In Origin of the Species, Darwin writes

"A group does not reappear after it has once disappeared; or its existence, as long as it lasts, is continuous .”

I can't tease out the meaning of the second clause. Elsewhere in the book Darwin writes

"When a species has once disappeared from the face of the earth, we have reason to believe that the same identical form never reappears." This is close to the first statement, but perfectly clear.

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    He's giving two ways of saying the same thing. The "group" cannot disappear and reappear -- it's existence is continuous.
    – Hot Licks
    May 29 '20 at 2:20
  • 1
    First clause: When it is gone, it is gone forever. Second clause: "Continuous" means "never having been gone". Therefore: If it is gone, it is not continuous. May 29 '20 at 3:45
  • @Tinfoil Hat OK. If it is one, it is not two. I'll have to settle for that.
    – Zan700
    May 30 '20 at 22:46

Lexico defines continuous as:

1 Forming an unbroken whole; without interruption.

So, the group's existence is without interruption: there is no break in its existence after which it comes back into existence.

  • 1
    I'm having a problem with "comes back into existence." That seems like an interruption there.
    – KannE
    May 29 '20 at 4:54
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    That's problem with understanding the sentence structure. there is no break after which it comes back into existence = There is no such thing as a group coming back into existence after a break / interruption in its existence
    – DW256
    May 29 '20 at 5:02
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    I should have been clearer. By "seems like," I was referring to its readability, not its meaning.
    – KannE
    May 29 '20 at 6:11
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    Re: break/interruption. My professor didn't believe in "permanant interruptions" ("There is no such thing..."). But they exist: discontinuation - the act of discontinuing or breaking off; an interruption (temporary or permanent). They're just easier to find in speech than in a dictionary, I think (thefreedictionary.com/discontinuation). BTW, I'm not your downvoter. Maybe my professor resumed his existence...AAAAHHH!
    – KannE
    May 29 '20 at 16:51
  • @DW256 It may well be the sentence structure. The first clause is followed by a semicolon and or. The "or" says to me an alternative is being given, but an alternative to what? "A group does not reappear after it has disappeared"? Then, "A group does not reappear . . . after its existence is continuous." (I guess that could be the meaning but it's pretty slight) I think that "as long as it lasts," in this sentence is a redefining of "existence." It's not restrictive, so the clause should work without it. It may ust be me.
    – Zan700
    May 29 '20 at 18:25

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