Well, that’s how The Scientist describes it:
How one generation’s experience can affect the next
Caution! The article begins by denouncing the crackpot theories of Lysenko along these lines, and piously informs us that “science” has since discovered that there is something in epigenetics after all.
Any history that leaves out the ridicule to which Lamarck was routinely subjected, without justification, by Darwin’s followers is revisionism, pure and simple.
But then, the people responsible have some butt to cover, right?
Not only is epigenetic information inherited during cellular division, but it can also be passed from one generation to the next in multicellular organisms, a phenomenon known as transgenerational epigenetics. This requires that epigenetic information be carried in the gametes—sperm and eggs—and be maintained throughout the dramatic changes that occur during gamete production, fertilization, and early development. While researchers once considered this unlikely, recent studies have begun to demonstrate that parents can and do pass on epigenetic information to their children.
Okay, Lamarck was right. And reading the brief, potted history, evidence that supported him began to be available in the 1950s.
This idea, often referred to as the inheritance of acquired characters, was one aspect of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s early evolutionary theories. But the current use of “Lamarckian inheritance” to refer to transgenerational epigenetic inheritance is something of a misnomer. In fact, the inheritance of acquired characters was hardly the defining feature of Lamarck’s beliefs. His evolutionary theory did not include the basic concept of natural selection, and did not have a place for phenotypic variation existing prior to environmental challenges. Moreover, both Darwin and Lamarck believed that traits acquired in one’s lifetime could be passed on. Famously, Darwin even developed a model of inheritance that invoked “gemmules,” which carried information from all parts of the body to alter the characteristics of the next generation.
Not a misnomer. Lamarck was right.
It’s not clear that natural selection is anything other than Darwin’s tautology, under the circumstances. The survivors survive.
And yes, Darwin personally grew favourable over time to Lamarck’s ideas, but his followers did not.
But its father’s diet is not the only environmental factor that can affect the biology of a rodent: stress experienced by fathers can also negatively impact future offspring. A number of studies from Tracy Bale’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that prospective mouse fathers subjected to stressful environments, such as separation from their mothers at a young age, have offspring that exhibit altered cortisol release in response to stress.8 Similarly, Mount Sinai neurobiologist Eric Nestler and his colleagues have shown that male mice subjected to social defeat sire offspring with altered anxiety- and depression-related behaviors, such as decreased time spent in exposed areas. More.
In short, Lamarck was right, as regards his most important (rejected) idea, inheritance of acquired characteristics. Recipe for further success faster: Quit listening to the Darwin lobby and stuff the revisionism about what really happened on their watch. And get on with actual science.
See also: Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!
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