Quote from On The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin (1859)

This is from a chapter in the wonderful book, Evolution, Literature, Film: A Reader (2010).

A man entangled in his own fishing-line on a riverbank

A man entangled in his own fishing-line on a riverbank

`It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of any kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.

These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms.

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.

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.’

(Charles Darwin in (eds) Boyd, Carroll & Gottschall 2010, p. 54)

This is also a great book:

Darwin on Man book cover by Gruber

Gruber, H. E. (1981). Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativity (2d ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

It’s a case-study of how Charles Darwin did his creativity, in solving: Evolution.

Interestingly, in Darwin on Man, Gruber (1981) notes:

`Struggle. Charles Darwin is often, and I believe incorrectly, characterized as the biological theorist of struggle in the sense of hostile warfare among living beings. One even encounters the argument that the biological doctrine of survival of the fittest justifies war among nations. Nothing could be further from either Charles’ or Erasmus’ views… “War” was an anthropomorphisation of the struggle for existence. Charles characterized living beings as struggling to survive, not to defeat each other. In some cases one organism’s survival means another’s extinction, but in the most general sense survival depends on the organism remaking itself – i.e., evolving – so that it can survive in the total complex of its ecological surround. There is no single enemy or group of enemies… [Charles’] imagery, his style of life, and his explicit scientific work all tell of a very different kind of struggle, that of the quiet action of a multitude of factors. He might as well have spoken of life as a changing balance of these forces as of a struggle among them.

There are different conceptions of struggle: between black and white polarized forces, where one or the other goes down to defeat and extinction; between approximately equal forces where the seemingly defeated contender influences the nature of the struggle and hence the evolution of the victor; and between old and new, between established forms and new ones struggling to be born, where the emergent novelty represents a dialectical synthesis, the new in some sense containing the old. Charles characterized the struggle for existence in different ways, but I believe the less sharply polarized forms of struggle are closer to the main line of his thought.

Cooperation among members of the same species and symbiotic relationships among members of different species were as much a part of Darwin’s thinking as direct competition. The particular means that would enhance the likelihood of survival always depends upon the entire set of concrete circumstances. Certainly, within a species cooperation is far more typical than destructive competition. Even among males contending for the same female, it is advantageous for the species if competition is muted, kept within bounds.  The defeated stag does not die, he simply retires from the field of sexual combat and waits. Between parent and offspring, and between male and female, cooperation is the rule in the essential acts of nurturance and mating. Any industrious reader can entertain himself by finding passages in Charles’ work that will seem to contradict the above remarks. He used many metaphors, among them the war of metaphor among men. On balance, the metaphor of war was foreign to his mature view of nature, and insofar as it crept into his thought it may even have hindered him in the development of his more central theme of inventive variation and selection.

Darwin’s great love of Milton’s poetry at one period of his life seems to me to argue against the view of Darwin as reluctant to accept the notion of titanic struggle in nature. Darwin tells us that during the Beagle voyage Milton’s Paradise Lost accompanied him everywhere, the only book so cherished (Autobiography, 85). The core of Paradise Lost is the struggle between good and evil, and the fall of man… The years of the voyage were enough to cure him of any predilection he may have had for this polarized view of reality. His own effort to assimilate Lyell’s uniformitarian geology must have helped. Perhaps his prolonged contact with Captain FitzRoy, a man obsessed with questions of good and evil, was enough to convince Darwin of the craziness of this way of looking at the world. In any event, by 1837, when he began the transmutation notebooks, he cast the relation between life and death not as one of struggle, but as a cycle of growth and change and renewal.’

(Gruber 1981, pp. 54-5)

David Loye has also written extensively on Darwin’s Lost Theory of Love.

What is evolution?

The evolutionary algorithm is: Selection, Variation, Transmission.

Transmedia as Destiny 5

Another set of laws is the laws of holarchies.

Transmedia as Destiny 3

Lifeforms compete with each other. Films compete with each other in culture. Ideas compete for our attention.

Transmedia as Destiny 7


Holarchy of The Organism

The film industry is a pretty `tangled’ bank:

Figure 1: A holarchy within the film domain Analysis: JT Velikovsky

A holarchy within the film domain
Analysis: JT Velikovsky

Holarchy of film

Holarchy of film

And for more detail on the evolutionary systems (or, complexity) view of narrative and bioculture in general, see this chapter:

StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture – and the narreme, or unit of story – book chapter (Velikovsky 2016)

Also here is a short video on `What Is Evolution’?

