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No. 13: Winter 1981

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The Propagation Of Acquired Characteristics

Almost all biologists reject Lamarck's idea that characteristics acquired by a parent can be transmitted to the progeny. In the field of immunology, especially, experimental findings are stimulating a revival of forbidden Lamarckism! Taylor reviews several experiments in which acquired immunity seems to be passed along from generation to generation. This, of course, directly contradicts the Dogma of Evolution and Weissmann's closely related doctrine of the inviolatability of the germ plasm. But Taylor goes on to suggest several ways to circumvent Weissmann's doctrine, the most interesting of which employs viruses to carry acquired genetic information from generation to generation.

(Taylor, R.B.; "Lamarckism Revival in Immunology," Nature, 286:837, 1980.)

Comment. The possible role of viruses and other "disease carriers" in the unfolding (rather than "evolution") of life is only now being widely recognized. Could it be that the price of evolution and/or the responsiveness of life to environmental pressures is a certain level of infection?

From Science Frontiers #13, Winter 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss