First published in pamphlet format in Toronto; September 1993. (pp.66-95)
Continuing With:  PART 1 - (section 2 in web-edition)


At this stage, it may be useful to delineate how and in what way, Darwin's theory of evolution differed from that of Lamarck. Darwin went to great lengths to demonstrate that his theory was indeed quite different from that of Lamarck. Mayr as a strong modern day Darwinist, holds that there is one fundamental feature that distinguishes Lamarck from Darwin :

But this is not seen directly, or at least consistently, from Darwin's own words. In fact Darwin saw a greater complexity than Mayr allows him. Especially useful in his argument for natural selection was his knowledge and understanding of domestic, or "artificial" selection. The first chapter of "The Origins", is "Variation under Domestication", and here he reviews the historic importance from Pliny onwards of artificial selection. He then freely admits the complexity of the causes of variation, particularly given the absence as he puts its of the "laws governing inheritance," : Darwin in proposing a widely applicable mechanism for evolution, in natural selection, achieved a monumental intellectual feat. But as concerns the mechanism for inheritance, he was unsure of himself. Here he adopted elements of even Lamarckism, which is surprising given that he held Lamarck in such contempt.

Before we discuss Darwin's actual views, we should briefly clarify the terms:

The terms themselves are redolent of how much credence they are given by those that initiate terminology in the field! The connotations of "soft" with meaningless, and in the 1990's "flakiness" are self-evident. But the essential difference is that "soft" inheritance implies a reliance on mechanisms that involved interaction in very direct way with the environment : Blending inheritance has been met with before. This is the basic understanding that held down to Mendel's day, that the heredity of the progeny was somehow an amalgam of the whole genetic potential and environmental encounters of both the parents.

This can not of course explain why features of one parent predominate over features of the other parent, in the progeny. This can be explained by the notion of segregation of characters. All this phrase means is that there is a separation of inheritance properties, for each of the various characters of the parent. This latter was in particular the contribution of Mendel to genetics, and is discussed later.

Darwin's attitude to Inheritance of acquired characters became intertwined with his theory of evolution. In fact he varied in his opinion, and was unable finally to firmly endorse one or other of the two alternatives : Hard or Soft Inheritance. He actually adopted elements of both.

In his "Origin", he adduces three means by which variation is generated, ie. three interactions of the environment and heredity :

1. Direct effect of the Environment.
At the time of his first writing, and then in the first editions of the "Origin", he was inclined to underplay the role of environment, at least as his own later words seems to indicate; In 1862 : he wrote to Hooker :

and by 1878 he admitted : To Galton he wrote in 1875, In the later editions of the Origins, he still sees something inherent in animals and plants that is distinct to the environment. So he says : In the very next sentence, he then subsumes natural selection itself as a part of the environment, and takes away the "internal force" of variation : This seems to betoken an understandable confusion, given the state of knowledge then.

2. The Effect of Use and Disuse.
The notion of Use and Disuse of body parts can obviously be useful to notions of acquired characters. For Darwin, of all the data that he sifted thorough in evidence for soft inheritance :

Darwin was so strongly convinced of the importance of this factor that he devoted to its discussion a whole section (p.134-139) of chapter V of the Origin. As examples he discusses the reduction of wings in flightless birds, the loss of anterior tarsi in dung beetles, winglessness in beetles of Madeira, the reduction of eyes in moles and other burrowing mammals, and the loss of eyes and pigment in cave animals. Regarding rudimentary organs in general, Darwin states, 'I believe that disuse has been the main agency.'
Use and disuse.. Is of importance only if one believes in an inheritance of acquired characters. This Darwin affirms repeatedly. He describes how the constant milking of cows leads to an inherited increase in the size of the udder. Darwin is quite positive: Mayr points out that : It is odd that Mayr should chastise Darwin for "over familiarity" with breeders, since it was his association with their craft that shaped his appreciation of Natural Selection.

Nonetheless, what is the evidence for Use and Disuse? It is likely indeed that the actions of selective forces are adequate to explain many of those phenomena that troubled Darwin.

3. Darwin's Theory of Pangenesis

Darwin proposed, under the pressures and difficulties he had been labouring with, in trying to explain variation and its passage into evolution, that there were fundamental particles he termed "pangenes-or gemmules".
This was, De Vries pointed out, the first modern theory of particle based inheritance (particulate bearers of heredity).

For later Darwinians, pangenesis became an eyesore upon the peaceful landscape of slowly changing naturally selecting forces. It largely became labelled as a Darwinian folly due to the age in which he lived. He was forced by desperation, so the view goes, to resort to pangenesis because of the ignorance of Mendelian genetics. But as we discuss later, the inviolability of the Gene Banks does not seem to be nearly as clear cut as the later Darwinists hoped.

