Publications and drafts by topic: Inheritance Systems
Ehud Lamm, The Metastable Genome: A Lamarckian Organ in a Darwinian World?. In Eva Jablonka & Snait Gissis (eds.), Transformations of Lamarckism: from subtle fluids to molecular biology, 2011 [Page|PDF ]
Ehud Lamm, Inheritance Systems. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2012 [Page]
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.
Adam Krashniak and Ehud Lamm, Was regression to the mean really the solution to Darwin’s problem with heredity?. In Biology & Philosophy, 32(5), 749-758, 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.
Ehud Lamm, Cultural group selection and holobiont evolution – a comparison of structures of evolution. In Snait Gissis, Ehud Lamm, and Ayelet Shavit (eds.), Landscapes of Collectivity in the Life Sciences. MIT Press., 2017 [Page|PDF ]
The notion of structure of evolution is proposed to capture what it means to say that two situations exhibit the same or similar constellations of factors affecting evolution. The key features of holobiont evolution and the hologenome theory are used to define a holobiont structure of evolution. Finally, Cultural Group Selection, a set of hypotheses regarding the evolution of human cognition, is shown to match the holobiont structure closely though not perfectly.
Sophie Juliane Veigl, Oren Harman, Ehud Lamm, Friedrich Miescher’s Discovery in the Historiography of Genetics: From Contamination to Confusion, from Nuclein to DNA. In Journal of the History of Biology 53, 451–484, 2020 [Page]
In 1869, Johann Friedrich Miescher discovered a new substance in the nucleus of living cells. The substance, which he called nuclein, is now known as DNA, yet both Miescher’s name and his theoretical ideas about nuclein are all but forgotten. This paper traces the trajectory of Miescher’s reception in the historiography of genetics. To his critics, Miescher was a “contaminator,” whose preparations were impure. Modern historians portrayed him as a “confuser,” whose misunderstandings delayed the development of molecular biology. Each of these portrayals reflects the disciplinary context in which Miescher’s work was evaluated. Using archival sources to unearth Miescher’s unpublished speculations—including an analogy between the hereditary material and language, and a speculation that a series of asymmetric carbon atoms could account for hereditary variation—this paper clarifies the ways in which the past was judged through the lens of contemporary concerns. It also shows how organization, structure, function, and information were already being considered when nuclein was first discovered nearly 150 years ago.
Ehud Lamm, Oren Harman, Sophie Juliane Veigl, Before Watson and Crick in 1953 Came Friedrich Miescher in 1869. In Genetics 215(2):291-296, 2020 [Page]
In 1869, the young Swiss biochemist Friedrich Miescher discovered the molecule we now refer to as DNA, developing techniques for its extraction. In this paper we explain why his name is all but forgotten, and his role in the history of genetics is mostly overlooked. We focus on the role of national rivalries and disciplinary turf wars in shaping historical memory, and on how the story we tell shapes our understanding of the science. We highlight that Miescher could just as correctly be portrayed as the person who understood the chemical nature of chromatin (before the term existed), and the first to suggest how stereochemistry might serve as the basis for the transmission of hereditary variation.
Michael R. Dietrich, Oren Harman, Ehud Lamm, Richard Lewontin and the ‘complications of linkage’. In Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 88: 237–244, 2021 [Page]
During the 1960s and 1970s population geneticists pushed beyond models of single genes to grapple with the effect on evolution of multiple genes associated by linkage. The resulting models of multiple interacting loci suggested that blocks of genes, maybe even entire chromosomes or the genome itself, should be treated as a unit. In this context, Richard Lewontin wrote his famous 1974 book The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change, which concludes with an argument for considering the entire genome as the unit of selection as a result of linkage. Why did Lewontin and others devote so much intellectual energy to the “complications of linkage” in the 1960s and 1970s? We argue that this attention to linkage should be understood in the context of research on chromosomal inversions and co-adapted gene complexes that occupied mid-century evolutionary genetics. For Lewontin, the complications of linkage were an extension of this chromosomal focus expressed in the new language of models for linkage disequilibrium.
Adam Krashniak and Ehud Lamm, Francis Galton’s regression towards mediocrity and the stability of types. In Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 86: 6–19, 2021 [Page]
A prevalent narrative locates the discovery of the statistical phenomenon of regression to the mean in the work of Francis Galton. It is claimed that after 1885, Galton came to explain the fact that offspring deviated less from the mean value of the population than their parents did as a population-level statistical phenomenon and not as the result of the processes of inheritance. Arguing against this claim, we show that Galton did not explain regression towards mediocrity statistically, and did not give up on his ideas regarding an inheritance process that caused offspring to revert to the mean. While the common narrative focuses almost exclusively on Galton’s statistics, our arguments emphasize the anthropological and biological questions that Galton addressed. Galton used regression towards mediocrity to support the claim that some biological types were more stable than others and hence were resistant to evolutionary change. This view had implications concerning both natural selection and eugenics. The statistical explanation attributed to Galton appeared later, during the biometrician-mutationist debate in the early 1900s. It was in the context of this debate and specifically by the biometricians, that the development of the statistical explanation was originally attributed to Galton.
Ehud Lamm and Sophie Juliane Veigl, Back to Chromatin: ENCODE and the Dynamic Epigenome. In Biological Theory, 2022 [Page]
The “Encyclopedia of DNA Elements” (ENCODE) project was launched by the US National Human Genome Research Institute in the aftermath of the Human Genome Project (HGP). It aimed to systematically map the human transcriptome, and held the promise that identifying potential regulatory regions and transcription factor binding sites would help address some of the perplexing results of the HGP. Its initial results published in 2012 produced a flurry of high-impact publications as well as criticisms. Here we put the results of ENCODE and the work on epigenomics that followed in a broad theoretical and historical context, focusing on three strands of research. The first is the history of thinking about the organization of genomes, both physical and regulatory. The second is the history of ideas about gene regulation, primarily in eukaryotes. Finally, and connecting these two issues, we suggest how to think about the role of genetic material in physiology and development.
Unpublished drafts and work in progress
Ehud Lamm, Genetics and Epigenetics Meet in the Genome. [Page]