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Epigenetics: Lamarck, the evolution desk is yours again, if you like

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Evolution News and Views

At Evolution News & Views:

Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!

To recap, Darwinism entails vertical transfer of genes from a common ancestor to descendants. Horizontal gene transfer means transfer of genes from one organism to another on contact, irrespective of the ancestry of either life form. HGT is a form of evolution, yes. But it drastically weakens the status of Darwinism as the “only known theory.” Any Darwinian claim about evolution must first rule out HGT as a possible explanation. And, as we shall shortly see, it must rule out epigenetics as well.

Why does this historic shift in the burden of proof receive comparatively little attention? Probably it’s due to the overwhelming acceptance of Darwinism as a cultural metaphor and philosophy of life. One thinks, for example, of Amazon citing “purposeful Darwinism” and taking Darwinian Theory to the max as a defense against a recent exposé of the firm’s labor conditions. The concepts Amazon advances are scientifically meaningless but culturally meaningful. And culture drowns out science.

Thus, when talking to fossils (or current living forms), our challenge is to listen to what they have to say, not what the Darwinian interpreters of the fossils (and of almost everything else) have to say.


Which brings us to epigenetics. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) was an early evolutionist who proposed that life forms could acquire information from their environment and pass it on in their genes. He was dismissed, when not ridiculed, by Darwinists for many decades (though not, as it happens, by Darwin). But the basic thrust of his idea has recently resurfaced in epigenetics.

There is an irony in the way the resurgence came about. A key science achievement of the 1990s was the mapping of the human genome.


Who guessed that the genome, of all things, would be, not Darwinism’s triumph, but its grave?

See also: Talk to the Fossils: Let’s see what they say back

Evolution: The fossils speak, but hardly with one voice

Evolution appears to converge on goals—but in Darwinian terms, is that possible?

Horizontal gene transfer: Sorry, Darwin, it’s not your evolution any more

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