Transformations of Lamarckism

Transformations of Lamarckism: From Subtle Fluids to Molecular Biology

Snait B. Gissis
Eva Jablonka
with illustrations by Anna Zeligowski
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 480
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hhmm9
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  • Book Info
    Transformations of Lamarckism
    Book Description:

    In 1809--the year of Charles Darwin's birth--Jean-Baptiste Lamarck published Philosophie zoologique, the first comprehensive and systematic theory of biological evolution. The Lamarckian approach emphasizes the generation of developmental variations; Darwinism stresses selection. Lamarck's ideas were eventually eclipsed by Darwinian concepts, especially after the emergence of the Modern Synthesis in the twentieth century. The different approaches--which can be seen as complementary rather than mutually exclusive--have important implications for the kinds of questions biologists ask and for the type of research they conduct. Lamarckism has been evolving--or, in Lamarckian terminology, transforming--since Philosophie zoologique's description of biological processes mediated by "subtle fluids." Essays in this book focus on new developments in biology that make Lamarck's ideas relevant not only to modern empirical and theoretical research but also to problems in the philosophy of biology. Contributors discuss the historical transformations of Lamarckism from the 1820s to the 1940s, and the different understandings of Lamarck and Lamarckism; the Modern Synthesis and its emphasis on Mendelian genetics; theoretical and experimental research on such "Lamarckian" topics as plasticity, soft (epigenetic) inheritance, and individuality; and the importance of a developmental approach to evolution in the philosophy of biology. The book shows the advantages of a "Lamarckian" perspective on evolution. Indeed, the development-oriented approach it presents is becoming central to current evolutionary studies--as can be seen in the burgeoning field of Evo-Devo. Transformations of Lamarckism makes a unique contribution to this research.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29564-2
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Gerd B. Müller, Günter P. Wagner and Werner Callebaut

    Biology is becoming the leading science in this century. As in all other sciences, progress in biology depends on interactions between empirical research, theory building, and modeling. However, whereas the techniques and methods of descriptive and experimental biology have evolved dramatically in recent years, generating a flood of highly detailed empirical data, the integration of these results into useful theoretical frameworks has lagged behind. Driven largely by pragmatic and technical considerations, research in biology continues to be less guided by theory than seems indicated. By promoting the formulation and discussion of new theoretical concepts in the biosciences, this series is...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. INTRODUCTORY ESSAYS
    • 1 Lamarck, Darwin, and the Contemporary Debate about Levels of Selection
      (pp. 3-8)
      Gabriel Motzkin

      Like all of you, I took an undergraduate course (in my case, some forty-six years ago) in which I learned that Lamarck was bad and Darwin was good. It was the first course ever given on evolution as part of the program of general education at Harvard, and it was its first year. The excitement of the course turned on two themes. The first was the breakthrough in genetics that signified the ability to understand how biological material copied itself. I remember the excitement we experienced learning about DNA and RNA, concepts that were being taught to freshmen in general...

    • 2 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck: From Myth to History
      (pp. 9-18)
      Pietro Corsi

      Since the 1860s, biologists have repeatedly referred to Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (figure 2.1) as one of the founding fathers of modern evolutionary doctrines, a claim hotly denied by most of their colleagues. Lamarck’s name has often been evoked to contrast his insistence on acquired individual variations with the mainstream interpretation of the Darwinian doctrine, which stresses the constant presence within a population of repertoires of variation that are subjected to the action of selection. As a consequence, reference to Lamarck has often been made with polemical intent, and has rarely been based on firsthand acquaintance with his works and the biological,...

  7. I HISTORY
    • 3 Introduction: Lamarckian Problematics in Historical Perspective
      (pp. 21-32)
      Snait B. Gissis

      This historical section is a preliminary attempt to outline a general history of Lamarckian problematics. At present this history has many partial chapters, scattered in various books and articles. The section is a gesture toward a future integrated historical narrative of Lamarckism and Darwinism which will present them as intertwined throughout the nineteenth century, as separated and opposed during parts of the twentieth century, and once again in great need of being amalgamated and woven together.

      What did Lamarck actually say? What was Lamarckism? And in what ways were the two related? At first glance these questions seem to be...

