Lamarkian evolution: Has Neo-Darwinism completely replaced it?

In the Preface of his book, “Genetics of Original Sin; The Impact of Natural Selection on the Future of Humanity”, the Nobel prize winning cytologist and biochemist, Christian de Duve states: The “culprit” in this scientific interpretation of the myth of “original sin” is natural selection which has sustained in our genes the traits that proved immediately useful to the survival and reproduction of our ancestors but have now become dangerously harmful. If we wish to escape the fate that awaits us, we must take advantage of our unique ability to consciously and deliberately act against natural selection."[emphasis mine]

In the first chapter, The Unity of Life, de Duve discusses (from much the same perspective of the BioLogos experts) how Genesis should be read taking into account the knowledge and language of the authors’ time. He offers a clear (but rather short) summary of the positions taken by YEC, OEC, EC proponents. He explains the position of the Catholic Church as accepting the biological descent of humans but the creation of the human soul as being a special event.

In Chapter 8 de Duve states the current scientific belief that Darwinian selection constitutes the main mechanism of biological evolution, but then goes on to explain how genetic drift accompanies evolution without selection. In a more controversial vein, he discusses the possibility of “Lamarkian inheritance” occurring by means of phenomena recently grouped under the term “epigenetics”, a term long used in an entirely different meaning by developmental biologists and neurobiologists. To quote him directly: “In this new meaning, epigenetics refers to a number of inheritable traits that are not written into the DNA sequences but accompany the DNA in germ cells and influence subsequent events in the fertilized egg. Such traits include the blockage of certain bases by chemical groups (for example, methyl groups) or the manner in which DNA is combined with the local proteins, or histones, in the chromosomes. Some of the most exciting new findings are being made in this area.”

In Chapter 9 titled ‘The Emergence of Humans’, de Duve presents a subject previously discussed at length in this Forum. In explaining the importance of articulation and language in the relatively sudden emergence of Homo sapiens sapiens, he notes the 'typical evo-devo manner that this evolutionary history is “recapitulated” in early chid development, since newborns have the typical larynx-to-pharynx closeness of the other mammals and, as a result, can emit only unformed cries. In the course of the first two years of development, the baby’s larynx slowly descends , and the ability to speak appears."

de Duve echoes the conclusions of Jared Diamond, Ian Tattersall, and Simon Conway Morriss, stating: "that this crucial event may well have signaled what is sometimes called the “great breakthrough” or the “great leap forward”, the dramatic expansion of human achievements that occurred in the last 50,000 yrs."

This book is a great read. It contains much food for thought.
Al Leo


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