Thus pangenesis was an attempt by Darwin to understand environmental influences. After the boom of molecular biology, converting environmental signals into an organism's gene expression is now considered a critical step in controlling the organism's milieu. This hormonal and chemical milieu does not respect the boundary guarding the genome.

Under Darwin we have so far only described Darwin's delay in publishing, the concept of Natural selection itself, and Darwin's confusion on sources of variation and their interactions with the environment.

To examine the nature of change in biology, we will now explore three controversial areas within the scope of Darwin's thoughts. All show some distortions introduced by later students of Darwin. But actually two topics show two important distortions that Darwin himself introduced. Both reflected his bias towards respectability and bourgeois status. These are the notions of gradualness and the notions of Malthusian competition.


In biology as well as society, Darwin thought that slowly wrought change was more likely to be permanent.

Many of his disciples agreed. In particular, Weissman : But Darwin was also warned by some followers. Interestingly, T.H.Huxley, his most staunch and belligerent ally against anti-evolutionists cautioned him : In fact Darwin himself was aware of a central contradiction : Darwin wrote in the "Origins", in its Ist Edition, p. 341 : As Eldredge comments : Darwin went into great and lengthy dispute with his fiercest critics on this point. Even his allies as mentioned, had to be re-reminded frequently of the correct view. Huxley had correctly anticipated Mr.Mivart's attacks : And why are such changes improbable? Because Darwin replies, rapid changes produce "monstrosities" of no use to evolutionary change : Darwin is now of course forced to once more counterpose Natural Selection against artificial or Societal selection. Again he argues that Natural is more efficient. Because it allows the logical development of species because slow change by degree allows reproductive partners to be
found : Having built his central argument, Darwin now forgets the cautions he himself expressed in the First Edition of the evidence in the fossil record and warms to his slow theme : Then as if in penance he now remembers the fossil evidence but excuses it with the claim that the "data doesn't fit because the data is poor". Every scientist has certainly heard if not used themselves this worn theme! : And now Darwin caps his argument combining embryological observation of "insensible fine steps" with a firm ridicule of those inclined to believe in "prodigious.. realms of miracle" : It is fair to leave it, that on this issue also - Darwin was in some confusion. However, the clear social bias favouring a sloth like change to a lighting like convulsive change can be discerned in Darwin's life and social behaviour.

Many biologists have begun to re-consider the views of the more rapid changers. The modern day biologists who have re-challenged the slower dogma include Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould. These workers, having discovered inconsistencies between findings from experimental work with and the old slow dogma, have renewed older critiques. These have been amplified into a new view of the rapidity of evolutionary change. We touch on them briefly later.


Darwin certainly did absorb fully the Victorian ideas of an individual bitter struggle for existence, ideas that were exemplified in the works of the Reverend Thomas Malthus. Indeed Darwin's own words showed the depth of Malthus's influence. He said that he had a revelatory experience when he read Malthus, because he suddenly saw how nature struggled. Malthus was an economist working for the British East India Company, who had a bleak message :

This basic argument was accompanied by an assertion that the resources of food and environment could only arithmetically increase, whilst the population could increase by a geometric progression. Thus poverty was a natural law, and nothing could be done to alleviate its root cause.

Of course, with these views Malthusianism became a great ideological spur towards erecting the new Workhouses (called Bastilles by their inhabitants) for the working class. The New Poor Law workhouses, were predicated on the principle that it was the poor had to be "deterred" from shying away from work. Malthus acted as a precursor of Thatcher and Reagan, and undoubtedly hit upon a potent means by which to justify poverty.
The argument was shored up by the calculation that :

Malthus' followers : The benefits of the generally increased poverty, was the stimulus it gave to people to better themselves. This had elements in it of a Natural Selection that aided the Survival of the Fittest : There is no doubt that Malthus provided a justification for poverty which continues to have a major sedative effect on society's conscience down to the present day. Of course nowadays it is the sociobiologists who struggle to put a pop biology view encapsulated in phrases such as "The Naked Ape".

But after all, it is not difficult to disprove Malthus. The mere fact of the rapid increase in the world's population since his time, with attendant general increase in well being shows this. Not that poverty world wide is no longer a problem. But it is not a problem that a willing society (ie. using redistribution) could not alleviate. Just the explosion of the wealth of society and the increase in the population during the Industrial Revolution, let alone to the present era is sufficient proof of this.

