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No. 15: Spring 1981

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The Evolutionary Struggle Within

Ted Steele, an immunologist, has come up with experimental evidence showing in some cases that acquired immunity may be transmitted to progeny. When Steele's research was announced, many scientists and science writers rushed to the defense of Darwinism. They pointed out with unseeming vigor that a revival of dread Lamarckism or the Inheritance of Acquired Characters was not indicated.

It is true that Steele has proposed a Darwinian interpretation of his findings, but his theory adds a startling new dimension to the development of life. In essence, Steele asserts that an organism's immunological system is really the evolutionary scenario in miniature and compressed in time. The body's immuno-logical system is trying to cope with up to 10 million defensive cells. The only defensive cells that survive and multiply are those that happen to encounter an invader that they can lock onto and destroy. The "fittest" defensive cells are those that have just the right characteristics to knock off invaders, and only they survive permanently in the body's defensive arsenal, giving it acquired immunity. The Lamarckian part of this story occurs when the RNA of the selected defensive cells gets passed on to the organism's progeny.

(Tudge, Colin; "Lamarck Lives -- In the Immune System," New Scientist, 89:483, 1981.)

Comment. The picture evolving here is one of a hierarchy of evolutionary struggles -- say, humans on one level and their contained defensive cells on another level. The levels are not completely independent. The question that arises next is whether there are other evolutionary struggles going on, possibly in the mitochondria and chloroplasts, which possess their own genetic material. Or, waxing speculative, are there hierarchies of evolutionary struggle above humanity of which we know nothing except for perhaps a few anomalies representing cross talk between levels?

From Science Frontiers #15, Spring 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987