    • 4 Lamarck, Cuvier, and Darwin on Animal Behavior and Acquired Characters
      (pp. 33-44)
      Richard W. Burkhardt Jr.

      In the history of evolutionary biology, the name of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck is closely associated with the idea of behavior as an agent of organic change. In 1800, in his earliest presentation of his ideas on organic mutability, he told his students that he “could prove that it is neither the form of the body nor of its parts that gives rise to the habits, to the way of life of animals, but that, to the contrary, it is the habits, the way of life, and all the influencing circumstances that have over time constituted the form of the body and...

    • 5 The Golden Age of Lamarckism, 1866–1926
      (pp. 45-56)
      Sander Gliboff

      After two hundred years, the theories that now pass as “Lamarckism” would hardly be recognizable to its original author, Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck (1744–1829) (Burkhardt 1977) or to his early supporters (Corsi 1988, 2005; and chapter 2 in this volume). It started out as a dynamic system of physics, mineralogy, and biology unified by the transformative effects of energetic particles and subtle fluids, and was once considered an important milestone in the history of evolutionary thought (Glass, Temkin, and Straus 1959). After 1859, “Lamarckian” notions about heredity were sometimes considered essential to Darwinism, and the two pioneering transformationists could be...

    • 6 Germinal Selection: A Weismannian Solution to Lamarckian Problematics
      (pp. 57-66)
      Charlotte Weissman

      Although, as I shall argue in this chapter, Weismann never abandoned his selectionist agenda, two of the arguments used by the Lamarckians led him to recognize that natural selection, acting at the level of the individual, could not account for all the changes organisms have undergone during their evolution. He accepted that traits that are selectively neutral at the individual level can nevertheless accumulate during evolutionary time, and that the environment can affect heritable traits directly. To account for these observations while retaining his selectionist agenda, Weismann added to classical Darwinian individual selection a lower level of selection: competition and...

    • 7 The Notions of Plasticity and Heredity among French Neo-Lamarckians (1880–1940): From Complementarity to Incompatibility
      (pp. 67-76)
      Laurent Loison

      Although it was Lamarck’s homeland, France was one of the last Western countries to accept the hypothesis of a progressive transformation of living things. Indeed, it was necessary to wait until the 1880s to see transformism finally emerging as the general framework for interpreting biology. It is well known that the type of evolutionism which was developing at that time was sharply non-neo-Darwinian, and that this inclination was going to remain a peculiarity of French biological thought (Bowler 1992). Yet, however powerful it was, this neo-Lamarckian tradition was never embodied in a synthetic work that would had been a doctrinal...

    • 8 Lamarckism and Lysenkoism Revisited
      (pp. 77-88)
      Nils Roll-Hansen

      How important was Lamarckism in the Lysenko affair? Was belief in the inheritance of acquired characters a major reason for the suppression of genetics in the Soviet Union between 1935 and 1965? The answer is disputed. Biologists saw lingering Lamarckian ideas as a main factor, in tandem with a Marxist science policy. A direct formative role for the environment was attractive to Soviet social utopianism, and the combination stimulated wishful science (Cook 1949; Zirkle 1949, 1959; Huxley 1949). Historians of science, on the other hand, have mostly considered scientific issues and Marxist philosophy to be peripheral and unimportant.

      In standard...

    • 9 Lamarckism and the Constitution of Sociology
      (pp. 89-100)
      Snait B. Gissis

      This chapter deals with the emergence of sociology as a discipline in Great Britain and France during the second half of the nineteenth century, and does so by considering the transfer of concepts, models, metaphors, and analogies from contemporaneous evolutionary biology. Sociology emerged in continued interaction with this biology. Moreover, this evolutionary biology had a marked Lamarckian/neo-Lamarckian perspective and emphasis both in France and in Great Britain. Insights into the relationships between individuals and collectivities, as conceptualized in the formulation of sociology in these countries, are obtained by analyzing the interactions and transfers between social thought and Lamarckian evolutionary theories....

