The Great Heredity Debate


Why do individuals within a species differ? The answer was crucial not only for the natural selection model but for any theory of evolution. According to the consensus ‘inheritance of acquired characteristics’ view, to which Darwin initially subscribed, variation is induced by the environment; a positive effect, improving adaptation. But natural selection assumes that the environment exerts a negative effect, eliminating the ill-adapted (see Fig. 12.1).

Darwin thought that pangenesis could explain (a) heritable variation, (b) the mechanism of Lamarckian use-disuse inheritance and (c) the inheritance of acquired characteristics. But few were persuaded. Wallace rejected the hypothesis and advised Darwin to do likewise.


Mendelian Inheritance Heritable Variation Chromosomal Theory Cytoplasmic Inheritance Natural History Society 
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