Human evolution theory utilizing concepts of neoteny & female sexual selection
An etiology of neuropsychological disorders such as autism and dyslexia, and the origin of left handedness.

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Jean Baptiste Lamarck

Lamarck: bibliographical excerpts


"A definite belief, openly expressed, that not only are many species mutable, but that all living forms, whether animal or vegetable, are descended from a single, or at any rate from not many, original low forms of life, and this as the direct consequence of the actions and requirements of the living forms themselves, and as the indirect consequence of changed conditions. A definite cause is thus supposed to underlie variations, and the resulting adaptations become purposive; but this was not said, nor, I am afraid, seen. This is the original Darwinism of Dr. Erasmus Darwin. It was put forward in his 'Zoonomia,' in 1794, and was adopted almost in its entirety by Lamarck, who, when he had caught the leading idea (probably through a French translation of the 'Loves of the plants,' which appeared in 1800), began to expound it in 1801; in 1802, 1803, 1806, and 1809, he developed it with greater fulness of detail than Dr. Darwin had done, but perhaps with a somewhat less nice sense of some important points." (Butler, S (1882) Evolution, Old & New. Dutton, New York p. 63-4)

"There is, it may also be observed, no evidence that Lamarck plagiarized Erasmus Darwin. The long-continued and widespread belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics historically documented by Professor Zirkle of the University of Pennsylvania makes it very likely, as we have earlier remarked, that both men were simply working in the same climate of ideas. Lamarck's name has by historical chance become so heavily associated with the doctrine of acquired characteristics that it is often assumed he invented it. Yet after an exhaustive treatement of the subject, running back through several centuries, Zirkle remarks: "It is interesting for us to note how many of Lamarck's contemporaries stated than such characters were inherited and to note how completely these statements have been overlooked by modern biologists." ... there was nothing startlingly new about this--all the originality lay in its application to evolution."(Eiseley, L (1958) Darwin’s Centry. Anchor Books: New York p. 50)

"Although the ideas concerning the consequences of the use and disuse of organs and the inheritance of acquired characteristics had been around since at least the time of Aristotle (Zirkle, 1946), these concepts had never before been applied to the question of evolution--that was Lamarck's entirely original theoretical contribution (Burkhardt, 1977; Zirkle, 1946)." (Gilbert, G (1992) Individual Development & Evolution. Oxford Univ. Press: New York p. 14)

"Lamarck believed in a constant, spontaneous generation, so far as low forms of life were concerned, and he assumed a living scale of life which, in some respects, is reminiscent of the old Scala Naturae, although he broke partially away from the simple ladder arrangement. He believed in alteration rather than extinction. Any missing taxonomical links simply remained to be discovered. Thus, in so far as he studied man, he would have derived him from a living primate--probably the ever serviceable orang. As the world alters, as geographic and climatic areas change, new influences are brought to bear upon plant and animal life. In the course of long ages transformations in this life occur. These alterations are the product of use, of the effort which the animal makes to employ those parts which are most serviceable to it under the new conditions. As time passes related species may differentiate further and further from each other and these changes will be retained through heredity. Physiological need will promote the formation of new organs or alteration of old ones. Disuse, on the contrary, will promote their loss." (Eiseley, L (1958) Darwin’s Centry. Anchor Books: New York p. 48-9)

"Both [Darwin & Lamarck] (and in this respect Lamarck was far ahead of most of his generation) recognized that vast intervals of time were involved in the process of organic change. Each visualized the process of organic change. Each visualized the process as continuous, not saltatory. Each saw clearly that it was the exceedingly slow tempo of evolution as contrasted with the development of the individual which gave the illusion of total organic stability. Both saw life as branching and ramifying into a diversity of habitats and becoming by degrees ecologically adapted. Eiseley, L (1958) Darwin’s Centry. Anchor Books: New York p. 200)

