Article ID: CBB508803217

The Evolutionary Thought of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (2021)


The name Lamarck is very well known in the teaching of biology, being associated with an early effort to explain evolution. Nevertheless, when evolution is taught in the classroom, the only Lamarckian ideas that stand out are related to the ‘inheritance of acquired characters’, invariably illustrated by the example of the lengthening of giraffes’ necks, as a way of contrasting Lamarckian ideas with Darwinian natural selection. Our aim here is to argue that there are other important ideas in Lamarck’s work that are directly related to the origin and transformation of species. These concepts, causal explanations of organic nature, can be taught to students who are learning about the sources and development of evolutionary thought and will moreover provide the student with properly justified reasons as to why Lamarck’s explanation is considered to be the first wide-ranging and well-argued explanation of biological evolution. The Lamarckian concepts that we consider important for teaching evolutionary thought are the following: (1) the species as an arbitrary concept, directly related to the Lamarckian concept of the continuous transformation of species, (2) the ancestor–descendant relationship, and organic diversification from a common plan of organisation to a branching series, (3) gradual change, related to changes in environmental conditions, and (4) the controversy concerning the origin of life (that is, having either a natural cause or a divine origin), life’s transformation, and the natural origin of human beings, including our moral capacity, subjects which were related to Lamarck’s other political and philosophical interests.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Chapter Corsi, Pietro; (2011)
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck: from Myth to History (/isis/citation/CBB001500081/)

Chapter Burkhardt, Richard W., Jr.; (2011)
Lamarck, Cuvier, and Darwin on Animal Behavior and Acquired Characters (/isis/citation/CBB001500083/)

Chapter Rupke, Nicolaas; (2008)
The Origin of Species from Linnaeus to Darwin (/isis/citation/CBB000953673/)

Book Gissis, Snait B.; Jablonka, Eva; (2011)
Transformations of Lamarckism: From Subtle Fluids to Molecular Biology (/isis/citation/CBB001500079/)

Article Gissis, Snait; (2009)
Interactions between Social and Biological Thinking: The Case of Lamarck (/isis/citation/CBB000932272/)

Article Caponi, Gustavo; (2011)
Los taxones como tipos: Buffon, Cuvier y Lamarck (/isis/citation/CBB001420506/)

Chapter Newman, Stuart A.; Bhat, Ramray; (2011)
Lamarck's Dangerous Idea (/isis/citation/CBB001500094/)

Article Stamos, David N.; (2002)
Species, Languages, and the Horizontal/Vertical Distinction (/isis/citation/CBB000200252/)

Article Gershenowitz, Harry; (1980)
Napoleon and Lamarck (/isis/citation/CBB000011277/)

Article (1979)
Les néo-Lamarckiens français (/isis/citation/CBB000000496/)

Article Galera, Andrés; (2009)
Lamarck y la conservación adaptativa de la vida (/isis/citation/CBB001020972/)

Book Ayala, Francisco José; Arp, Robert; (2010)
Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology (/isis/citation/CBB001032775/)

Thesis Hendrikse, Jesse Love; (2006)
Explanation and Inheritance (/isis/citation/CBB001561700/)

Article Pereira Martins, Lilian Al-Chueyr; (2013)
Lamarck e a progressão da escala animal (/isis/citation/CBB001214028/)

Book Grimoult, Cédric; (2002)
Sur les traces des grands évolutionnistes (/isis/citation/CBB000600518/)

Authors & Contributors
Corsi, Pietro
Gissis, Snait B.
Loison, Laurent
Gershenowitz, Harry
Stamos, David N.
Grimoult, Cédric
Asclepio: Archivo Iberoamericano de Historia de la Medicina
Revue de Synthèse
Indian Journal of History of Science
Biology and Philosophy
Perspectives on Science
Filosofia e História da Biologia
University of California Press
The MIT Press
University of Calgary (Canada)
Philosophy of biology
Lamarck, Jean Baptiste Antoine Pierre de Monet de
Darwin, Charles Robert
Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc de
Cuvier, Georges
Napoleon I, Emperor of France
Linnaeus, Carolus
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
21st century

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment