Toward a Biology Worthy of Life > Genes and the Central Fallacy of Evolutionary Theory > Brief excerpt
A project by Stephen L. Talbott

Acquired characteristics versus active potentials

You can now see how the discussion of “Lamarckism” — the inheritance of acquired characteristics — has been distorted out of all usefulness. The characters, or traits, at issue have been taken in a wooden sense to be the finished products of a specific life rather than the productive capacities of that life. How the experience and character of an organism livingly plays into the inheritance of its offspring is a topic we hardly know how to approach as yet — because we have hardly thought of it as yet. The one thing we can be sure of is that the primary secret of inheritance will not be found in the transmission of fixed, already achieved features — things like the blacksmith’s muscled arm or the giraffe’s slightly stretched neck. Or, for that matter, any particular state of the organism’s chromosomes, whether in somatic cells or the germline.

To argue the issue in these terms is to assume that the organism is not an organism, but rather a collection of things lacking organic activities and relations. The fact that particular features of a developing organism are in general not replicated in offspring — never at all exactly replicated in a biologically meaningful sense — should only redirect our attention to the far-from-static life of the organism.

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