Why Read Darwin?

09darwin_533 Olivia Judson over at NYT blog, The Wild Side:

It always happens the same way. A glance around the room to make sure no one else is listening. A clearing of the throat. A lowering of the voice to a conspiratorial tone. Then, the confession.

“I’ve never read ‘On the Origin of Species.’  I tried, but I thought it was boring.”

Thus, a number of eminent scientists — biologists all — have spoken.  Or rather, whispered.

As the first major statement on evolution and how it works, Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” not only transformed the way we humans see ourselves. It marks the beginning of modern biology. But reading it is evidently not a prerequisite for a successful career in biology — not even for those studying evolution.

Which is not surprising. The book was written almost 150 years ago, and the subject has (needless to say) evolved since then. Moreover, the central enduring idea in the “Origin” — evolution by natural selection — can be learned from any number of textbooks.

Nonetheless, those confessions made me wonder. Does the “Origin” have anything fresh to say to a modern reader? Or is it simply of historical interest?