Novel research? Suicide may be premature
If you can wait a century maybe you will be vindicated
Re-examination suggests Paul Kammerer’s scientific ‘fraud’ was a genuine discovery of epigenetic inheritance
“It is no secret that even today, the “inheritance of acquired characteristics” is often treated as an impossibility, supposedly discarded by experiments such as the amputation of the tail of mice during successive generations, which never leads to mice being born without tails. It was argued that no special mechanism existed by which environmental change could directly modify inheritance, and that every apparent case could be ultimately explained by indirect effects of natural selection and conventional genetics. But these views started to change drastically since the 1990’s, along with the progress in techniques to study molecular genetics. These uncovered several molecular mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, that could directly change inheritance in response to the environment. The modern field of epigenetics studies those changes in gene expression that do not involve a mutation, but are nevertheless inherited in absence of the signal or event that initiated the change. During the 21st century, experiments in mice have reported such inheritable modifications, identifying the relevant genes that have been altered by epigenetic mechanisms.
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2016-10-re-examination-paul-kammerer-scientific-fraud.html#jCp”
The Encyclopedia Britannica may only repeat the discredited idea without reexamination, however:
“The theory of acquired traits is not supported by science, and Kammerer’s claim to have proved it met with a great deal of criticism.”
Accessed Feb 24 Sat 2017
WRITTEN BY: The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica
LAST UPDATED: 11-13-2007 See Article History
August 17, 1880
September 23, 1926
The results of Kammerer’s experiments with salamanders and other amphibians were widely published in technical papers and books, the first of these appearing in 1904 and the last published posthumously in 1928. He claimed to have caused the offspring of the viviparous Alpine salamander to acquire certain characteristics of the spotted oviparous lowland salamander, and vice versa. Following a second series of experiments, Kammerer announced that he could make the male midwife toad, which lacks the thick pigmented thumb pads found in other toads, inherit such pads.
The theory of acquired traits is not supported by science, and Kammerer’s claim to have proved it met with a great deal of criticism. Kammerer was called upon to make his evidence available to other scientists for examination. In 1923 he lectured and presented his evidence at the University of Cambridge and before the Linnean Society of London. His major critic, William Bateson, attempted to discredit Kammerer’s experiments, and in 1926 G.K. Noble and Hans Przibram observed the preserved amphibians and found that the pads were artificially coloured with India ink. Kammerer claimed to have no knowledge of the use of India ink on his specimens, and evidence of the perpetrator was inconclusive. He committed suicide shortly after details of the controversy were published, presumably as a result of this public scandal or of a difficult love affair.
At the time of his death, Kammerer had accepted the position of professor of biology at Moscow University. His best-known publication, which was also little accepted in the scientific community, was Das Gesetz der Serie (1919; “The Law of Seriality”), an attempt to explain coincidence as the manifestation of a natural principle operating independently of known physical causation laws.”
Here’s a more balanced and up to date review:
“What Remains of Lamarck?
18 December 2015Biology, Science
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Much of the population has this idea of biological evolution: species change by the need to adapt to the environment, and this process of change often depends on the use (or lack thereof) of certain body parts. In a classic example, the giraffe’s neck would be stretched by the need to reach the leaves in the treetops. The problem with this idea, which according to several surveys is fairly widespread, is that it is erroneous – it does not correspond to the theory developed by Darwin, which has to a great extent influenced our current understanding of evolution.
Portraits of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin. Authors: Charles Thevenin and J. Cameron
This concept, which continues to thrive today in the popular imagination, is actually pre-Darwin. It comes from the vision of Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (August 1, 1744 – December 18, 1829), a naturalist who made great contributions to the field of taxonomy. He coined the term “invertebrates” and the division of this group into ten categories. But perhaps he is remembered today more for the theory that he first presented at a conference on May 11, 1800, according to which there is a natural force that compels species to progress to more complex forms. During the process, species were thought to change to adapt to their environment; the eyes of moles atrophied from lack of use, and this change was passed on to their offspring. In short, Lamarck’s theory was based on two ideas – adaptive change and the inheritance of traits acquired during an individual’s life. This latter idea already formed part of the thinking of other naturalists of his time.
Half a century later, the theory of natural selection of random variations, introduced by Darwin, annihilated the idea of adaptive mutation. In the late nineteenth century, August Weismann refuted the inheritance of acquired traits, proposing that changes in somatic cells did not affect inheritance, dependent only on the germ cells such as the sperm and the egg. Thus, no matter how much a giraffe’s neck stretches, this elongation will never be transmitted to its offspring, as it leaves no mark on the animal’s sperm or eggs.
