FIND in
<--prev V12 next-->

From: "Mark Millman"<Mark_Millman@hmco.com>
Subject: Re: (urth) Wolfe's Lamarkism
Date: Fri, 5 Jun 1998 15:45:42 

Dan Parmenter and Craig Christensen wrote:

> Dan Parmenter,
> You wrote here,
>> Maybe you can explain why Wolfe defends
>> Lamarckism (explicitly and implicitly), but
>> never really explains why.
> and, I've read the same thing elsewhere in the
> archives.  Could you point me to some examples
> of this?  I'd like to read those over.
> Craig Christensen

Wolfe defends Lamarckism at least in part because he
thinks that Jean-Baptiste Lamarck got a bad rap from
modern science when the Darwinian model of evolution
(there were several competing theories of evolution
before Darwin's time; Larmarck's was among the front-
runners) became the preferred--and by now, the only
serious--forum for discussion of the development of
species.  He also claims to believe in it.  I think that when
he says this, Wolfe may be nipping a bit at our heels.  To
begin with, although Lamarckism is not, as Wolfe very
correctly points out, the same as Lysenkoism (the latter
claims that if you continue to cut the tails off mice, after
many generations you will have tailless mice; Lamarck's
contention is that if mice never use their tails for anything,
the tails will eventually wither and disappear, yielding
tailless mice; but if they begin to wrap their tails around
objects, the use that the organ gets will stimulate its
development, and it's this increased development that
is passed on to the offspring, which will eventually give
them prehensile tails; while Darwinian evolution says
that the mice that can grip with their tails will, presumably,
survive more often than the ones that can't, and the
difference in mortality between the gripping mice and
the non-gripping mice will ensure that there will be more
gripping mice to have more--and healthier--offspring,
eventually resulting in mice with prehensile tails), it's
fairly clear that Lamarckism confuses cause with effect.
It would also require that changes in body parts could
affect reproductive DNA, which does not happen.  There
is, however, a strong progressive element in Lamarck's
own ideas--the ones that Wolfe claims to adhere to--and
this progressive element (it suggests that life is always
improving itself, and that the evolution of humans is, in
a way, therefore inevitable) may appeal to Wolfe or to
his religious beliefs.  You can read more about Lamarck
and Lamarckism, and about Lamarckism in nineteenth-
century literature (which is probably relevant to Wolfe's
ideas), on this very informative Web site:
http://www.clarehall.cam.ac.uk/~djhc2/index.htm (click
on the Biographies link for information about Lamarck
himself and his original ideas).

Mark Millman

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

<--prev V12 next-->