Debates continue about organic evolution 100 years after publication
When Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was alive in the 18th century, and early 19th century, Georges Cuvier was a dominant biologist in France. And the latter was not a supporter of evolution.
After the former’s death, the doctrine of organic evolution was eventually accepted by most scientists. But not Lamarck, but Charles Darwin was recognized as the founder of the theory that all living things evolve.
Lamarck’s personal life was also full of unhappiness _ he survived the death of his three wives; out of eight children, one was deaf, and another was clinically insane; he turned blind in his later days.
Things did not get better after his death as he was buried in a common grave. Later, his body was dug up together with other remains and was lost. In other words, there is no such a thing as his graveyard.
In his 1901 book “Lamarck, the Founder of Evolution,” Prof. Alpheus Packard in Brown University tries to deprive Darwin of at least a portion of his laurels so as to praise Lamarck.
The author notes that Lamarck was one of the first scientists to come up with the idea that adaptation took place in species to help them better survive in the environment.
The French biologist also claimed that the physical changes were passed down to the next generation.
Of course, Lamarck mistakenly asserted a theory on the inheritance of acquired characteristics. But the thing is that Darwin also believed the theory while introducing the idea of natural selection.
Prof. Packard argues that Lamarck’s use-disuse model at least attempts to find the true and real cause of organic evolution.
“Natural selection, as the writer from the first has insisted, is not a vera causa, an initial or impelling cause in the origination of new species and genera,” Prof. Packard said.
“It does not start the ball in motion: it only, so to speak, guides its movements down this or that incline.”
He concludes, “At the end of the very century, in which Lamarck, whatever his crudities, vagueness, and lack of observations and experiments, published his views, wherein are laid the foundations on which natural selection rests, the consensus of opinion as to the direct and indirect influence of the environment, and the inadequacy of natural selection as an initial factor, was becoming stronger and deeper-rooted each year.”
Indeed, this book is older than a century. But it is still one of the best books to show the life and theory of Lamarck.