The scientific resurrection of Lamarck
And yet, despite everything, in recent decades there have been new discoveries that have resuscitated Lamarck’s ideas for part of the scientific community. In the late twentieth century it began to be understood that certain other acquired traits could actually be inherited; for example, food or the exposure to pollutants can print chemical marks on DNA capable of overriding the expression of a gene. These modifications do not change the genetic sequence, but since they are attached to the DNA molecule they can be transmitted to offspring if they affect germ cells. Consequently, the functioning of a gene of an individual may actually be altered because of something that his father ate. These features are called epigenetic, and for some biologists they suggest a demonstration of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, which has inspired a Neo-Lamarckism revival.
Chemical change (methylation) in the molecule of DNA, a key for epigenetic. Author: Christoph Bock (Max Planck Institute for Informatics)
However, other experts question whether epigenetic traits really correspond to the model of Lamarck; in principle they are not adaptive changes due to the efforts of an individual, like “a pianist learns a sonata and her child inherits the ability,” as David Haig, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University (USA), explains to OpenMind. Therefore, speaking of Lamarckian inheritance is, for Haig, “a semantic morass” because it depends on the definition of each word.
Inheritance of acquired traits from random mutagenesis
Because this adaptive nature is lacking, “it is impossible to separate entirely the inheritance of acquired traits from random mutagenesis,” opines Adam Weiss, a researcher at the University of Vienna (Austria). Meanwhile, Haig gives a relevant example: a lack of folate in the diet may cause epigenetic change, while a mutagen in a food can alter the DNA sequence. Both have the same origin (diet) and both are inherited, but which is Lamarckian inheritance and which responds to the pattern of random variation described by Darwin? What is important, say scientists, is how evolution works over the long term. And, in this regard, says Haig, epigenetic changes are there because they are also “a product of Darwinian natural selection.”
In addition to epigenetics, there is another recently discovered phenomenon in which some experts see the shadow of Lamarck. Many bacteria possess an immune mechanism called CRISPR, whereby a microbe can incorporate into its own DNA the genetic fragments of an invading virus, in order to recognize it and respond to it on future occasions. This immunity is acquired, is adaptive and is transmitted to offspring. For evolutionary biologist William F. Martin of the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf (Germany), the CRISPR system is “exactly what Lamarck had in mind; it is an example in biology that fits the mechanism he predicted. […] Acquired immunity in a real sense. Closed case,” said Martin to OpenMind.
Nevertheless, for Martin this does not mean that the view of evolution as a whole should move even one iota from Darwin towards Lamarck: “Lamarck was not right, because nearly all of evolution proceeds as Darwin thought.” Haig agrees that one thing is that Lamarckian inheritance exists, but it is quite another thing that this is the engine of evolution. He explains that it is all about the different time scales: “On a short-time scale the system could be considered Lamarckian (under some definitions) but its long-term evolution is Darwinian.” In short, and according to what Weiss wrote in a recent article published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution, “Bringing back Lamarck is unjustified and misleading.” Lamarck was “an interesting guy with an interesting theory,” concludes Martin, but he was also “unlucky.”
By Javier Yanes for Ventana al Conocimiento
The Wikipedia entry is balanced and complete:
“Paul Kammerer (17 August 1880, in Vienna – 23 September 1926, in Puchberg am Schneeberg) was an Austrian biologist who studied and advocated the Lamarckian theory of inheritance – the notion that organisms may pass to their offspring characteristics they have acquired in their lifetime. He began his academic career at the Vienna Academy studying music but graduated with a degree in biology.
Kammerer’s work in biology largely involved altering the breeding and development of amphibians. He coerced ovoviviparous fire salamanders to become viviparous, and viviparous alpine salamanders to become ovoviviparous. In lesser-known experiments, he manipulated and bred olms. He made olms produce live young, and he bred dark-colored olms with full vision. He supported the Lamarckian theory of the heritability of acquired characteristics, and experimented extensively in an effort to prove this theory.
Kammerer succeeded in making midwife toads breed in the water by increasing the temperature of their tanks, forcing them to retreat to the water to cool off. The male midwife toads were not genetically programmed for the underwater mating that necessarily followed and thus, over the span of two generations, Kammerer reported that his midwife toads were exhibiting black nuptial pads on their feet to give them more traction in this underwater mating process. While the prehistoric ancestors of midwife toads had these pads, Kammerer considered this an acquired characteristic brought about by adaptation to environment. Claims arose that the result of the experiment had been falsified. The most notable of these claims was made by Dr. G. K. Noble, Curator of Reptiles at the American Museum of Natural History, in the scientific journal Nature. Noble, after a microscopic examination, claimed that the black pads actually had a far more mundane explanation: they had simply been injected with Indian ink.
