and evolution co-exist? Can you believe in both, or parts of both?
14. Do you think that Darwin explains the “origin of species” in this first edition?
15. Can you believe in natural selection without believing in evolution?
16. Where does extinction and dinosaurs fit into evolution? Intelligent design? How do fossils fit with these theories?
17. How do Darwin’s ideas in the book (natural selection/sexual selection, etc.) play out in humans?
18. The botanist Asa Gray asked if evolution was a secondary effect of intelligent design. What do you think?
19. You often hear about Christian reactions to the book. How do you think other religions relate to the work and how it may compare to their own creation myths?
20. You often read about how this theory plays into biology. How do you think this theory effected other sciences such as chemistry, physics, etc.?
21. Have later writers been influenced by Darwin? Think about other books you have read for classes.
22. Our campus theme is “Revolutions in Thought.” How are we still feeling the effects of Darwin’s revolutionary ideas?
23. Do you feel that ignorance, or willful ignorance is a common reaction to revolutionary thought?
24. Does On The Origin of Species succeed in being a revolutionary thought?
25. Is a book like this good for everyone to read? Or only for people in the sciences?
26. When you think of evolution do you think of natural selection first?
27. What did you think of the section where he addresses others theories that conflict with his own? What did you make of his rhetorical style in that section?
28. Discuss Darwin’s use of language.
29. Do we benefit from having conventional thought? Or do we suffer? Can you give examples of times when we’ve benefitted from revolutionary thought and times that we’ve suffered?
30. Is Darwin trying to separate church and science? Or is he trying to create a balance? What were his intentions regarding religion regarding the discussion of evolution?
31. Look at page 119. Isn’t his theory just a supposition? Could the idea of a creator and the idea of evolution both be theories?
32. Think about the evolution conflict today. Are the religious views an easy way to not get into the science and/or us the scientific view an easy way to not have to get into the ideas of faith? What is it about society today that we avoid gray areas?

Last Reviewed: 03/2014