Edited by John Laurent and John Nightingale
Chapter 7: Nesting Lamarckism within Darwinian Explanations: Necessity in Economics and Possibility in Biology?
Thorbjørn Knudsen1 The role of Lamarck in the social sciences seems to mirror that of Darwin in biology. In biology, it is an established fact that evolution is Darwinian. Even if the implications of Darwin’s theory were not unlike those of Lamarck’s, Darwin’s claims have been systematically substantiated by empirical studies to an extent that has been impossible to ignore: Darwin’s theory is today universally held by modern biologists. Neo-Darwinism has been so successful that one of its pillars, the central dogma, is commonly thought an unassailable truth. According to the central dogma, information can flow from the genetic code to protein but never in the reverse direction.2 Against this view, the immunologist Ted Steele has been the lone maverick who in the last twenty years has advocated the possibility of Lamarckian selection in biology. Steele’s book, Somatic Selection and Adaptive Evolution, caused a temporary stir in the beginning of the 1980s but was soon forgotten when it turned out that his argument could not be supported by empirical evidence (Cronin, 1991). However, Ted Steele and co-workers continued to develop their theory of Lamarckian inheritance through the 1990s and have recently summarised their views in Lamarck’s Signature (1998).3 For the biologist, the most important implication of Steele et al. (1998), if taken seriously, is undoubtedly the theoretical possibility that the central dogma may be violated by the molecular processes involved in immunological response. Their book highlights a crucial difficulty for the natural-selection explanation of immunological response, that of...
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