  8. II THE MODERN SYNTHESIS
    • 10 Introduction: The Exclusion of Soft (“Lamarckian”) Inheritance from the Modern Synthesis
      (pp. 103-108)
      Snait B. Gissis and Eva Jablonka

      During the construction and consolidation of what became known as the Modern Synthesis of evolution, Lamarckism seemed to have come to an end. As William Provine explained when we were discussing the contribution he hoped to make to the workshop, by the end of the Synthesis period not only had the views of Lamarck and Lysenko been totally rejected in the Anglo–American world, but so, too, had the neo-Lamarckian views of Darwin. Will intended to look at the Lamarckism of Lysenko, particularly the vernalization of wheat and other crops, and try to separate Lysenkoism as a scientific theory from...

    • 11 Attitudes to Soft Inheritance in Great Britain, 1930s–1970s
      (pp. 109-120)
      Marion J. Lamb

      Biologists frequently use expressions like “before the Modern (or Evolutionary) Synthesis,” or “as a result of the Modern Synthesis,” without giving much thought to when the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis actually took place or exactly what it entailed. The view of one biologist-turned-historian, Ernst Mayr, was that for the first third of the twentieth century there were two camps of evolutionists, the experimental geneticists and the naturalists–systematists. Neither camp knew or appreciated what the other camp was doing. Then, “a meeting of the minds came quite suddenly and completely in a period of about a dozen years, from 1936 to...

    • 12 The Decline of Soft Inheritance
      (pp. 121-126)
      Scott Gilbert

      Soft inheritance sounds opposed to hard fact, a weak analogue kind of inheritance as opposed to the digital inheritance of the chromosomes. But there was, in fact, a soft,” developmental version of inheritance during the early twentieth century, and evolution was understood by many leading biologists in terms of the rules of development. In 1893, the evolutionary champion Thomas Huxley wrote, “Evolution is not a speculation but a fact; and it takes place by epigenesis.” He didn’t say that it takes place by natural selection: he said that it takes place by epigenesis, by development. He was looking at a...

    • 13 Why Did the Modern Synthesis Give Short Shrift to “Soft Inheritance”?
      (pp. 127-132)
      Adam Wilkins

      I am not a historian by training but a geneticist. Nevertheless, I am going to present an interpretation of a matter of scientific history, one that concerns genetics. The matter is obscure because, unfortunately, there is a dearth of testimonials from the individuals involved. Nevertheless, it is important.

      The question to be addressed is why the architects of the Modern Synthesis dismissed Lamarckism, or soft inheritance, so completely. The term “soft inheritance” was used by Ernst Mayr to describe a hypothetical type of unstable inheritance in which variations are malleable and can be produced initially by the effects of the...

    • 14 The Modern Synthesis: Discussion
      (pp. 133-142)

      The discussion that followed the three papers in this section dealt with the open questions the speakers raised. Although the discussion involved many fascinating issues, three main topics received special attention: (1) the neglect of data, ideas, and theories that did not fit the Modern Synthesis view; (2) the role of social/political factors, and in particular the effect of newly established institutional structures in the United States; (3) the influence of several experimental studies relevant to evolutionary theorizing, including the Luria-Delbrück experiments on the origin of bacterial mutations, the studies of melanism in the peppered moth, and the work on...

  9. III BIOLOGY
    • 15 Introduction: Lamarckian Problematics in Biology
      (pp. 145-156)
      Eva Jablonka

      This section offers some answers to Everett Mendelsohn’s query about the reasons for the current “move in the consensus” in evolutionary biology. Most of the answers are associated with the revival of an approach that gives explanatory primacy to development. Selection is still seen as crucial, but the nature, origins, construction, and inheritance of developmental variations are deemed to be just as important.

      Chapters 16 through 27 provide some illustrations of the twenty-first-century incarnation of the “developmental–variation first” approach to evolutionary problems. It is difficult to encapsulate the views they present, because they touch upon many aspects of modern...

    • 16 Lamarck’s Dangerous Idea
      (pp. 157-170)
      Stuart A. Newman and Ramray Bhat

      The scientific ideas of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829) are reentering the discourse of biology after nearly a century of marginalization and opprobrium. Partly this is due to increased recognition of discordances between genotype and phenotype in a wide variety of organisms. In many cases organisms with given genotypes assume different phenotypes under different conditions. This presents a problem for the standard model of evolution, the Darwinian Modern Synthesis, if the variant phenotypes are found not to be manifestations of evolved alternative programs, but instead due to the inherent plasticity of any material system. Such phenomena are part of Lamarck’s, but...