This is the issue that the present day Neo-Malthusians ignore. Given the popularity of the views of those like Paul Ehrlich ("The Population Bomb", New York, 1968) we are forced to enter a digression. Malthusian views have such persuasive power, and have the force of Darwin's though behind them, that they represent a serous challenge even now. As mostly used nowadays, they are used to justify poverty in the Third World. But they are also so used in the West, where for instance Black families poverty in the USA is blamed on :"babies making babies".

For brevity, we will discuss the recent proliferation of Birth Control programs, and their failure to eliminate poverty in the various third world countries that the World Health Organisation has chosen to investigate. We will argue that the failure of these programs displays the blinkers that Malthusianism has to social, political, and economical class issues that transcend "biology".

Mahmood Mamdani, in "The Myth of Population Control", (New York, 1972) has exposed many of these present day neo-Malthusian blinkers. Rather surprisingly to those who would hope that the dollars of the WHO are well spent, it emerges that of the many expensive programs for birth control up to 1972 that there were, only 3 had any population controls. That is a non-tested population whose birth rates could be examined for any changes. These three were Kyong in South Korea, Singur in West Bengal and Khanna in North India.

In Kyong the rate of decline in births,, expressed as a rate of per 1000 of population, was equivalent or faster in the control groups.

                                                        CONTROL              TEST
YEAR 1                                             6.8                         9.7

YEAR 2                                             4.2                         3.5

(Mamdani, Ibid, p.15-29).

Similar findings obtain in Singhur. Though it is true that in Khanna an additional twist occurs. Here there was indeed a decline in birth rates ( from 40/1000 in 1957 to 35/1000 in 1968). However the difference was not accounted for by contraception, but by the increase in the age of marriage from 17.5 years in 1956 to 20 years in 1969. (Mamdani, Ibid, p. 28).

Mamdani shows that the W.H.O. strategy did not work. The question was why not ? His debunking of neo-Malthusianism is particularly valuable here. He shows that the peasant strategy for large families was based on hard class facts. The need for the most labour was most acute in the poorest families, for :

The need for the poorest was greatest for physical strength in emergencies and class fights : These realities are a matter of blithe indifference to the modern day Malthusian whose solution to poverty is simplistic biological reductionism.

A variety of other sources shows the even more cynical usage of the "population" problem, by the rich powerful imperialist nations. See for example, Sheila Zurbrigg in "Rakku's Story: Structures of Ill Health and Source of Change ", (Bangalore 1984).

For our purposes here, we will only reiterate Zurbrigg's central argument which is that child mortality
(which is the major part of the "excess preventable mortality" in India , p. 65 Ibid) has remained extraordinarily high in the rural as compared to the urban areas.(136 versus 70 per 1000 live births). The assumptions are made by the foreign relief agencies that the poor are ignorant about nutrition; or that they are reluctant to accept modern medicine; or that they have too many children.

As to the First Wrong Assumption, Zurbrigg rightly points out :

On the Second wrong assumption, Zurbrigg notes that when you don't have money you use what you can. Modern Western medicine is expensive. Homeopathic native medicine is considerably cheaper (Zurbrigg p.69).

Finally on the Third wrong assumption, she corroborates Mamdani's these. In addition she adds:

Finally Zurbrigg ties this all together by noting the underlying motivation of the accents on the Population issue. Obviously imperialist nations have a need for stability in their semi-colonies. The basic intent of these various programs of population control and poverty relief was revealed by a candid USAID Deputy-Director : In fact the issues of poverty and unemployment are manifestly social and not biological. The tactic of maintaining a standing army of unemployed in order to drive down the cost of labour, was and is a critical to the capitalist strategy of paying the lowest possible wage : This underlies the poverty of the unemployed.

In fact, like much else, if not everything, Malthus's view did not arrive on a cloud from nowhere. Engels points out the Hobbesian precursor of "Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes", (See p.6, Introduction). Engels also points to the more complex reality of nature that in order to be depicted, accurately needs attention to avoid the "prejudice and one sided" views. These are either All Harmonious Nature or All Struggling Nature :

Yet that Darwin's understanding, when at its' best, transcended the naked viciousness that underlay the Hobbesian view is clear from the following : In fact Darwin's own life also shows that in practice Darwin did not behave wholly like a Malthusian. Thus in the rural economic collapse of 1846 (Under the Corn Laws) he and his wife Emma gave away penny bread tickets at the door of their house, Down House; to be exchanged for bread at the bakers. The family as "gentlefolk", out of principle stopped buying potatoes so that stocks for the poor were not depleted; and he organised the Library at the Village school and generally behaved with charity.