Also – here is a great article about / interview with, Lynn Margulis and endosymbiosis theory…!

And – a diagram I like that demonstrates creativity (combine two old things to get a new thing, and it works better than the old things)

Symbiogenesis diagram Velikovsky

And my favourite quote from the Margulis interview:

`For more than a billion years, the only life on this planet consisted of bacterial cells, which, lacking nuclei, are called prokaryotes, or prokaryotic cells. They looked very much alike, and from the human-centered vantage point seem boring.

However, bacteria are the source of reproduction, photosynthesis, movement — indeed, all interesting features of life except perhaps speech! They’re still with us in large diversity and numbers. They still rule Earth.

At some point, a new more complex kind of cell appeared on the scene, the eukaryotic cell, of which plant and animal bodies are composed. These cells contain certain organelles, including nuclei. Eukaryotic cells with an individuated nucleus are the building blocks of all familiar large forms of life.

How did that evolution revolution occur? How did the eukaryotic cell appear? Probably it was an invasion of predators, at the outset. It may have started when one sort of squirming bacterium invaded another — seeking food, of course. But certain invasions evolved into truces; associations once ferocious became benign. When swimming bacterial would-be invaders took up residence inside their sluggish hosts, this joining of forces created a new whole that was, in effect, far greater than the sum of its parts: faster swimmers capable of moving large numbers of genes evolved.

Some of these newcomers were uniquely competent in the evolutionary struggle. Further bacterial associations were added on, as the modern cell evolved.

One kind of evidence in favor of symbiogenesis in cell origins is mitochondria, the organelles inside most eukaryotic cells, which have their own separate DNA. In addition to the nuclear DNA, which is the human genome, each of us also has mitochondrial DNA. Our mitochondria, a completely different lineage, are inherited only from our mothers. None of our mitochondrial DNA comes from our fathers. Thus, in every fungus, animal, or plant (and in most protoctists), at least two distinct genealogies exist side by side. That, in itself, is a clue that at some point these organelles were distinct microorganisms that joined forces…

…I think an understanding of the extent to which the evolutionary origin involved symbiogenesis must be acknowledged. Such acknowledgment will lead to new awareness of the physical basis of thought. Thought and behavior in people are rendered far less mysterious when we realize that choice and sensitivity are already exquisitely developed in the microbial cells that became our ancestors. Even philosophers will be inspired to learn about motility proteins. Scientists and nonscientists will be motivated to learn enough chemistry, microbiology, evolutionary biology, and paleontology to understand the relevance of these fields to the deep questions they pose.

My primary work has always been in cell evolution, yet for a long time I’ve been associated with James Lovelock and his Gaia hypothesis.’

(Margulis 2011, online)

And for an excellent new article on all this (symbiosis, or: `combinatorial creativity’), see:

Gontier, N. (2016) Symbiogenesis, History of. In: Kliman, R.M. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology. vol.4, pp. 261–271. Oxford: Academic Press.

But we might well ask – Why is On the Origin of Species (Darwin 1859) such a great book? Why is it a masterpiece?

Gruber’s Darwin on Man (1981) provides some of the answer to that question:

`Darwin’s Double Task. In his life work Darwin carried forth two distinct but closely related aims: first, to propose a theory that would explain how evolution occurs, and second, to marshal the evidence that evolution had in fact occurred.

The Origin of Species is organized in a way that reflects these twin themes. The first five chapters give the basic theory. The topics dealt with are variation under domestication and under nature, the struggle for existence, natural selection, and the laws of variation.

The next four chapters deal with difficulties confronting the theory. One of these difficulties was the enormous strain placed on nineteenth century thought by the proposal that mental functions had evolved in a thoroughly natural fashion; in the Origin Darwin treated only the subject of instinct, leaving the higher mental functions for his later works.

The next four chapters marshal the evidence for the occurrence of evolution: “the geological succession of organic beings, geographical distribution, mutual affinities of organic beings, morphology, embryology, rudimentary organs” (14).

[Footnote 14: These phrases are from the chapter headings of the Origin].

Beyond a doubt, the Origin is a master work precisely because of Darwin’s orchestration of these two themes.

For those who were not entirely persuaded by Darwin’s theory of natural selection, the fact that any reasonably plausible theory could be advanced gave weight to the evidence that evolution occurs.

