This is a post about Lamarckism and if you’ve never heard of Lamarckism I’m hoping that this post will get you interested in it as well as how it has appeared in various forms of media in the modern era. At some point in the future, I’m going to use this as a base for a video I am planning on making as soon as I can afford a video camera and editing software of my own. I think this would do better as a video than as a blog post but I want to go ahead and write this out somewhere so that way people can see it and hopefully writers can learn about this neat and unacknowledged idea in fantasy & sci-fi media. Oh yeah and some spoilers for Re:Monster but if you aren’t a nerd like me that won’t matter to you.
Defining & Explaining Lamarckism:
Before the publication of The Origin Of Species (and thus the emergence of the theory of evolution by natural selection in the public eye), there were ideas which sought to explain how traits were passed down from one generation to another. One such idea which enjoyed a bit of popularity but was also the subject of very intense criticism from the science community at the time is now referred to as Lamarckism, and if someone had to boil down this idea of French biologist Lamarck’s to its most simple it had two major ideas. The first idea was that something could gain advantageous characteristics during its life and lose unused or disadvantageous characteristics during its life (the idea of use & disuse organs) and the second idea was that such characteristics are inheritable and thus can be passed down to one’s offspring more easily. Lamarck’s work Zoological Philosophy outlines his views and notes the impact he thinks the environment could have on species and even writes about vestigial structures in it.
How Has Lamarckism Snuck Into Fantasy Media?
First of all, there’s a trope that’s been identified and is on TV Tropes which talks about Lamarckism which is neat in and of itself. If you want specific examples of Lamarkism look at Pokemon. Many pokemon are examples of one part of Lamarckian thought since once they reach a certain level of power due to being trained (generally in different environments than they were born) or are exposed to a wild change of conditions (such as when pokemon evolve due to being exposed to types of stones which contain or embody classical elements like water, fire, or thunder) they can radically and wildly change acquiring way new characteristics and in more than a few cases even change types while evolving but it doesn’t even have to be that massive because pokemon learning new moves over the course of their lives is also an example of Lamarckian thought. At this point, if you were a casual fan of Pokemon or not a fan at all I bet you’re wondering if there’s an example of passing down acquired characteristics in Pokemon and there is! Breeding is an element in Pokemon and there are guides which show how to pass down moves from parent pokemon to child pokemon, which is, in fact, an example of passing down acquired characteristics from parent to child.
These are clearly an understanding perhaps unconsciously of the sorts of ideas that Lamarck had in life applied to creative works of fiction and it’s neat as heck. Pokemon and Re:Monster are FAR from the only times these ideas appear in fantasy but they are some of the clearer examples of them in fantasy and Pokemon is something that most people who’d ever read this post have even a passing understanding of or even awareness of whereas for many of my readers this’ll likely be the first time they’ll ever hear of Re:Monster. If I ever get to make a video on this topic I’ll dive way more in-depth than this, but I hope that this post introduced you to new stuff that you want to experience and learn about yourself. I’d love to hear what you think of all of this and your favorite examples of Lamarckism in fantasy!