    • 17 Behavior, Stress, and Evolution in Light of the Novosibirsk Selection Experiments
      (pp. 171-180)
      Arkady L. Markel and Lyudmila N. Trut

      Ever since the Laboratory of Evolutionary Genetics (Siberian Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk) was established by Dmitri Belyaev (figure 17.1) in 1958, experimental models of animal domestication, employing artificial selection, have been used to explore evolutionary processes. Although Charles Darwin (1859: 490) coined the term “artificial selection” to highlight the differences between selection by man and natural selection, it should be emphasized that the same genetic processes underlie both types of selection. Artificial selection models can therefore shed light on the patterns and processes of evolution in natural conditions. Nevertheless, there is a difference between natural and...

    • 18 The Role of Cellular Plasticity in the Evolution of Regulatory Novelty
      (pp. 181-192)
      Erez Braun and Lior David

      As is evident from the biodiversity we see today, organisms are able to adapt to diverse environmental conditions. Complex life-forms evolved from much simpler ones by acquiring novel structures and functions. But how do such novelties emerge, and how are they utilized by organisms during evolution? King and Wilson (1975) suggested that changes in the function of genes, and thus also their evolution, can be driven not only by mutations in coding regions but also by changes in regulatory regions affecting gene expression. Today, the common understanding is that the evolution of regulatory systems is indeed crucially important in generating...

    • 19 Evolutionary Implications of Individual Plasticity
      (pp. 193-204)
      Sonia E. Sultan

      Phenotypic plasticityis broadly defined as the ability of a single genotype to express different phenotypes in different environments; the term denotes all aspects of an organism’s phenotype in which expression varies as a result of variation in environmental conditions. For any given organism, this can include a broad array of developmental, physiological, behavioral, and life-history traits that vary in response to all kinds of abiotic and biotic factors—from temperature, pH, or resource levels to the presence of symbionts, predators, or competing neighbors. Because real-world environments inevitably vary in both space and time, such plasticity is the source of...

    • 20 Epigenetic Variability in a Predator-Prey System
      (pp. 205-214)
      Sivan Pearl, Amos Oppenheim and Nathalie Q. Balaban

      Epigenetic variability, here defined as the variability observed between organisms despite identical genetic and environmental conditions, can have far-reaching consequences. In particular, it has been shown that the stochastic differentiation of a population of genetically identical cells into two distinct phenotypes can provide a survival advantage in unpredictable and fluctuating environments (Lachmann and Jablonka 1996; Kussell et al. 2005; Acar et al. 2008). The phenomenon of bacterial persistence, which plays a major role in the failure of various antibiotics to eliminate pathogens, is a striking example of the advantage of variability.

      The phenomenon of bacterial persistence was observed as early...

    • 21 Cellular Epigenetic Inheritance in the Twenty-First Century
      (pp. 215-226)
      Eva Jablonka

      Since the turn of the twenty-first century, epigenetic inheritance—the inheritance of cellular phenotypic variations that are not dependent on differences in DNA base sequence—has become an important aspect of pure and applied biological research. In this chapter I present a brief overview of the history of cellular epigenetic inheritance, outline recent evidence showing that it is ubiquitous, and suggest how it legitimizes the notion that soft inheritance is part of heredity and evolution.

      In the mid-twentieth century, biologists became increasingly interested in several aspects of cell heredity (Sager and Ryan 1961). Studies of cell differentiation in animals showed...

    • 22 An Evolutionary Role for RNA-Mediated Epigenetic Variation?
      (pp. 227-236)
      Minoo Rassoulzadegan

      The powerful scenario of genetic variation combined with natural selection provides us with a comfortable and satisfying picture of evolution. According to this view, mutations, which are the raw material of evolution, are continuously arising and either accumulate or are eliminated. The following quotations from Darwin indicate how he saw the process of selection and the formation of new species: “This preservation of favorable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest” (1872:63). “… according to my view, varieties are species in process of formation,...

