Will Lamarck Have the Last Laugh After All? → Washingtons Blog
Will Lamarck Have the Last Laugh After All? - Washingtons Blog

Monday, May 11, 2009

Will Lamarck Have the Last Laugh After All?

Jean Baptiste Lamarck was a naturalist who wrote about the theory of evolution long before Darwin. However, Lamarck is best known for his theory that an animal's interactions with its environment change its body in a way which is passed on to its offspring - the theory of "inheritance of acquired characteristics".

In other words, Lamarck believed that interaction with one's environment changes your body, and those changes are passed on to your children.

For well over a hundred years, biology teachers have taught that Lamarck was an idiot, and that inheritance of acquired characteristics is impossible.

However, a new scientific study shows that environmental influences can, in fact, change one's genetic make up.

Can that genetic change, in turn, get passed on to one's kids? The study did not look at that question.

However, there is actually an entire field of science called "epigenetics", which studies changes in phenotype (appearance) or gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence.

Epigeneticists say that genetic changes can be caused by interaction with the environment may last for multiple generations.

But can such changes be passed down to all future generations? Was Lamarck right after all, or does inheritance of acquired characteristics only apply to a very limited set of genes or only over the course of several generations (with Darwinian evolution still accounting for the bulk evolutionary changes)?

These are hot scientific questions, and further research needs to be conducted before we have the answers.


  1. A hygenist that I know, fresh out of college tells me today's babies are born with less wisdom teeth than people 50 years ago

  2. In pocket lint lies vindication of the notion of spontaneous generation.


→ Thank you for contributing to the conversation by commenting. We try to read all of the comments (but don't always have the time).

→ If you write a long comment, please use paragraph breaks. Otherwise, no one will read it. Many people still won't read it, so shorter is usually better (but it's your choice).

→ The following types of comments will be deleted if we happen to see them:

-- Comments that criticize any class of people as a whole, especially when based on an attribute they don't have control over

-- Comments that explicitly call for violence

→ Because we do not read all of the comments, I am not responsible for any unlawful or distasteful comments.