The Great Sacred Ibis Debate: an episode in the history of evolutionary biology

Why Evolution Is True

While evolution became a big deal in 1859 with the publication of Darwin’s Origin, there were of course people who had the idea of evolutionary change before him. One of these was Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1839), who suggested that organisms had evolved over long periods of time, but who has become infamous for suggesting that that evolution involved phenotypic changes according to an animal’s “will” that altered heredity via use and disuse of parts (the giraffe evolving a long neck by stretching it to reach high branches is the classic example).

In contrast, his fellow Frenchman, the influential zoologist and naturalist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) argues for the “fixity of species”: because species’ parts were optimally adapted to each other, species could not and did not change over time.

Their conflicting view of evolution, and how they were subject to a test, albeit a flawed one, is described in this article…

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