    • 23 Maternal and Transgenerational Influences on Human Health
      (pp. 237-250)
      Peter D. Gluckman, Mark A. Hanson and Tatjana Buklijas

      Models of disease are tools that medicine uses to order the complex natural world of pathologies. Around 1800, the humoral model that defined disease as an imbalance of bodily fluids was replaced with the pathological-anatomical one, according to which the morbid state arose from a well-defined lesion (Nutton 1993; Bynum 1993). This easily accommodated infectious diseases, but it could not explain non-communicable pathological conditions. In the “lifestyle transition” of the twentieth century, those conditions have come to lead to morbidity and mortality statistics, first in developed countries and then worldwide. In medical literature, “risk factors”—from physiological parameters such as...

    • 24 Plants: Individuals or Epigenetic Cell Populations?
      (pp. 251-260)
      Marcello Buiatti

      According to classical neo-Darwinian theory, individuals and genes are the sole units of selection, with all or most cells of single organisms bearing the same genotype. Moreover, as Weismann suggested (Weissman 1892), the germ line is supposed to be completely independent from the soma. Within this framework, the adaptation strategy in all organisms is assumed to be based on mutation-driven variability and the selection of the fittest genotypes. In this chapter, which focuses on plants, I suggest several challenges to this dominant view. First, the fuzzy sequestration of the germ line in plants, where germ cells are continuously generated and...

    • 25 Instantaneous Genetic and Epigenetic Alterations in the Wheat Genome Caused by Allopolyploidization
      (pp. 261-270)
      Moshe Feldman and Avraham A. Levy

      Allopolyploidy is a state whereby two or more different genomes are brought together into the same nucleus by inter-specific or inter-generic hybridization, followed by genome duplication (figure 25.1). It has played a major evolutionary role in the formation of many plant species (Manton 1950; Stebbins 1950, 1971; Grant 1971; Soltis and Soltis 1993, 1995). Recent molecular studies, mainly comparative genomics and whole genome sequencing, along with the use of novel molecular and computational tools has shown that allopolyploidy is found among many groups of plants and is even more widespread than previously believed (Leitch and Bennett 1997; Wendel 2000; Soltis,...

    • 26 Lamarckian Leaps in the Microbial World
      (pp. 271-282)
      Jan Sapp

      The neo-Darwinian synthesis of the twentieth century was concerned with the visible world of plants and animals over the last 550 million years of evolution. It said nothing of the microbial world, where the greatest biochemical and genetic diversity and largest biomass are found. The modes of evolution in the microbiosphere, exposed by molecular phylogenetic methods, have led to a revolution in our understanding of evolutionary processes with the recognition that (1)there are not two, but three, primary lineages or domains of life: the Archaea, the Bacteria, and the Eukarya; (2) horizontal gene transfer (between taxa) is pervasive in the...

    • 27 Symbionts as an Epigenetic Source of Heritable Variation
      (pp. 283-294)
      Scott F. Gilbert

      Evolution arises from heritable changes in development. Most evolutionary developmental biology has focused on changes in the regulatory components of the genome. However, development also includes interactions between organisms and their environments. One area of interest concerns the importance of symbionts for the production of the normal range of phenotypes. Many, if not most, organisms have “outsourced” some of their developmental signals to a set of symbionts that are expected to be acquired during development. Such intimate interactions between species are referred to as codevelopment, the production of a new individual through the coordinated interactions of several genotypically different species....

  10. IV PHILOSOPHY
    • 28 Introduction: Lamarckian Problematics in the Philosophy of Biology
      (pp. 297-306)
      Snait B. Gissis and Eva Jablonka

      The new developmental orientation in studies of heredity and evolutionary biology were assimilated and sometimes instigated by philosophers of biology. Although with a few notable exceptions philosophers have mentioned Lamarckism rather rarely, the developmental, phenotype-first approach to evolution has been central to much of their work, and they have advanced bold ideas about the relationships among heredity, development, and evolution. The contributors to this part of the volume represent this broad agenda, and several of them pioneered it. Although they approach it in different ways and from different perspectives, they are all informed by the latest developments in molecular, developmental,...

