RE: Darwin and Lamarck

Gatherer, D. (
Wed, 28 Apr 1999 09:08:30 +0200

Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 09:08:30 +0200
From: "Gatherer, D. (Derek)" <>
Subject: RE: Darwin and Lamarck
To: "''" <>


What are your thoughts re the various data in the New Scientist
article I posted ?


I think genomic imprinting is very interesting, but mostly from the point of
view of developmental biology. I don't think it constitutes any threat to
Darwinism. If you read Dennett's 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea' you can see that
a lot of new theories that are apparently anti-Darwinian can actually easily
be accomodated. Dennett discusses imprinting in that book. [Mind you, I do
think that Dennett goes a bit far in that book in his criticism of SJ Gould,
but that's another matter]

Regarding memetics, if you look at Fig. 1 of Jablonka you can see genetic
assimilation effects are proposed for both behavioural and linguistic
mechanisms. So although we (or rather our ape ancestors) had to learn a lot
of new behaviours at various times during our past, many of these are now
instinctive (or instinctual, what's the right word?). The single salient
example would be language itself (Pinker 1994), and even once language had
developed, it might via genetic assimilation drive a lot of selection (I
think Nick Humphreys has made this point but I don't have a reference).

This has been modelled memetically (Laland 1992). The conclusion of that
simulation was that it can happen, but it must only happen quite rarely!
The reason is, as Laland shows, that memetic selection pressures must be
very hight to overcome genetic ones. The genes nearly always win, if
Laland's model is correct.

Laland KN (1992) A theoretical investigation of the role of social
transmission in evolution. Ethology and Sociobiology 13, 87-113.

Pinker S (1994) The Language Instinct. Allen Lane/The Penguin Press

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