What is the scientific position on the inheritance of acquired characteristics (Lamarckism)?

Scientific articles and papers in the last few years have claimed evidence for the inheritance of acquired characteristics. This evidence is certainly incompatible with the neo-Darwinism synthesis which denied acquired characteristics could be inherited. This is interesting because before the neo-Darwinian synthesis Charles Darwin and many Darwinists such as Herbert Spencer and Ernst Haeckel were also Lamarckists. (1)

There was an article entitled "A Comeback for Lamarckian Evolution?" in 2009 by Emily Singer of the Tufts University School of Medicine which provided evidence "that the effects of a mother’s early environment can be passed on to the next generation." According to the article "The findings provide support for a 200-year-old theory of evolution that has been largely dismissed: Lamarckian evolution, which states that acquired characteristics can be passed on to offspring." (2)

Most of these recent articles and papers claiming evidence for Lamarckian evolution are based on research and studies from epigenetic inheritance. This issue has now been incorporated into science textbooks. Joseph Springer and Dennis Holley have written:

"Lamarck and his ideas were ridiculed and discredited. In a strange twist of fate, Lamarck may have the last laugh. Epigenetics, an emerging field of genetics, has shown that Lamarck may have been at least partially correct all along. It seems that reversible and heritable changes can occur without a change in DNA sequence (genotype) and that such changes may be induced spontaneously or in response to environmental factors - Lamarck's "acquired traits". Determining which observed phenotypes are genetically inherited and which are environmentally induced remains an important and on going part of the study of genetics, developmental biology, and medicine." (3)

Kevin V. Morris in his article "Lamarck and the Missing Lnc" has written "Although biologists have generally considered Lamarck’s ideas to contain as much truth as Kipling’s fables, the burgeoning field of epigenetics has made some of us reconsider our ridicule." (4)

Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb have suggested that epigenetic inheritance and epigenetic control mechanisms have played a key role in all the major transitions in evolution, and this challenges the tenets of the neo-Darwinian synthesis. (5)

In a recent paper on the changes in evolutionary biology (Noble, 2013) has listed case studies supportive of the inheritance of acquired characteristics in multicellular organisms, including mammals and has written there is no longer any reason for the neo-Darwinism synthesis should ignore these studies.

According to Denis Noble:

"Acquired characteristics can be inherited, and in a few but growing number of cases that inheritance has now been shown to be robust for many generations". (6)

So from this evidence, we can gather:

1. That Lamarck was correct about the inheritance of acquired characteristics.
2. The fact that acquired characteristics can be inherited has refuted a tenet of neo-Darwinism which denied the possibility that this could happen.

As the main question asks, what is the current scientific position on this? Are you in agreement about describing epigenetic inheritance as Lamarckian?


1. Peter J. Bowler. (1989). Evolution: The History of an Idea.
2. http://www.technologyreview.com/news/411880/a-comeback-for-lamarckian-evolution/
3. Joseph Springer, Dennis Holley. (2012). An Introduction To Zoology.
4. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/32637/title/Lamarck-and-the-Missing-Lnc/
5. http://www.somosbacteriasyvirus.com/soft1.pdf
6. http://ep.physoc.org/content/early/2013/04/12/expphysiol.2012.071134.full.pdf

Further reading:

5. http://biginscience.com/big-in-science-articles/2013/1/22/lamarcks-last-laugh.html
6. http://www.healio.com/orthopedics/biologics/news/print/orthopedics-today/%7BCE137C67-1E1D-41A9-9892-2734F1B9B4C7%7D/Science-of-Epigenetics-Lamarck-was-right-after-all