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From: David_Lebling@avid.com
Subject: (urth) Lamarckism Explained
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 10:27:42 

Those interested in Wolfe's profession of belief in Lamarckism (mentioned
in _Castle of the Otter_, among other places) are referred to this month's
(February, 1999, I think) issue of _Natural History_.  Stephen J. Gould's
column is about Lamarck.

Lamarck's theory of evolution is also known as the "two-factor theory."
One factor is a push towards increasing complexity.  The other (which is
the part often caricatured as "giraffes stretching their necks") is a push
from the environment which results in variation orthogonal to the level of

The idea seems to be that the vertical line of increased complexity leads
from inanimate to animate to microorganisms to worms to reptiles to mammals
(to simplify the progression overmuch).  The orthogonal push of
environmental pressure (and we don't seem to be talking about "natural
selection", but something else) produces variations on the basic theme, so
we get bears and hippos and moles and squirrels once we have mammals.

It is possible that what Wolfe is interested in in Lamarck is the
"increasing complexity" factor, which to my mind allows the idea of
progressive evolution rather than chance mutation and adaptation.  This has
always been one of the two big problems some believers (including believers
in Marx) have with Darwin; the other, of course being the inclusion of
humans in the theory.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a confimed

     -- Dave Lebling
     (aka vizcacha)

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

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