"It seems, as I have already said, the time and favourable circumstances are the two principal means which nature uses in creating all its products. We know that time has no end for it, and is consequently always at its disposal. As to the circumstances of which it has need, and which it still uses all the time to change its productions, one can say that they are in effect inexhaustible. The main circumstances are derived from the influence of climate; changes in the temperature of the atmosphere and of all the environement; from the variety of places, of habits, movements, actions; and lastly form the variety of modes of life, conservation, defence, multiplication, etc. etc. Now consequent upon these different influences the faculties are widened and strengthened by use, they are changed by new habits maintained for a long time; and gradually the conformation, consistence, the nature and state of the parts of organs, affected by the results of all these influences, are conserved and are spread by reproduction." (Lamarck, JB (1984 (1809)) Zoological Philosophy: An Expostion with Regard to the Natural History of Animals. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago p. 414)

"It is interesting to observe the result of habit in the peculiar shape and size of the giraffe (Camelo-paradalis): this animal, the largest of the mammals, is known to live in the interior of Africa in places where the soil is nearly always arid and barren, so that it is obliged to browse on the leaves of trees to make constant efforts t reach them. From this habit long maintained in all its race, it has resulted that the animal's fore-legs have become longer than its hind legs, and that its neck is lengthened to such a degree that the giraffe, without standing up on its hind legs, attains a height of sex metres (nearly 20 feet). " (Lamarck, JB (1984 (1809)) Zoological Philosophy: An Expostion with Regard to the Natural History of Animals. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago p. 122)

"We find in the same way that the bird of the water-side which does not like swimming and yet is in need of going to the water's edge to secure its prey, is continually liable to sink in the mud. Now this bird tries to act in such a way that its body should not be immersed in the liquid, and hence makes its best efforts to stretch and lengthen its legs. The long-established habit acquired by this bird and all its ract of continually stretching and lengthening its legs, results in the individuals of this ract becoming raised as though on stilts, and gradually obtaining long, bare legs, denuded of feathers up to the thighs and often higher still." (Lamarck, JB (1984 (1809)) Zoological Philosophy: An Expostion with Regard to the Natural History of Animals. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago pp. 119-120)

"First Law In every animal which has not passed the limit of its development, a more frequent and continuous use of any organ gradually strengthens, develops and enlarges that organ, and gives it a power proportional to the length of time it has been so used: while the permanent disuse of any organ imperceptibly weakens and deteriorates it, and progressively diminishes its functional capacity, until it disappears. Second Law All the acquisitions or losses wrought by nature on individuals, through the influence of the environment in which their race has long been placed, and hence through the influence of the predominant use of permanent disuse of any organ; all these are preserved by reproduction to the new individuals which arise, provided that the acquired modifications are common to both sexes, or at least to the individuals which produce the young." (Lamarck, JB (1984 (1809)) Zoological Philosophy: An Expostion with Regard to the Natural History of Animals. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago p. 113)

"Jean Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) was the first major proponent of the idea of evolution at the species level. His most important work for the present purpose was his treatise on Zoological Philosophy, which was first published in France in 1809 and translated into English in 1914 (reissued in 1984). It was in that book that Lamarck laid out his ideas and his arguments for the highly controversial notion that species are mutable. That is, Lamarck held that species can evolve and are not permanently fixed, as most naturalists of the time believed they were. It is a terrible irony that Lamarck's name is irrevocably connected with the concept of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, whereas his truly original conception was the idea of organic evolution at the species level. For Lamarck the concept of evolution was the way to understand the eventual emergence of higher psychological functions such as attention, thinking, memory, judgement, imagination, and reasoning. As Richard W. Burkhardt, Jr. (1977), one of Lamarck's biographers, has made clear, Lamarck was above alla systematic thinker ever on the alert for the large facts; "the great truths, which the philosophers could not discover because they had not sufficiently observed nature, and which the zoologists have not perceived because they have occupied themselves too much with matters of detail" (Lamarck, 1809/1984). For Lamarck behavioral adaptability plays a central role in the evolutionary changes in bodily form--it is habits that bring about morphological changes and not the other way around. No writer before or since has made behavior play such as explicitly important role in evolution. Similarly, no writer before or since has made behavioral adaptability such a central concept in fostering evolutionary change. It was Lamarck's view that changes in the environment create challenges and opportunities that are met by animals changing their behavioral habits. The changes in habit eventually change the bodies of the animals." (Gottlieb, G (1992) Individual Development & Evolution. Oxford Univ. Press: New York p. 10-11)

