Notes

Headed for Extinction

James says to Josh,

“Captain Rick. If I may, I would like to return to something you said in the cutter. That Bit-by-Bit might represent a way for your modern world to save itself from its own short-sightedness. It implies we are headed for a disaster. Could I ask what you meant?”

An earlier draft used the word extinction, and then I realised that this was a possible anachronism. According to the OED, the earliest written reference to the word ‘extinction’ used in the context of a living (or soon to be dead) species was in 1888 by A.R. Wallace in First Life: ‘The most effective agent in the extinction of a species is the pressure of other species.’ But Darwin coined the phrase in Origin of the Species, published in 1859. He wrote: As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form. And a few sentences later: and we shall then see how Natural Selection almost inevitably causes much Extinction of the less improved forms of life…

I reasoned that the word itself existed well before Darwin used it in 1859, and that it was common enough parlance to be used by an educated man like James. But then, accuracy won out and I changed his words to that which you read in the book.

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