Who is Jean-Baptiste Lamarck?June 25, 2021
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (born Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck) (August 1, 1744 – d. 1829) was a French naturalist. He is known for his work on evolution. The thesis of “transmission of acquired characters” created a great deal of controversy, and his views lost their validity with the introduction of the principles of genetic transmission.
He was one of the first to introduce the concept of modern museum collectivism, which suggested the classification of plant and animal specimens under the control of knowledgeable experts. Interested in the systematics of invertebrates, he examined the functions and structure of the basic organs, and showed the differences beneath the superficial similarities between various worms and mollusks.
Lamarck was the first great botanist of his time. In his Flore Françoise (1778), he classified the plants growing in France. In Lamarckism theory, the importance of the environment in the change of plants is explained.
In Lamarck’s system, the ‘Theory of Evolution’ was identified with the ‘wisdom of God’. It may be asked here what are the reasons why the extinction of species is seen as contrary to God’s wisdom. It can be said that the first reason is the belief that the existence of living things is only a service to humans; Since extinct species could be of no use to humans, the existence of such species was contrary to God’s wisdom. The belief that everything was created for man has led to misunderstandings in the name of divine wisdom. The systems of Aristotle-Ptolemy in astronomy and Linnaeus in biology are the most important of the systems that come to wrong conclusions because of this wrong presupposition. Isn’t limiting universal formations to the mere ‘purpose of service to man’ limit divine wisdom? The second reason was the idea of the ‘scale of being’, which came from Aristotle. It was thought that if some species disappeared, there would be deficiencies in the “ladder of being” and this would not be compatible with God’s perfect creation. As it will be remembered, in the understanding of the ‘scale of existence’, each species is located between two other species, there are no gaps between species, and species have a specific place on the ‘ladder of existence’ with a hierarchical order. In this understanding, if even a species with a single link in this chain is removed, the system will break down. Therefore, no species can go extinct. Such a mental construct has been identified with divine wisdom and mixed with the ontological structure in nature. With the realization of the extinction of some species, it has become clear that this virtual fiction is just a fantasy from the minds of philosophers. Finding a contrast between divine wisdom and extinction is an artificial problem, as many will later realize. Errors arising from limiting the wisdom in God’s creation to human service or human observation have led to wrong judgments. Lamarck thought he had a solution to this artificial problem.
His famous opponent of his time, Cuvier (1768-1833), was one of the most eminent figures of his time in anatomy and fossilology, and criticized Lamarck for his ideas of progress (evolution) on the ‘ladder of being’. He said that there is no “hierarchical scale” in the living world, and that the living world is too diverse to be arranged from the bottom to the top. Cuvier’s contemporaries thought he invalidated Lamarck’s Theory of Evolution. In contrast to Lamarck’s view that the earth undergoes small and slow changes step by step; Cuvier argued that the earth had undergone great changes (catastrophic) and attributed the extinction of species and new creations to these changes (such as Noah’s Flood). He used the fact that mummified animals in Egypt were the same as today’s animals as evidence against the stability of species and that evolution cannot be a mechanism to prevent species extinction.
Lamarck said that there is a tendency inherent in living things that leads them to complexity, and that this is an element that the Creator bestowed upon living things. As can be seen, Lamarck, who is shown as the first person to systematically put forward the Theory of Evolution, defended an evolutionary view that also accepted the existence of God. This is an important situation that shows the falsity of the claim that the Theory of Evolution is an absolutely atheist view. According to Lamarck, the simplest living things came into being through ‘spontaneity’, and then the most complex ones evolved from these original ‘spontaneous’ creatures. Since man represents the highest perfection, living things were perfect the more they approached man. Man was the last product of evolution and had evolved from ape-like creatures. Thus, Lamarck openly stated that humans evolved from ape-like creatures before Darwin. Against thinkers such as Descartes and Buffon who were active in French thought and who put a wide gap between humans and animals, Lamarck combined humans and animals in an evolutionary scheme.
One of the important differences of Lamarck’s Theory of Evolution from the Theory of Evolution as perceived today is that it establishes a “common ancestor” for all species.