Lamarck Ascending! A Review of Transformations of Lamarckism: From Subtle Fluids to Molecular Biology. Edited by Snait B. Gissis and Eva Jablonka, MIT Press, 2011
CitationHaig, David Addison. 2011. Lamarck ascending! A review of Transformations of Lamarckism: From Subtle Fluids to Molecular Biology, edited by Snait B. Gissis and Eva Jablonka, MIT Press, 2011. Philosophy and Theory in Biology 3:e204.
AbstractTransformations of Lamarckism is an edited volume arising from a workshop to commemorate the bicentenary of the publication of Philosophie Zoologique. The contributed chapters discuss the history of Lamarckism, present new developments in biology that could be considered to vindicate Lamarck, and argue for a revision, if not a revolution, in evolutionary theory. My review argues that twentieth and twenty-first century conceptions of Lamarckism can be considered a reaction to August Weismann’s uncompromising rejection of the inheritance of acquired characters in the late nineteenth century. Weismann rejected the inheritance of acquired characters both as a proximate mechanism of heredity and as an ultimate cause of adaptation. I argue that Weismann’s proximate claim is still valid for the kind of mechanism that he had in mind but that the inheritance of acquired characters has come to refer to many different processes, some of which undoubtedly do occur. However, processes of physiological adaptation and adaptive plasticity, even if transgenerational, do not challenge Weismann’s claim about the ultimate causes of adaptation because these processes can be understood as evolving by natural selection. Finally, I discuss some of the emotional and aesthetic reasons why many find Lamarckism an attractive alternative to hard-core neo-Darwinism.
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