    • 29 Mind the Gaps: Why Are Niche Construction Models So Rarely Used?
      (pp. 307-318)
      Ayelet Shavit and James Griesemer

      An eco-evo process of niche construction has been convincingly argued to be an important theoretical possibility that is typically ignored (Odling-Smee, Laland, and Feldman 2003; Laland and Sterelny 2006). We argue here that models of niche construction are ignored, in part, because their acceptance seems to require additional and more complex fieldwork, yet we also demonstrate—by following a survey of species distribution—an unexpected flaw in this heuristic. It turns out that recording and storing data on niche construction is both necessary and practical for studying species distribution.

      The termniche constructionrefers to a process by which organisms,...

    • 30 Our Plastic Nature
      (pp. 319-330)
      Paul Griffiths

      In one sense the idea of human nature should be uncontroversial. Human nature is simply what human beings are like. If there were no human nature, then the human sciences could study only individuals and particular social groups. But many disciplines study human beings generally, and human society generally, and this is surely reasonable. However, human nature is commonly understood in a second, causal sense. Human nature is something that causes us to have these human characteristics. It is this sense of human nature that has frequently been controversial, and which we need to rethink substantially in the light of...

    • 31 The Relative Significance of Epigenetic Inheritance in Evolution: Some Philosophical Considerations
      (pp. 331-344)
      James Griesemer

      The role of epigenetic inheritance in evolution is the subject of a lively debate. Some claim that recently discovered epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation constitute nongenetic inheritance systems pointing to a “Lamarckian dimension” of inheritance, and therefore of evolution. Others judge epigenetic inheritance to be relatively insignificant, even in principle, due to disanalogies with the genetic system that make epigenetic inheritance implausible as a platform for evolution: unstable states, high mutation rates, horizontal and within-generation-only transmission patterns, and environmental feedback mechanisms contribute to making epigenetically driven evolution appear non–Mendelian, Lamarckian, and probably rare—or, if common, weak. In this...

    • 32 The Metastable Genome: A Lamarckian Organ in a Darwinian World?
      (pp. 345-356)
      Ehud Lamm

      In the context of a workshop celebrating the bicentennial of Lamarck’sPhilosophie zoologique, a paper focused on the genome may seem overly reductionistic and insensitive to the reciprocal interaction between the organism and its environment. My discussion of the dynamic nature of the genome will illustrate why overly zealous reduction fails even at the level of understanding the genome, and why the genome is a significant developmental unit.

      This article is arranged around two general claims and a thought experiment.

      I begin by suggesting that the genome should be studied as a developmental system, and that genes supervene on genomes...

    • 33 Self-Organization, Self-Assembly, and the Inherent Activity of Matter
      (pp. 357-364)
      Evelyn F. Keller

      For all Darwin’s indisputable achievements, he left a sizable problem for future generations to solve: namely, the question of how the first “primordial form, into which life was first breathed,” from which “all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended”—that “simple beginning” from which “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved”—first came into existence.

      In fact, it is surprising how often, or how easily, this conspicuous lacuna in Darwin’s argument is overlooked—perhaps especially by advocates of natural selection as the universal solvent of life, capable of...

  11. V RAMIFICATIONS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS
    • 34 Introduction: Ramifications and Future Directions
      (pp. 367-368)
      Snait B. Gissis and Eva Jablonka

      The short chapters in this part of the volume present points of view that add to or extend ideas that were presented in parts I–IV. We were not, and could not be, comprehensive, and are acutely aware of the many important aspects of Lamarckian problematics that are missing. As we noted in the Historical Introduction, some important facets of the rich and varied history of Lamarckism in the last two hundred years were not considered in the workshop, and consequently they are absent from this volume. On the biological front, among the important topics that are missing are the...

    • 35 Lamarck on the Nervous System: Past Insights and Future Perspectives
      (pp. 369-372)
      Simona Ginsburg

      Lamarck’s work on the evolution of the nervous system and the ability to feel and think is of interest today because the problematics he defined are still relevant, although, of course, in a very different modern incarnation.

      First, as many have pointed out, Lamarck’s approach was thoroughly materialistic. In his opinion, biological complexity—including psychological complexity—has to be explained by employing physical and chemical laws and their biological extensions. These extensions are the result of the dynamic organization of complex material compounds.

