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    Jean Baptiste Lamarck Essay

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    Anthropology Jean-Baptiste Lamarck


    Over the years, philosophers, scientists and religious scholars have tried to explain the history of life on Earth. Throughout the years there have been many theories on where man came from and how they developed. There are many people that believe that God created everything. As the scientific studies advanced throughout the ages many theorists developed the idea of evolution. Evolutionists argued that all life on earth gradually evolved over time from single organisms.

    Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was a legendary French Biologist who studied the theory of evolution. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck created his own theory of evolution known as Lamarckism. Lamarckism defined evolution as taking place by inheritance of acquired characteristics. The Lamarckian Theory argued that during a person’s life, people acquired new abilities, and then transmitted these skills on to their children. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s theories may have later come under attack when Darwinism appeared but his contributions proved an important stepping stone for the study of evolution.

    Jean- Baptiste Lamarck was born Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck on August 1, 1744. He was born in Bazentin, Picardy, France to a poor aristocratic family and he was the youngest of eleven children. His family had strong allegiance to the military and in 1761 he Joined the French Army in Germany during the Seven Years War. In his first battle he was awarded a medal for bravery and he was promoted to officer. After his military career came to an end he developed an interest in natural history and decided to study medicine.

    He was immensely interested in botany and even published a three volume work on the subject. When he Mus?©um National d’Histoire Naturelle was founded in 1793, Lamarck was appointed as a professor of natural history of insects of worms. It was during this time Lamarck coined the term invertebrate as a scientific term that is still used in teaching today. He also divided was the first to separate arachnids for insects placing them in separate classifications. Finally in 1809 after publishing several other books he developed his theory of evolution. Mus?©e National d’Histoire Naturelle) Jean-Baptiste Lamarck introduced Lamarckism in 1809 when he published is theory in Philosophique Zoologigue. Lamarckism was basically a theory divided into four parts. The first part of the theory was the internal urges of organisms. The internal urges of organisms claimed that simple living organisms were succeeded by more complex organisms. He believed the environment an organism lived in controlled the response the organism had. This portion of the theory argued that the size of a particular organ used was directly in correlation to the amount of use it got.

    He claimed that organisms grew in size because of an internal urge in response the nvironment and based on the amount of usage they receive. The second portion of the theory claimed that the environment was always in a constant state of change. This ever-changing environment created an altered living space for living things behaviorally and physically noticeable in the organism. Organisms adapted in order to meet the needs of the new habitat they were currently living in. The third piece of Lamarck’s theory was that an organ’s growth depended solely on how much use or disuse they received.

    He believed that organs that were in regular use tended to row and become strong and efficient. Whereas organs that were infrequently used tended to flounder and possibly even fade away altogether. He gave the example that giraffes that grazed high trees often would have longer and stronger necks that would eventually be passed down to the next generation of giraffes. Finally, Lamarck asserted that that certain acquired characteristics were inherited by the following generations. He believed that some characteristics exhibited by organisms were not present in their recent ancestors.

    These traits were acquired due to changes in the nvironment and habitats surrounding the organism. Once acquired these traits were then passed to the following generations if they were kept in frequent use. (University of California Berkeley) Lamarckism had a profound effect on evolutionary thinking. Even though Lamarck’s theory of evolution is now widely discredited, it provided a stepping stone for evolutionists that followed, like Charles Darwin. Lamarck showed the world for the first time the revolutionary ideas that nothing that surrounds us in the world in constant.

    Lamarckism taught that the world was ever- hanging and because of this the organisms living on the planet were bound to respond. Lamarck gave us the first thoughts about how people may have become who they are. It was evident that Lamarck was on to something in his theory showing that people were in a constant state of change. It could even be argued that Charles Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory was somewhat taken from Lamarck. (PBS) Jean-Baptiste Lamarck had some revolutionary theories, and along with them came strong critics to his work. Among those that discredited Lamarck was Georges Cuvier.

    Cuvier was a colleague of Lamarck at the Natural History Museum and even delivered his eulogy. This however did not stop him from attacking Lamarck and his theory. Cuvier argued that Lamarckism was based all on imagination and speculation and not on any scientific process. Charles Lyell was another strong opponent of Lamarck. He agreed with Cuvier. Lyell also said that he did not think Lamarck had significant fossil proof to support his theory. Later Charles Lyell was converted to an evolutionary position and found himself supporting certain aspects of Lamarckism.

    This support came too late and Lyell’s criticism had already proven too damaging to repair the assault Lamarckism had undergone. Charles Darwin gave the world his theory of evolution in 1859. His theory was different than Lamarck in that he argued that the desires of animals have nothing to do with how they evolve, and that changes in an organism during its life do not affect the evolution of the species. He said that organisms, even of the same species, are all different and that those which happen to have variations that help them to survive in their nvironments survive and have more offspring.

    The offspring are born with their parents’ helpful traits, and as they reproduce, individuals with that trait make up more of the population. Other individuals, that are not so well adapted, die off. Thus, creating the concept Darwin is most remembered for of survival of the fittest. The only thing Lamarck and Darwin agreed upon was that life was always changing and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck is only remembered for his discredited theory of Lamarckism. His theory should be praised however, for leading the cause of evolution.

    Lamarck led his life trying to advance the study of science and evolutionary theories. He may not have hit the nail on the head where evolution was concerned but he provided some revolutionary suggestions that made science take notice to the subject and later allowed Charles Darwin to blaze a new trail for evolutionists. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck died poor and disgraced. Unfortunately people do not realize the contributions he made. The next time you see a spider you know it is an arachnid and not an insect and that was because of Jean-Baptiste Lemarck.

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