"Now I shall endeavor to show that variations in the environment induce changes in the needs, habits and mode of life of living beings, and especially of animals; and that these changes give rise to modifications or developments in their organs and the shape of their parts. If this is so, it is difficult to deny that the shape or external characters of every living body whatever must vary imperceptibly, although that variation only becomes perceptible after a considerable time." (Lamarck, JB (1984 (1809)) Zoological Philosophy: An Expostion with Regard to the Natural History of Animals. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago p. 45)

"Everything then combines to prove my statement, namely: that it is not the shape either of the body or its parts which gives rise to the habits of animals and their mode of life; but that it is, on the contrary, the habits, mode of life and all the other influences of the environement which have in course of time built up the shape of the body and of the parts of animals. With new shapes, new faculties have been acquired, and little by little nature has succeeded in fachioning animals such as we actually see them." (Lamarck, JB (1984 (1809)) Zoological Philosophy: An Expostion with Regard to the Natural History of Animals. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago p. 127)

"Those which have changed the least, doubtless because their domestication is of shorter standing and because they do not live in a foreign climate, none the less display great differences in some of their parts, as a result of the habits which we have made them contracts. Thus our domestic ducks and geese are of the same type as wild ducks and geese; but ours have lost the power of rising into high regions of the air and flying across large tracts of country; moreover, a real change has come about in the state of their parts, as compared with those of the animals of the race from which they come. Who does not know that if we rear some bird of our own climate in a cage and it lives there for five or six years, and if we then return it to nature by setting it at liberty, it is no longer able to fly like its fellows, which have always been free? The slight change of environment for this individual has indeed only diminished its power of flight, and doubtless has worked no change in its structure; but if a long succession of generations of individuals of the same race had been kept in captivity for a considerable period, there is no doubt that even the structure of these individuals would gradually have undergone notable changes. Still more, if instead of a mere continuous captivity, this environmental factor had been further accompanied by a change to a very different climate; and if these individuals had by degrees been habituated to to other kinds of food and other activities for seizing it, these factors when combined together and become permanent would unquestionably given rise imperceptibly to a new race with quite special characters. Where in natural conditions do we find that multitude of races of dogs which now actually exist, owing to the domestication to which we have reduced them? Where do we find those bull-dogs, grey-hounds, water-spaniels, spaniels, lap-dogs, etc., etc.: races which show wider differences than those which we call specific when they occur among animals of one genus living in natural freedom? No doubt a single, original race, closely resembling the wolf, if indeed it was not actually the wolf, was at some period reduced by man to domestication. That race, of which all the individuals were then alike, was gradually scattered with man into different countries and climate; and after they had been subjected for some time to the influences of their environment and of the various habits which had been forced upon them in each country, they underwent remarkable alterations and formed various special races." (Lamarck, JB (1984 (1809)) Zoological Philosophy: An Expostion with Regard to the Natural History of Animals. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago p. 110-111)

"These, and sundry other passages, joined with his general scheme of classification, make it clear that Lamarck conceived adaptive modification to be, not the cause of progression, but the cause of irregularities in progression. The inherent tendency which organisms have, to develop into more perfect forms, would, according to him, result in a uniform series of forms; but varieties in their conditions work divergences of structure, which break up the series into groups: groups which he nevertheless places in uni-serial order, and regards as still substantially composing an ascending succession." (Spencer, Herbert (1898 (1865)) Principles of Biology. Appleton, New York. p. 408)

"As professor Gillispie has pointed out, Lamarck was a late eighteenth-century Diest. Evolution, in his eyes, "was the accomplishment of an immanent purpose to perfect the creation." Thus in his thought the old fixed ladder of being had been transformed into an "escalaor." Life, in simple forms, is constantly emerging, and, through its own inner perfecting principle or drive, it begins to achieve complexity and to ascend toward higher levels. In this way Lamarck accounted for the presence of simple forms of life at the present day. Except for the presence of the physical environment Lamarck seems to have felt that nature would arrange itself in a perfect ascending scale comparable to the old theologically concieved ladder of existence. The physical environment, however, shifts with time and circumstance. This brings about changes in the life needs of the organism. The mutability of needs, argued Lamarck, brings about changes in behavior which in turn effect alterations of habit, which then be slow degrees involve the bodily structure of the organism. Because of this constant environmental adjustment the animal is diverted from achieving the pure, abstract perfection represented by the Scale of Being concept, and is forced into branching pathways of adjustment. The orang driven into the wilderness does not become man though he possesses this potentiality." (Eiseley, L (1958) Darwin’s Centry. Anchor Books: New York p. 50-51)