Nonetheless, as Prince Petr Alexeyevich Kropotkin (1824-1921) pointed out, Darwin himself as well as his followers emphasised the competitive struggle. Kroptokin was a trained scientist, having performed original field work in Siberia. His background in geography, zoology, and geology allowed him to approach the broad field crossing scientific vision of Darwin. He won the Gold Medal of the Russian Geographical Society, and according to Ashley Montague :

It was this that forced Prince Peter Kropotkin to write his famous book, "Mutual Aid". Kropotkin was a gifted and brave anarchist of aristocratic roots. His tragedy was to divorce himself from the events in Russia during the bitter years of the establishment of the Soviet State at a time of Civil War and attacks on Soviet Russia by all the Allied countries led by Winston Churchill.

However, of central importance to us in the biology of organismal inter-individual Struggles, was his views on nature. Kropotkin's demonstration that there were significant areas of biology where there was cooperation between individual organisms. This feature of nature had indeed been noted by many observant biologists, including Darwin himself. They included such phenomena as the ant and bee colonies, seals, birds, and many others. Only two examples will suffice from the non-human animal world to display his line of reasoning. The first is really an apt citation of Erasmus Darwin's observations on the crab :

But to illustrate his wonder at the biological world, the particularly vivid language Kropotkin used on the ant colonies deserves mention : Although it is historically leaping ahead, we will now increasingly start using the term "The Gene". Because now, modern day debates use this term, but within the same debates that were taking place in Darwin's day. In this case, on the issues of Altruism, as Mutual Aid and cooperation has now been termed.

Some modern day proponents of the view that the organism is a casing for the gene and nothing else, take exception to Kropotkin's language. And in the remark that Kropotkin lapses into anthropomorphism in remarks on the animal world, this seems reasonable, though the same could be said (but is not) at many times of the language of Darwin. But in fact most of Kropotkin's book concerns the importance of cooperation amongst humans. And Helena Cronin and her mentor, Richard Dawkins notwithstanding, the sociobiologists are far more at fault here than Kropotkin, in making unwarranted extrapolations from nature to humans and vice versa.

Cronin in her book, "The Ant and the Peacock," correctly identifies the 'problem' of what is now termed Altruism in the literature as having been one that troubled Darwin. Again it has to be said of her vigorous defence of the all embracing primacy of the gene that while it is useful in understanding some levels of animal functioning, it lapses into an amazingly narrow absurdity.

To illustrate this, let us follow her from a legitimate extrapolation of the concept of behaviour that "preserves certain genes", through to a wild speculation on the competition of genes within the human body.

Thus as she explains, the vampire bats of the Caribbean:

But then, this insight is linked to an endowment of maternal chromosomes with a life of their own, during the progress in human maldevelopment, to the defect known as Down's Syndrome!


Whether or not there is a choice in life, is one of philosophy's old chestnuts. The stark opposites of Chance or Necessity have long bothered philosophers. For Mayr, Darwin had resolved this dilemma for biology.

By this, Mayr means that the initial step in evolution is a chance throwing off of variation, but that following this comes a necessary selection by Natural Selection. The First step of "pure chance" came to be critical for Darwinists. This is because in evolution, if things arise "by chance", they cannot arise by "instruction" from the environment. This is then a singular critique of environmental aided Inheritance of Acquired Characters.

Some accounts imply that the question of "Chance" in biology, itself demanded a political response from Marxists. This view argues that Marxists cannot tolerate "pure chance", because it violates the Marxist Theology of Crude Determinism in life and society. This supposedly teaches that society "automatically" tends to socialism. Of course this apparent Marxist naivete is a slanderous caricature of the Marxist analysis. Let us not here dwell on the reasons why the Marxist-Leninist would see the need for a proletarian party if there was such clear Automaticism.

We discuss in more detail the relevance of philosophical stance in biological thinking in Part III, below. However, because the issue of Chance has been so central to the modern day Darwinian position, exemplified in the New Synthesis, we cannot avoid it here.

Instead let us see what Engels makes of the dichotomy between chance and necessity, in his refutations of the "stark choice". First he acknowledges the potential opposition :

Engels states that there is a clear and obvious role for both chance and necessity in nature : But then, as Engels shows much of the labelling that is chosen, accidental or necessary, is simply a matter of convenience, and arbitrary at that. As Engels, points out merely calling for something inexplicable as being due to chance may merely be a theological practice - 'by any other name' - to praphrase Shakespeare! : Next Engels attacks that crude Determinism that is also ultimately, merely theological : Engels' then calmly points out that the Either-Or stark choice is not appropriate : The best of the modern mathematical geneticists understand this.
Sewall Wright, one of the founders of the field of mathematical genetics, also notes a dialectic and qualitative difference between the bare posited alternatives. : In a major sense the "dilemma" about the role of chance in evolutionary theory is a shibboleth. The posited alternatives of "pure determinism' and "chance" are not adequate to explain the multifaceted complexity of nature.

