Darwin-L Message Log 1:120 (September 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<1:120>From tclarke@uoguelph.ca  Tue Sep 14 16:04:05 1993

Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1993 15:32:09 -0400 (EDT)
From: Tom Clarke <tclarke@uoguelph.ca>
Subject: Re: Lamarkianism in linguistic change
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

 While the mechanism of Lamarck was the inheritance of aquired
 characteristics (and I admit my example on dog breeding was a poor
 choice), the overall point that Lamarck tried to make was that
 'lower' forms of life arose from inanimate matter and progressed
 towards a level of greater complexity and perfection; that is, that
 all things had an inherent drive towards greater complexity.
 For lamarck, the environment operated as the guiding force, directing
 the increase in complexity towards some end that would create the
 'perfect' organism.  While this sounds logical, its a bit different
 from natural selection in which the environment just removes those
 forms which don't work, allowing a number of possible solutions to
 and environmental 'problem'.

   Thinking over your message and previous ones, I find it hard
 to see how society and culture could be modelled in terms of evolution
 and natural selection.  While society does change, and it would be
 interesting to be able to predict the changes, I don't think
 evolution would be quite the right word for it.  Half the discussion
 on this list seems to deal in one sense or another with clarifying
 the definition of the term evolution, as quite a number of people have
 been using it in  a sloppy sense. Maybe Gould was right - evolution
 should be restricted to the life sciences and another term sought for
 the mechanisms that guide human culture.


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