2003

Comments: I had my first letter published in The Guardian Review on April 26th. From here on, the articles to which my letters refer, and any responses to my published letters, can be found on the websites of the appropriate papers.

In his review of Matt Ridley's Nature via Nurture ("Natural Conclusion", April 19), Steven Rose welcomed the end of the Darwin wars when he should have hailed the reconciliation of Lamarckism and Darwinism. What Rose and other opponents of genetic determinism fail to acknowledge is that, if genes do not determine inheritable characteristics, then whatever other factors may be involved will not be constrained by the limitations of Mendelian inheritance. In order for inheritable nature to derive from the effects of nurture, those effects must be accumulative, rather than limited to the lifetime of the individual organism, and that requires Lamarck's inheritance of acquired characteristics.
Hugh Dower

Comments: It prompted a response.

Steven Rose is no Lamarckist (Letters,April 26). And never has he implied that “genes do not determine characteristics”. An inheritable characteristic is, by definition, encoded in the genes. The trouble is, evolution (yes, via cumulative genetic mutation) has granted us brains that are richly flexible and capable of endless self-reconstruction to adapt to environmental contingencies. Thus it quickly becomes absurd to speak of “genes for” complex socially-prescribed behaviours such as Morris dancing, basket weaving or writing to the Guardian. Lamarck does not come into it.                   Nigel Longhurst

Continue to 2004

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