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In defence of Lamarck

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11/23/2016 4:00:34 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Note - defence of Lamarck, not Lamarckism!

Poor old Lamarck is sometimes lumped in with other non-Darwinians such as creationists and their provisional wing the ID brigade.

The truth is that Lamarck was radical in that his theory was entirely mechanistic and cut god out of the picture two generations before Darwin did. As a result he became deeply unpopular in French academic circles, eventually dying blind and broke. Darwin was buried Westminster Abbey - Lamarck body was tossed into a mass grave for paupers. Lamarck wasn't a luddute reactionary - he was ahead of his time.

Lamarck and Darwin agreed on the facts of evolution such as common descent and gradual change. The only difference was what drove that evolutionary change. They both believed it was an entirely natural driver - for Darwin it was the inevitable variation between individuals, for Lamarck it was the phenotype's environment affecting its genotype (although he wouldn't have put it that way). But neither of them had any role for a supernatural agency in their schemes and their schemes have far more in common than Lamarckism has with creationism or ID.

It is Lamarck we owe the bold and imaginative step of showing that you don't need the gods to explain the diversity of life. Darwin took a giant step forward in refining Lamarck's idea, but Lamarck got there first. Lamarck was not a fool but visionary without whom Darwin might not have been able to do what he did.