In a letter Kammerer stated that after reading Noble’s paper he reexamined his specimen and confirmed that India ink had been injected into the pads. Kammerer suggested that his specimens had been altered by a laboratory assistant. The criminologist Edward Sagarin has written that “Kammerer maintained his total innocence and declared his ignorance of the forger’s identity. There is still doubt about whether an obliging (or hostile) assistant was responsible for the forgery, but Kammerer’s scientific credibility was nevertheless irremediably damaged.” Science historian Peter J. Bowler has written that most biologists believe that Kammerer was a fraud, and even among those who believe he was honest claim he misinterpreted the results of his experiments.
Six weeks after the accusation by Noble, Kammerer committed suicide in the forest of Schneeberg, an event whose complex meaning is discussed by journalist Arthur Koestler.
The Lamarckian biologist Ernest MacBride supported the experiments of Kammerer but commented they would have to be repeated if they were to be accepted by other scientists. The British zoologist Harold Munro Fox had attempted to replicate some of Kammerer’s experiments but produced negative results. Biology professor Harry Gershenowitz also attempted to duplicate Kammerer’s experiment with a related species Bombina orientalis but due to lack of funds had to terminate the experiment.
Interest in Kammerer revived in 1971 with the publication of Arthur Koestler’s book, The Case of the Midwife Toad. Koestler surmised that Kammerer’s experiments on the midwife toad may have been tampered with by a Nazi sympathizer at the University of Vienna. Certainly, as Koestler writes, “the Hakenkreuzler, the swastika-wearers, as the Austrian Nazis of the early days were called, were growing in power. One center of ferment was the University of Vienna where, on the traditional Saturday morning student parades, bloody battles were fought. Kammerer was known by his public lectures and newspaper articles as an ardent pacifist and Socialist; it was also known that he was going to build an institute in Soviet Russia. “An act of sabotage in the laboratory would have been…in keeping with the climate of those days.”
Koestler’s claims have been criticized by the scientific community. Gordon Stein has noted:
Koestler’s book favors evidence that exonerates Kammerer, while downplaying or ignoring evidence against him… [His] own hidden agenda may be that if Kammerer was right, then Lamarck’s idea that acquired characteristics can be inherited is strengthened. The Lamarckian idea supports many ideas that foster parapsychology’s theoretical basis. Kammerer was quite interested in the study of coincidences, as was Koestler. As a consequence of Noble’s refutation (see above), interest in Lamarckian inheritance diminished except in the Soviet Union where it was championed by Lysenko.
Historian of biology Sander Gliboff and Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana University, has commented that, though Kammerer’s conclusions proved false, his evidence was probably genuine and that he did not simply argue for Lamarckism and against Darwinism as those theories are now understood. Rather, if we look beyond the scandal, the story shows us much about the competing theories of biological and cultural evolution and the range of new ideas about heredity and variation in early 20th-century biology and the changes in experimental approach that have occurred since that time. In 2009, developmental biologist Alexander Vargas, Professor in the Department of Biology, University of Chile, suggested that the inheritance of acquired traits (Lamarckian inheritance) that Kammerer reported to observe in his toad experiments could be authentic, and explainable by results from the emerging field of epigenetics. In Vargas’ view, Kammerer could actually be considered the discoverer of non-Mendelian, epigenetic inheritance, wherein chemical modifications to parental DNA (e.g., through DNA methylation) are passed on to subsequent generations. Furthermore, In Vargas’ view, the parent-of-origin effect poorly understood at the time of Kammerer’s work might be explained retrospectively, in relation to similar effects seen in other organisms. Professor Gliboff of Indiana University (see above) has subsequently argued that Vargas “constructed his model without first reading Kammerer’s original articles”, and that Vargas is “seriously misinformed about what Kammerer did and what the results even were”, such that Vargas’ “model… cannot explain the results… originally reported…”. Gliboff goes on to strongly challenge Kammerer’s being given credit for discovery of parent-of-origin effects, and to state that “Vargas’ historical inferences about the Kammerer affair… [and] negative reactions of geneticists… are unsupported and do not stand up to scrutiny.”  Hence, the reinterpretation of Kammerer’s work in light of epigenetic discoveries remains controversial.
Seriality theory Kammerer’s other passion was collecting coincidences. He published a book with the title Das Gesetz der Serie (The Law of the Series; never translated into English) in which he recounted some 100 anecdotes of coincidences that had led him to formulate his theory of Seriality.
He postulated that all events are connected by waves of seriality. These unknown forces would cause what we would perceive as just the peaks, or groupings and coincidences. Kammerer was known, for example, to make notes in public parks of what numbers of people were passing by, how many carried umbrellas etc. Albert Einstein called the idea of Seriality “interesting, and by no means absurd”, while Carl Jung drew upon Kammerer’s work in his essay Synchronicity. Koestler reported that, when researching for his biography about Kammerer, he himself was subjected to “a meteor shower” of coincidences – as if Kammerer’s ghost were grinning down at him saying, “I told you so!”.”