Neo-Lamarckism

OK, maybe Darwin, Lysenko, and Lamarck had something right about the inheritance of acquired characteristics, after all:

HALF a century before Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck outlined his own theory of evolution. A cornerstone of this was the idea that characteristics acquired during an individual’s lifetime can be passed on to their offspring. In its day, Lamarck’s theory was generally ignored or lampooned. Then came Darwin, and Gregor Mendel’s discovery of genetics. In recent years, ideas along the lines of Richard Dawkins’s concept of the “selfish gene” have come to dominate discussions about heritability, and with the exception of a brief surge of interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “Lamarckism” has long been consigned to the theory junkyard.

Now all that is changing. No one is arguing that Lamarck got everything right, but over the past decade it has become increasingly clear that environmental factors, such as diet or stress, can have biological consequences that are transmitted to offspring without a single change to gene sequences taking place. In fact, some biologists are already starting to consider this process as routine. However, fully accepting the idea, provocatively dubbed the “new Lamarckism”, would mean a radical rewrite of modern evolutionary theory. Not surprisingly, there are some who see that as heresy. [Emma Young, New Scientist; from Vox Day]

And maybe Ed is now totally confused, since he thinks that Lamarckism is anti-evolutionist.

“Neo-Lamarckism” is not a refutation of Darwin’s theories or even of neo-Darwinism. It is a refutation of the Darwin Gospel superstition, which supposes that Darwin received from the Reason Fairy a perfect revelation describing the origin and development of all life in the universe, and that only the True Evolutionists since then have preached the same consistent message of Truth and Love. The Darwin Prophecies also supposedly foretold the coming of the Anti-Darwins, those False Evolutionists such as Trofim Lysenko and Madison Grant who defied the Vicars of Darwin and spread evolutionary heresy. This is the dogma that some evolutionists seem to adhere to, apparently because they hate the process of scientific inquiry and just want an empirical justification for their personal prejudices and perversions.

Any honest evolutionist knows that it is pointless to exalt Darwin as an expositor of modern evolutionary theory. His original work now has only literary and historical interest. Part of the historical interest lies in the way Darwin’s theories were used rhetorically to support political programs and cultural theories that needed scientific legitimacy in order to overcome their essential immorality.

Most modern biologists are afraid of reenacting the Dark Ages of evolutionary theory, when racial groups were assigned to different “evolutionary stages” and the highest moral good was to “improve the race” by sterilizing or eliminating the “defectives.” Conservatives, paradoxically, want to avoid blaming racists and eugenicists for their decisions; they would rather assign blame to the dead theologian Darwin or elevate his ideas to the status of malign chthonic forces that cloud men’s minds and drive them insane with blood-lust.

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7 thoughts on “Neo-Lamarckism

  1. Ironic that you point to Dr. Tatiana’s piece on retiring the phrase “Darwinism.” She’s not supporting your view at all.

    Dr. Judson (Tatiana) said:

    But I digress. To return to my argument: I’d like to abolish the insidious terms Darwinism, Darwinist and Darwinian. They suggest a false narrowness to the field of modern evolutionary biology, as though it was the brainchild of a single person 150 years ago, rather than a vast, complex and evolving subject to which many other great figures have contributed. (The science would be in a sorry state if one man 150 years ago had, in fact, discovered everything there was to say.) Obsessively focusing on Darwin, perpetually asking whether he was right about this or that, implies that the discovery of something he didn’t think of or know about somehow undermines or threatens the whole enterprise of evolutionary biology today.

    It does not.

  2. It is not ironic at all. I call science “science,” and superstitious faith in Darwin “Darwinism.”

    I fully support using the term “Darwinism” not to refer to modern evolutionary theory, but rather to the false belief that Darwin somehow perfectly knew genetic science, even though Olivia Judson and Ernst Mayr clearly state that he did not.

