Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lovecraft as a Lamackian

In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, many American biologists followed a theory known by the term neo-Lamarkian.

To say it best, I'll quote from a text.

Although Darwin's nonteleological theory of natural selection was common knowledge, the experimental work necessary to confirm it was not available until the 1890s or later. For instance, Gregor Mendel's work on genetics in the 1860s was not disseminated until 1900. As a result, most scientists in America clung to a neo-Lamarckian view of evolution in which acquired characteristics could be inherited. Neo-Lamarckianism suited nineteenth-century notions of teleological progress because it allowed people to believe that the adaptive learning of one generation was passed on to the next. Morgan's comment that "training is everything," followed by the grouping of heredity and training, makes perfect neo-Lamarckian sense.(*)

In The Beast in the Cave we have precisely this concept. Once a subject is pushed into a hostile environment, "de-evolution" occurs, and it is permanent.

The precise justification of neo-Lamarckianism was trumpeted by Alphaeus Spring Packard, Jr. through the discovery and exposition of the blind crayfish and other cave animals found in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.

In a few more posts, I will try to show at least a coincidental connection between Lovecraft's early thought and Packard.

From P. 203 of Chapter 7 Twain, TourgĂ©e, and the Logic of "Separate but Equal" of American Literary Realism and the Failed Promise of Contract by Brook Thomas, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS, Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford, © 1997 The Regents of the University of California.

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