For those who saw gaps in the factual evidence, the theory explained just why such gaps must necessarily occur, so that they almost became evidence for the theory rather than reasons to doubt it.’

(Gruber 1981, p. 107)

And – for a consilience & creativity & evolution reading list, see:

StoryAlity #71On Consilience in the Arts / Humanities / Communication

Also – here is a rather odd (but fascinating) documentary by Peter Greenaway about Darwin:

Also from a Digital Humanities (and Memetics) perspective, look at this: in just the SCI(ence) databases, Darwin (1859) – in 1985 – was outdoing Watson & Crick (1953) in citation counts!

Darwin 1859 vs Watson-Crick 1953 - citations in 1985

And – that’s not even including citations in the Arts/Humanities databases, where Darwin (1859) is seen as a great piece of literature (i.e. writing) in its own right, science aside(!) Amazing. What a persistent meme (unit of culture) On The Origin of Species is!

Also in light of creativity – take a look at what Gruber and Davis (2005) call “Darwin’s network of enterprises”:

Darwins network of enterprises - Gruber & Davis 2005

Source: Creativity, Psychology and the History of Science. (Eds: Gruber & Bodecker 2005)

Charles Darwin was amazingly creative.

Be like Charles Darwin.

…Also, what do you think of this, below? (This is: me, trying to be like Charles Darwin.)




See also:

  1. StoryAlity #100 – The Holon-Parton Structure of the Meme – the Unit of Culture (Velikovsky 2013, 2014, 2016)
  2. StoryAlity #100A – The 3 Universal Laws of Holon/Partons (Velikovsky 2015)
  3. StoryAlity #137 – Culturology – and, the CES (Cultural Evolution Society)
  4. StoryAlity #138 – Darwin on the evolution of words and languages
  5. StoryAlity #138B – Cultural Analytics, and yada yada yada
  6. StoryAlity #139 – On the evolution of Darwin’s `Tree of Life’ Diagram
  7. StoryAlity#140 – The Evolution of the Systems Model of Creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988-onwards)
  8. StoryAlity #141 – The StoryAlity-Theory `Robo-Raconteur’ artificial-writer
  9. StoryAlity #142 – Our StoryAlity so far – random Technological Marvels
  10. StoryAlity #143 – All of life is doing science
  11. StoryAlity #144 – The structure of the meme, the unit of culture (in: The Encyclopedia of Information Science & Technology, Velikovsky 2017)
  12. StoryAlity #145 – Five views of the monomyth (Velikovsky 2017)
  13. StoryAlity #146 – Flow Theory = Evolutionary Theory
  14. StoryAlity #147 – Transmedia @ the ANZCA2017 Communication Conference
  15. StoryAlity #148 – Why is Movie Screenwriting So Tricky, Anyway?
  16. StoryAlity #148A – Evolutionary Culturology
  17. StoryAlity #149 – Karl Popper on creativity and problem-solving
  18. StoryAlity #149B – The Tree of Culture
  19. StoryAlity #150 – Key Findings – from The StoryAlity PhD on High-RoI Movies
  20. StoryAlity #151 – My article on Stanley Kubrick, Charles Darwin and Joe Campbell’s monomyth, in The Journal of Genius and Eminence (March 2018)
  21. StoryAlity #152 – The Holon/Parton Structure of the Meme, or The Unit of Culture. In the book Advanced Methodologies and Technologies in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Simulation, and Human-Computer Interaction (2019)
  22. StoryAlity #159 – The Darwin-Wallace (1858) paper & creativity
  23. StoryAlity #160 – Reply to “Why are Australian films now so unpopular?”
  24. StoryAlity #161 – `Technology – Memes: Units of Culture’ in: Encyclopedia of Creativity (3rd Edn, 02020)

Comments, always welcome.


JT Velikovsky

EC-3G (Evolutionary Culturology/Creativity/Creatology) Guy


High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/



Boyd, B., Carroll, J., & Gottschall, J. (2010). Evolution, Literature and Film: A Reader. New York: Columbia University Press.

Darwin, C. (1859). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle For Life. London,: J. Murray.

Gontier, N. (2016) `Symbiogenesis, History of.’ In: Kliman, R.M. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology. vol.4, pp. 261–271. Oxford: Academic Press.

Gruber, H. E. (1981). Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativity (2d ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.‘ In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.

7 thoughts on “StoryAlity #78 – `The war of nature’ (Charles Darwin)

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