      Second, Lamarck saw behavior as the engine of animal evolution. For him, the formation of habits was...

    • 36 Lamarck’s “Pouvoir de la Nature” Demystified: A Thermodynamic Foundation to Lamarck’s Concept of Progressive Evolution
      (pp. 373-376)
      Francis Dov Por

      Evolutionism was born from the need to comprehend the diversity of the zoological world. This need was felt by Lamarck when, in his fifties, he turned zoologist. Strangely, two hundred years after hisPhilosophie zoologique, while evolutionism has spread to the most diverse branches of human knowledge, it is passing through a profound crisis in zoology, its very cradle.

      Lamarck envisaged an evolutionary progression linking, through an immense period of time, a simple organism of the infusorian group with the complex orangutan and thereafter with the “bi-mane,” man. He saw the gradation from simple to complex as the result of...

    • 37 Prokaryotic Epigenetic Inheritance and Its Role in Evolutionary Genetics
      (pp. 377-380)
      Luisa Hirschbein

      In prokaryotes such as bacteria, it is usually assumed that heritable variations that are maintained in the progeny through many generations are always associated with genetic inheritance and primary DNA alterations. However, examples from bacteriophages and bacteria have empirically proven the existence of alternative inherited chromosome variations, called epigenetic variations (see Jablonka and Raz 2009: table 1).

      In eukaryotes, cell-heritable epigenetic inactivation was initially associated with a particular condensation of the chromatin, and was considered to be a regulation process specific to eukaryotic systems. This view changed when evidence of heritable phenotypic variations, which are not mediated by DNA mutation,...

    • 38 Evolution as Progressing Complexity
      (pp. 381-384)
      Raphael Falk

      An important insight of Lamarck, and I think also of Buffon, was their characterization of the difference between physics and biology: the crucial feature was that biological systems are physical systems constrained by theirhistory, while physical systems—for the most part—have no history. Or, to be more contemporary, life as we know it today is theuninterrupted, ongoing sequel of improbable physical processes of complex molecular structures that draw on their environment for material, energy, and entropy.

      Although Lamarck believed that the founding events leading to the emergence of living entities occurred repeatedly, he advanced the theory that...

    • 39 Epigenetics and the “New Biology”: Enlisting in the Assault on Reductionism
      (pp. 385-388)
      Alfred I. Tauber

      I regard this conference and the book based on it as part of a larger movement that has been called various names, and for my purposes, “new biology” suffices. This term captures a widely held view that the elucidation of complex biological functions requires a new kind of analysis. According to the proponents of the new program, explanatory models of the dynamic, emergent properties characteristic of biosystems demand a holistic approach, albeit one coupled to elemental analysis (reductionism). This purported novel orientation builds on the general intuition that evolution, development, metabolism, immune responsiveness, and neurological functions each require better explanations...

    • 40 Epigenetic Inheritance: Where Does the Field Stand Today? What Do We Still Need to Know?
      (pp. 389-394)
      Adam Wilkins

      As the last speaker at the round table, I would like to provide a perspective on where the field of epigenetic inheritance stands today. That subject is only one of several that have been presented, but it is central to many of the scientific talks that we have heard.

      It should be mentioned at the outset that I was invited to this conference to play the role of devil’s advocate, namely, someone to inject caveats and objections, where appropriate, into a conference dedicated, in part, to commemorating the memory and achievements of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. As a neo-Darwinian (in the twentieth-century...

    • 41 Final Discussion
      (pp. 395-410)

      The workshop closed with a session, chaired by Everett Mendelsohn, in which participants were invited to look at both the present state of Lamarckism and its future. It was an animated debate, which continued long after the formal session had ended, as everyone wandered, glass in hand, in the garden of the Van Leer Institute. Here we can offer only a summary of the main topics discussed. We started by considering the kind of biological evidence and the types of models that would convince evolutionary biologists that soft inheritance in particular, and Lamarckian problematics in general, should be a central...

  12. Appendix A: Mandelstam’s Poem “Lamarck”
    (pp. 411-412)
  13. Appendix B: Mechanisms of Cell Heredity
    (pp. 413-422)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 423-432)
  15. Contributors
    (pp. 433-436)
  16. Index
    (pp. 437-457)