Publications and drafts by topic: History
Richard Goldschmidt famously rejected the notion of atomic and corpuscular genes, arranged on the chromosome like beads-on-a-string. I provide an exegesis of Goldschmidt’s intuition by analyzing his repeated and extensive use of metaphorical language and analogies in his attempts to convey his notion of the nature of the genetic material and specifically the significance of chromosomal pattern. The paper concentrates on Goldschmidt’s use of metaphors in publications spanning 1940-1955.
Ehud Lamm, Theoreticians as Professional Outsiders: The Modeling Strategies of John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener. In Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich (eds.), Outsider Scientists: Routes to Innovation in Biology. Chicago University Press., 2013 [Page|PDF ]
Both von Neumann and Wiener were outsiders to biology. Both were inspired by biology and both proposed models and generalizations that proved
inspirational for biologists. Around the same time in the 1940s von Neumann developed the notion of self reproducing automata and Wiener suggested an explication of teleology using the notion of negative feedback. These efforts were similar in spirit. Both von Neumann and Wiener used mathematical ideas to attack foundational issues in biology, and the concepts they articulated had lasting effect. But there were significant differences as well. Von Neumann presented a how-possibly model, which sparked interest by mathematicians and computer scientists, while Wiener collaborated more directly with biologists, and his proposal influenced the philosophy of biology. The two cases illustrate different strategies by which mathematicians, the “professional outsiders” of science, can choose to guide their engagement with biological questions and with the biological community, and illustrate different kinds of generalizations that mathematization can contribute to biology. The different strategies employed by von Neumann and Wiener and the types of models they constructed may have affected the fate of von Neumann’s and Wiener’s ideas – as well as the reputation, in biology, of von Neumann and Wiener themselves.
Ehud Lamm, The genome as a developmental organ. In Journal of Physiology 592 (11):2237-2244 (2014), 2014 [Page]
This paper applies the conceptual toolkit of Evolutionary Developmental Biology (evo‐devo) to the evolution of the genome and the role of the genome in organism development. This challenges both
the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, the dominant view in evolutionary theory for much of the 20th century, and the typically unreflective analysis of heredity by evo‐devo. First, the history of the marginalization of applying system‐thinking to the genome is described. Next, the suggested framework is presented. Finally, its application to the evolution of genome modularity, the evolution of induced mutations, the junk DNA versus ENCODE debate, the role of drift in genome evolution, and the relationship between genome dynamics and symbiosis with microorganisms are briefly discussed.
Oren Harman and Ehud Lamm, History of Classical Genetics. In eLS: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences, 2015 [Page]
Ehud Lamm, Systems Thinking Versus Population Thinking: Genotype Integration and Chromosomal Organization 1930s–1950s. In Journal of the History of Biology, 2015 [Page]
This article describes how empirical discoveries in the 1930s–1950s regarding population variation for chromosomal inversions affected Theodosius Dobzhansky and Richard Goldschmidt. A significant fraction of the empirical work I discuss was done by Dobzhansky and his coworkers; Goldschmidt was an astute interpreter, with strong and unusual commitments. I argue that both belong to a mechanistic tradition in genetics, concerned with the effects of chromosomal organization and systems on the inheritance patterns of species. Their different trajectories illustrate how scientists’ commitments affect how they interpret new evidence and adjust to it. Dobzhansky was moved to revised views about selection, while Goldschmidt moved his attention to different genetic phenomena. However different, there are significant connections between the two that enrich our understanding of their views. I focus on two: the role of developmental considerations in Dobzhansky’s thought and the role of neutrality and drift in Goldschmidt’s evolutionary account. Dobzhansky’s struggle with chromosomal variation is not solely about competing schools of thought within the selectionist camp, as insightfully articulated by John Beatty, but also a story of competition between selectionist thinking and developmental perspectives. In contraposition, Goldschmidt emphasized the role of low penetrance mutations that spread neutrally and pointed out that drift could result from developmental canalization. This account adds to the dominant story about Goldschmidt’s resistance to the splitting of development from genetics, as told by Garland Allen and Michael Dietrich. The story I tell illustrates how developmental thinking and genetic thinking conflicted and influenced researchers with different convictions about the significance of chromosomal organization.
Ehud Lamm and Eva Jablonka, Lamarck’s Two Legacies: A 21st-century Perspective on Use-Disuse and the Inheritance of Acquired Characters. In Interdisciplina. vol 3 (5): January-April 2015, 2015 [Page|PDF ]
Lamarck has left many legacies for future generations of biologists. His best known legacy was an explicit suggestion, developed in the Philosophie zoologique (PZ), that the effects of use and disuse (acquired characters) can be inherited and can drive species transformation. This suggestion was formulated as two laws, which we refer to as the law of biological plasticity and the law of phenotypic continuity. We put these laws in their historical context and distinguish between Lamarck’s key insights and later neo-Lamarckian interpretations of his ideas. We argue that Lamarck’s emphasis on the role played by the organization of living beings and his physiological model of reproduction are directly relevant to 21st-century concerns, and illustrate this by discussing intergenerational genomic continuity and cultural evolution.
Ehud Lamm, Big Dreams for Small Creatures: Ilana and Eugene Rosenberg’s path to the Hologenome Theory. In Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich (eds.), Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences. Chicago University Press., 2016 [Page|PDF ]
Adam Krashniak and Ehud Lamm, Was regression to the mean really the solution to Darwin’s problem with heredity?. In Biology & Philosophy, 2017 [Page]
Statistical reasoning is an integral part of modern scientific practice. In The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom Stephen Stigler presents seven core ideas, or pillars, of statistical thinking and the historical developments of each of these pillars, many of which were concurrent with developments in biology. Here we focus on Stigler’s fifth pillar, regression, and his discussion of how regression to the mean came to be thought of as a solution to a challenge for the theory of natural selection. Stigler argues that the purely mathematical phenomenon of regression to the mean provides a resolution to a problem for Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Thus, he argues that the resolution to the problem for Darwin’s theory is purely mathematical, rather than causal. We show why this argument is problematic.
Unpublished drafts and work in progress
Ehud Lamm, Chromsomal inversions, hybdrid vigor, and Goldschmidt’s Models of Chromsomal Genic Action. [Page]