Leaving all the philosophy to one side, (to many people's relief), it will be argued that "Pure Chance" is further quite inappropriate for much of this area, and that has been shown by "real (!)" data. The most modern data is dealt with in the final section of Part I entitled "Modern Day Refutations of the New Synthesis."

Here we will simply question whether Pure Chance is adequate to explain some of the very first steps in the development of life.

It is accepted by most biologists that the first steps to life (regardless of the stimuli) had to somehow involve the aggregation of large protein molecules. How did these come together from simple amino acids?

It appears that the molecules of the amino acids themselves forces a certain constraint that severely channels "pure chance" :

The argument can be followed by the accompanying diagram from Fox also. For Fox now shows that simple arithmetic calculations suggest that truly random ordering of events, will result in 6 possibilities. However, with real life molecules, experiments show that this total is not reached, presumably because of the molecular constraints :

Having shown that proteinoid particles arise under stimulus of heat, and that they aggregate quickly, and that they then "age" and show signs of "socialization" (ie aggregation, Fox draws some conclusions about randomness :

Interestingly, Fox shows that the imprateur of randomness was not always so secure. Even Morgan, one of the key individuals for the later so called New Synthesis, thought that "pure chance" was stretching things a bit far : Further empirical work on the nature of non-randomness in mutations has been performed, and needs to be discussed. For reasons of historical clarity, and because they require a bit more understanding of the molecular advances we examine them later.

One irony of intellectual positioning should be noted before we leave Chance.
The school of thought that Helena Cronin represents, is that of a thorough going and consistent reductionism of all biology to the autonomous gene. This position was in its modern form first staked out by Richard Dawkins. This School argues there is an explanation for every phenotype. This even applies to an "Extended Phenotype" that each and every gene possesses. By this meant an extension beyond the confines of he body. The original dictatorship of the nucleus to cytoplasm, that Weismann devised, is extended directly to behaviour -perhaps even thought.

This can be epitomised in the diagram (Figure 1) from Cronin's book which explains the derivation of the thought from Weismann, but the significant extension of it at the same time. The nucleus (read the Gene) now not only controls the immediate environment of the cytoplasm, but the very buildings that organisms create. The example used is that of the bower bird, which creates an ornate structure as a nest.

This school HAS TO then eschew notions of chance in evolution. For if every gene has a purpose, it has to be found and only our lack of understanding impedes this. Because the gene MUST have been maintained in the population for a particular reason. Ultimately, this reason is that the gene has to confer a selective advantage, and that this has preserved it through evolution.

The view then becomes very similar indeed to that incorporated in the older views of a Perfect Nature, one that was Created and therefore HAD to be perfect. Here they reject a Creator, but still maintain that the manifestations of nature have to be perfect. Ergo, it must be that the selection process is all wise and has not occurred by chance.


The impact of Darwin was extraordinary as has been frequently commented upon. Leaving aside the Creationists, the vast majority of educated people accept that there has been evolution. However, there are many types of Darwinians. And the various schools of Darwinian belief began to spring up very soon after his writing the "Origin of the Species".

In particular there very quickly arose the two schools which exist even now. On the one hand were the "Pure School Darwinians." Most authors refer to this school as Neo-Darwinism. These individuals accepted no other mechanism to explain Evolution than Natural Selection and Chance variation. They were driven by the underlying need to totally reject the arguments from design. Authors who fell into this mould included such as August Weismann (see below).

In counter-position were the "Environmental Darwinians". These are usually called in the literature Neo-Lamarckians, or They felt that there must be some form of directing forces from the environment that could give a close fit to the environment. These authors include those such as Romanes, or William Bateson in his early professional years.

In fact Bateson was so convinced of the need for some other mechanism than just natural selection, that he spent fruitless years in trying to prove it. So much so, that with the disappointment born of failure, he became much the most vehement of the Pure Natural Selection School above.

This may explain some of the later bitterness that Bateson directed at the unfortunate Paul Kammerer. Kammerer as discussed below, purportedly demonstrated some instances of Inheritance of Acquired Characters.

Darwinism was a Feast of plenty. Many came and constructed their own menus from it. All of course accepted the General principles of Evolution, but apart from that there were radical differences in their general philosophy. There remain today, very radical differences amongst those that call themselves Darwinists. Before moving on, the point being made is that there is not now, nor was there a pure Darwinism. Various mutations of Darwinist Syntheses have come and gone.

We are now in an era when another Synthesis is required.
There are indeed  indications that this task is being undertaken by the most far-seeing of them.