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Koestler’s account of the case of the midwife toad is one of the most recent appraisals of the implications of Lamarckian metaphysics. Lamarck’s theory made room for one element of accretion to which Darwin paid little attention in The Origin of Species since he there suppressed the presence of man. This element is the accumulation of culture and inherited knowledge which man has been able to pass down (independent of genetic means) from generation to generation. But to some later writers even that power came to seem cursed.
Evolutionary ideas shifted in very diverse ways the patterns through which we apprehend experience and hence the patterns through which we condense experience in the telling of it. Evolutionism has been so imaginatively powerful precisely because all its indications do not point one way. It is rich in contradictory elements which can serve as a metaphorical basis for more than one reading of experience: to give one summary example – the ‘ascent’ or the ‘descent’ of man may follow the same route but the terms suggest very diverse evaluations of the experience.
He also gave less account of process and more of composition – that is, he imaged a world apparently more or less stable. As an ordering of the past in relation to present experience Lamarck’s vision is attractive and neo-Lamarckian views continue to revive at intervals. Koestler’s account of the case of the midwife toad is one of the most recent appraisals of the implications of Lamarckian metaphysics. Lamarck’s theory made room for one element of accretion to which Darwin paid little attention in The Origin of Species since he there suppressed the presence of man.
501 Fascinating Facts by Editorial Board