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What did Jean Baptiste Lamarck discover?

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Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck, was one of the first naturalists to propose a comprehensive theory of evolution. His proposed mechanisms were different from those of Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, and on testing they were found to be inadequate. Though Lamarck did not hit on the idea of natural selection, his proposed theory is known to have been influential in Darwin's and Wallace's work.

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Lamarck proposed two general principles of evolution: the inheritance of acquired characteristics and orthogenesis. Orthogenesis, which has been discredited by modern evolutionists, is the idea that evolution necessarily takes on a momentum of its own as it drives organisms to ever-higher levels of complexity. The modern understanding of biology has discarded this notion as theoretically unsound, noting that early organisms could hardly have gotten less complex than they already were. The apparent drive toward increased complexity is therefore largely an artifact of other factors in evolution.

The inheritance of acquired traits was Lamarck's signature proposal. If true, it would mean that species evolve by the mechanism of individuals straining to develop a single trait, such as a longer neck or stronger muscles, and then passing along that enhanced trait to offspring via some unknown mechanism. Darwin's articulation of natural selection provided an alternative explanation for diversity, that of nonrandom survival, and has been found to be much more accurate than Lamarck's work.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    How did Lamarck explain why giraffes have long necks?

    A:

    Jean Baptiste Lamarck, a French biologist who had an alternate evolutionary theory of biology to that of Charles Darwin, explained that giraffes have long necks because as they reached for leaves in high branches of trees, their necks became longer and stronger. Their offspring, in turn, would inherit necks that were slightly longer.

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  • Q:

    Is evolution a fact?

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    In scientific terms, evolution is both a theory and a fact. A fact refers to a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed often enough that there is no reason to keep looking for additional examples. Scientists accept evolution as a fact due to overwhelming evidence supporting it.

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  • Q:

    What is the theory of evolution?

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    The theory of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin entails the evolution by natural selection of all life on earth. It states that new generations are born with different inheritable traits, and that the traits that are superior for survival will be passed on to new generations. This means that given enough time, an organism can change and evolve to create a new species.

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  • Q:

    Why was Charles Darwin famous?

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    Charles Darwin is best known for establishing a theory of evolution that explains biological changes among the species of the Earth. His belief that most species evolved through the process of natural selection also made him famous because this idea contradicts those of other naturalists of his time.

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