>> Monday, November 23, 2009
Few write on the history of evolutionary theory as compellingly as John Wilkins. (Had his Species: the History of an Idea and Defining Species: a Sourcebook from Antiquity to Today been available in 2002, I could've avoided years of thankless legwork and finished my dissertation with normative time to spare. Not that I'm bitter.) So I can think of no better way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin than to listen to Wilkins speculate about what would have happened had it never existed. My only qualm is with this paragraph:
Lamarckism, by which I mean the progressivist view of evolution, not the “acquired inheritance” version that has little to do directly with Lamarck and anyway is set up as a contrast with Weismann not Darwin, would have played an even greater role in people’s thinking than it did. It may still be with us now—we would be trying to figure out how progress occurs out of necessity, rather than it being the rather odd view of people like Conway Morris.I think scholars who focus more on the scientific literature underestimate the popular appeal of what amounts to quasi-Lamarckian thought both then and now ... but then again, as I'm the person who wrote my dissertation, I would.