    You have me confused with your other “cretinist” enemies, and therefore you refuse to accept what I am saying:

    1. Darwin proposed some theories that changed how people understood biology.
    2. Darwin’s theories of heredity were helpful at the time, but ultimately wrong.
    3. Mendel proposed the correct laws of heredity.
    4. 20th-century scientists initially thought Darwin and Mendel were in opposition, and they argued over this for 30 years without consensus.
    5. After a new combined theory was synthesized, it was not immediately accepted. The scientists themselves (such as Julian Huxley) therefore called it “Neo-Darwinism.”
    6. Lysenko didn’t accept Mendel’s laws of heredity or the new combined theory because he had a traditional marxist view of Darwin’s theories and because he was a simple-minded bureaucrat.
    7. A variety of people you don’t like (such as communists, Nazis, racists, and eugenicists) used Darwin’s legitimacy with the scientific community to justify stupid agricultural plans and murderous, discriminatory government programs for people they didn’t like.
    8. A group of conservative Christians that you don’t like used Darwin’s legitimacy with communists, Nazis, racists, and eugenicists to justify saying that Darwin caused their crimes to happen.
    9. The communists, Nazis, racists, and eugenicists were WRONG. Even if evolutionary theory were correct, it would not justify their actions.
    10. The conservatives are WRONG. Darwin’s ideas did not magically “cause” anything to happen.
    11. You are WRONG. Darwin did not have any correct theories of heredity, and modern genetic science does not require any knowledge of Darwin’s original work. Darwin is NOT routinely taught to biologists, but Mendel’s laws always are. Darwin provided a conceptual framework for modern biology, but nothing that can be applied to biotechnology.
    12. A “Darwinist” is anyone who superstitiously worships or demonizes Darwin. If you think that all schoolchildren will turn into babbling morons without learning Darwin or that all scientists will start practicing magical rituals without learning Darwin, then you are a Darwinist. Likewise, anyone who believes that civilization is falling apart because of Darwin is a Darwinist.

    • Very nice response. But you should either capitalize ‘Communist’ or come to a more informed understanding of what ‘communist’ means.

      • Well, I wasn’t particularly targeting Communist Party members, so it is lowercased in order to include anyone who accepts it philosophically. Yes, I am implying that almost all people who associate themselves with the political philosophy of communism would also reject a literal reading of Genesis, even though the two are not mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, I believe it is a fair generalization.

  3. 7. A variety of people you don’t like (such as communists, Nazis, racists, and eugenicists) used Darwin’s legitimacy with the scientific community to justify stupid agricultural plans and murderous, discriminatory government programs for people they didn’t like.

    I think you’ve missed the point about using evidence to support claims — both in science an history.

    Generally such bizarre claims as you’ve made, as noted above, require rather extraordinary evidence. No evidence at all is extraordinarily odd, but not extraordinary evidence.

  4. Let’s just look at one special case, then: An acknowledged evolutionist who is still respected for his philanthropic accomplishments. Yet, he was a vicious racist who used the accepted understanding of evolution to justify his personal prejudices. His name was Madison Grant.

    Grant was wrong; evolutionary theory did not justify his prejudices. Evolutionary theory had no magical power to purify his motives and make all his decisions kind and just. On the other hand, it did not cause him to be who he was. Evolutionary theory was simply the rationalization he chose.

  5. The fact that abrupt climate change have been very common throughout
    geological history implies that the mainstream theories about absolute
    limitations to phyletic plasticity is wrong. Life has already survived changes
    vastly worse than the worst IPCC predictions, and yet mainstream biologists
    worry that life should not be able to adapt to the moderate mid-IPCC range!
    Guess why life has unstable DNA instead of stable XNA as genetic material
    despite the energy expenditure to repair it, and read “Bacteria evolved way to
    safeguard crucial genetic material”. The DNA repair enzymes discovered during
    examination of Chernobyl mammals provides a mechanism for directing adaptive
    mutations. Red blood cells survive for weeks without DNA, proving the existence
    of self-organization capable of controlling cellular functions and noticing that
    something must be done without specialized error messages. Jack Szostak have
    shown that cell membranes capable of growing and dividing without genes as long
    as there are suitable complex molecules present spontaneously form when water
    containing dissolved such molecules are shaked. Vertical Gun Lab experiments
    proves that such molecules can be produced by asteroid/comet impacts. The
    decrease of impact rate about 3,8 billion years ago caused a scarcity of
    ready-to-use complex molecules that forced the membranes to start using genes to
    produce their own. We are not the survival machines of genes at all. Genes are
    merely the kitchen servants of cell membranes. There is no contradiction
    whatsoever between Darwinism and Lamarckism. Darwinian variability selection
    wiped out any biochemistry that was not capable of Lamarckian evolution. The
    periods between the changes were far too short to allow restoration of genetic
    variation by random mutations without facing unbearable frequencies of lethal
    mutations.

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