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I have started reading "On the origin of species" by Charles Darwin.

The beginning paragraph is:

When we look to the individuals of the same variety or sub-variety of our older cultivated plants and animals, one of the first points which strikes us, is, that they generally differ much more from each other, than do the individuals of any one species or variety in a state of nature.

What does he mean by state of nature here?

Note:

The term state of nature is very often used in this book, so for anyone reading this book my question would be helpful for greater understanding.

Edit: One user has requested for more context for better understanding...I would like to provide the next paragraph and also a related paragraph.

When we look to the individuals of the same variety or sub-variety of our older cultivated plants and animals, one of the first points which strikes us, is, that they generally differ much more from each other, than do the individuals of any one species or variety in a state of nature.

When we reflect on the vast diversity of the plants and animals which have been cultivated, and which have varied during all ages under the most different climates and treatment, I think we are driven to conclude that this greater variability is simply due to our domestic productions having been raised under conditions of life not so uniform as, and somewhat different from, those to which the parent-species have been exposed under nature. "

Another paragraph in which State of nature has been used:

Sterility has been said to be the bane of horticulture; but on this view we owe variability to the same cause which produces sterility; and variability is the source of all the choicest productions of the garden. I may add, that as some organisms will breed most freely under the most unnatural conditions (for instance, the rabbit and ferret kept in hutches), showing that their reproductive system has not been thus affected; so will some animals and plants withstand domestication or cultivation, and vary very slightly—perhaps hardly more than in a state of nature.

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  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't the second paragraph explain exactly what Darwin means? "State of nature" = things that are not cultivated. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 23 '18 at 17:40
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I would think that by "state of nature", he probably referred to any non-cultivated species. As @David suggested in the comments, the expression "in the wild" could also be a good replacement for "in a state of nature".

I think that the first paragraph you quote could be rephrased in the short sentence

There is more phenotypic variation in cultivated species than in non-cultivated species.

My sentence is more concise but of course, is quite a bit less pleasant to read. Darwin was a very good writer after all.

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  • $\begingroup$ I have provided some more details.Please have a look at them! $\endgroup$ – ayc Nov 23 '18 at 7:09
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    $\begingroup$ I concur with this interpretation. It's his way of saying "wild-type". $\endgroup$ – vkehayas Nov 23 '18 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ @ayc Your edits comforted me in my interpretation. Thanks $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Nov 23 '18 at 15:32
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    $\begingroup$ This seems correct. @vkehayas — "Wild type" has a specific genetic connotation and even today would not be comprehensible by the layman. The English expression that is applicable and would be understood is "in the wild" (although this does bring up an image of Victorian explorers in pith helmets shooting tigers, rather than Victorian vicars sketching primroses on the Downs). $\endgroup$ – David Nov 23 '18 at 15:43
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... one of the first points which strikes us, is, that they generally differ much more from each other, than do the individuals of any one species or variety in a state of nature.

Can be easily re-written as

...in their natural state.

Which is the most minimalistic change to the original text, that still makes the sentence more easily accessible, as its less formal and less old-fashioned language use.

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