"With his preformationist tenet, Bonnet could reconcile two notions of God that might otherwise clash; a conviction that the benevolent God of Christianity had ordained a universal history marked by increasing perfection, progress, and happiness, and a belief that God had acted but once, and that the world's order implied the construction of its entire history by this single act. Both notions are implicit in Bonnet's most famous conception: his chain of being. The chain extended without interruption from "first term, the atom" to "highest of the CHERUBIM" (1764, p. 29). 'Between the lowest and highest degree of spiritual and corporal perfection, there is an almost infinite number of intermediate degrees. The succession of degrees compromises the Universal Chain. It unites all beings, ties together all worlds, embraces all the spheres. One SINGLE BEING is outside this chain, and this is HE who made it. (p. 27). (Gould, S.J. (1977) Ontegeny and Phylogeny. Cambridge: Belknap Press. p. 23)

"Of course there were problems, particularly with the facts of heredity. If the whole organism comes from a germinal structure contained within the mother, how can the offspring inherit any of the father's characteristics? Bonnet solved this problem by suggesting that male semen was needed to start the germ developing, thus could transmit some of the father's individual peculiarities. In the end, he concluded that the germ defines only the structure of the species, not of the individual: it contains only the basic characteristics ensuring that the organism will grow to be a man, a dog, a horse, and so forth. All individual characteristics are produced by the matter absorbed into the germ as it grows, first from male semen and then from the mother's womb. Bonnet also insisted that the germ was not an exact miniature of the adult organism, which one might expect to recognize through a microscope. It contained only an outline of the basic structure, which had to be filled out to become visible -- it would be no more recognizable in its original state than a man-shaped balloon would be when deflated. (Barnes and Shapin, 1979; Shapin, 1982). (Bowler PJ (1984) Evolution, The HIstory of an Idea. Univ of California Press: Berkeley p. 56)

"If Lamarck considered the action of the environment as the basic source of changes in animals and thereby the moving force of their evolution, influencing the strengthening and weakening of organ functions and, in turn, evoking hereditary changes in organs, Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Halaire was more a follower of Buffon in his evolutionary views. Saint-Hilaire rejected the origin of adaptations acquired by habit and proposed that the single cause of change is the direct influence of the environment even when the organisms behave completely passively in their habitat." (Blacher, L. I. (1982) The Problem of the Inheritance of Acquired Characters. Amerind Publishing: New Delhi p. 26)

"Yet humans display an 'inverse system of development' (1836b, p.7), [Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire] for our brain does not so quickly cease its growth: both form and behavior remain close to the juvenile state. Could human ontogeny represent an 'arrest of development' with respect to the next lower link in the chain of being? Geoffroy preferred to save recapitulation by regarding the adult orang as anomalous -- as a form developed 'too far' in its own ontogeny and therefore not recapitulated during human development: 'This new revelation of such a great departure from the rules {of recapitulation} that we have discovered is a teratological fact of the greatest importance' (1836a, p. 94.) (Gould, S.J. (1977) Ontegeny and Phylogeny. Cambridge: Belknap Press. p. 355)

[Corsi quoting from Lamarck, 1809, pp. 355-356] "At the same time {they} had to multiply their ideas, after which they {felt} the need to communicate with their fellow creatures. This understandably led to the need to increase and diversify in the same proportion the sounds suitable for communicating ideas... {The quadrumanes} could no longer make do with pantomime signs, or with the range of possible vocal inflections, inadequate to represent so many signs. This will have led them in different ways to form articulated sounds." (Corsi, Pietro (1988) The Age of Lamarck. Univ. of California Press: Berkeley p. 204)

"The only materialist to suggest a genuine connection between man and the apes was Lamarck, whose theory of development naturally implied that man had evolved from a lower form. The orangutan was pointed out as the most likely ancestral form, but by the time Lamarck made this suggestion the materialist outlook represented by this theory had gone out of fashion." (Bowler PJ (1984) Evolution, The HIstory of an Idea. Univ of California Press: Berkeley p. 87)

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