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11 Developing Evolution I.M.: Nine years have elapsed since Evolution in Four Dimensions was first published. I would like to know what has happened since then. Has your developmental-evolutionary approach met with approval? More important , have new data and new ideas affected your views? It will be easiest for everyone if you start at the beginning and describe new developments in the subject matter chapter by chapter. I also want to take this opportunity to prompt you to fill in some of the gaps that were left in your discussions and arguments of nine years ago. So, to begin at the beginning, let me ask you whether there have been any changes in your understanding of the history of ideas about evolution that was given in chapter 1. I would then like you to speculate about how historians of the future will see the last nine years or so. What do you think they will identify as the most significant developments for evolutionary biology? M.E.: For reasons that will become clear when we answer your last question , going through the book chapter by chapter is not the best way of dealing with all the new work. Nevertheless, we will start by saying something about the historical background that we gave in chapter 1. The year 2009 was a fascinating and exhausting one for people interested in evolutionary ideas because it was the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin. All over the world there were meetings at which aspects of Darwin’s work and its influence were dissected and scrutinized.1 There were anniversary issues of leading journals, and a spate of articles and books about Darwinian evolution.2 In addition, although it received far less attention, 2009 was the anniversary of another landmark in the history of evolutionary thinking—it was 200 years since the publication of Lamarck’s Zoologie philosophique. Consequently, Lamarck’s ideas and influence received much more attention than usual. We were involved in a workshop that was held to celebrate this 200th anniversary. It brought together leading biologists, historians, and philosophers to discuss various 380 Chapter 11 aspects of Lamarck’s life, work, and legacy.3 One outcome was The Transformations of Lamarckism, a volume of essays by the participants and summaries of some of their discussions. The historians’ analyses of Lamarck’s ideas, his reputation, and his influence show how distorted the textbook accounts of his life and work have been. Contrary to the myths perpetuated in nonspecialist writings, which depict him as an isolated figure who developed a new but unconvincing theory of evolution based on the inheritance of acquired characters, Lamarck had a considerable scientific reputation in France and the rest of Europe during his own lifetime and for many years afterward. Various components of his transformation theory, some of which were current well before he started his work, were integrated into the evolution theories of other biologists during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After the publication of The Origin, evolution theorists used aspects of both Darwin’s and Lamarck’s ideas in various proportions. For example, the significance given to the environment in the development of variation (which Lamarck emphasized) and to its role in selection (which Darwin emphasized) depended on the scientist, and on the scientific and cultural traditions in which he or she worked.4 Even during the period of the Modern Synthesis, ideas about evolution differed in different countries, with developmental aspects receiving more attention in some places than in others.5 Recent scholarship such as that presented during the anniversaries year does not demand a change in the account of the history of evolutionary ideas that we sketched in chapter 1. It does, however, make its sketchiness even more obvious. If we were rewriting the chapter, we would undoubtedly wish to incorporate some of the interesting new analyses, particularly those revealing the interactions between and among social, political, and evolutionary ideas. However, the chapter would have to be much, much longer. Your second, teasing question was about what future historians of evolutionary biology might see as the most significant developments over the past nine years. Quite obviously, more time will have to elapse before it becomes possible to give a sensible answer to this question. Any answer we give now is bound to be different from the answer we would give in ten years’ time, and future historians will probably home in on topics that...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780262322676
Related ISBN
9780262525848
MARC Record
OCLC
878130644
Pages
576
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-24
Language
English
Open Access
No
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