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Difference Between Darwinism and Lamarckism

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What is Darwinism?

Also known as Darwinian Theory or Theory of Natural Selection, Darwinism is defined as a theory of biological evolution founded by the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882), This describes a philosophy in which all species of organisms evolve and develop through natural selection of small and hereditary variations which enhance the ability of an individual to compete, survive and reproduce. It is, more precisely, a distinctive form of evolutionary reasoning for the origin and nature of earthly life.

About Darwinism and Lamarckism 

The theory's major concepts include overproduction, the fight for life, differences, the survival of the fittest species and the origin of organisms. Those can be explained further as follows:

  • Species are created by individuals who differ slightly with respect to their various characteristics.

  • Species have a tendency to grow their numbers at a geometric rate over centuries.

This propensity is assessed by the concepts of population, limited resources, disease and predation that will ultimately determine the struggle for survival among members of a species.

Some individuals will have variations, giving them a slight advantage in this battle, where individual variations will allow more effective or better access to resources, greater disease resistance and greater success in preventing predation. These people also survive better than others, yielding more offspring. Offspring will inherit many variations on the part of their parents.

As a result, favourable variations are more frequently passed than others and thus preserved over time, and this significant trend is called ‘Natural’.

This method, however, will result in a fundamental change in the character of a given species.

How does Natural Selection Work? 

The whole process of natural selection tends to carry on from generation to generation. The basis of this concept is that those genetic mutations that might result in an individual’s benefits and help him/her to survive are passed onto them through reproduction. This in turn paves the way for more organisms whose chances of survival increase. 

The declining populations of an ancestor species will vary enough over a long period of time, and will be categorised as a different species with a capacity process along with an infinite iteration. The elimination of intermediate varieties will be the responsibility of forces which promote divergence among descendant populations.

Limitations to Darwinism 

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution isn’t completely unblemished as it has a few drawbacks of its own. 

Here are a couple of limitations to Darwinism: 

  • Darwin didn’t explain the concept of variation in-depth at all and still used it in his theory. He was not able to explain where exactly the variations that tend to generate during the process of evolution originate from or even how these are really inherited. 

  • Although he put great emphasis on the idea of how evolution is basically “survival of the fittest”, that particular perspective isn’t really true. This is mainly because studies found out later that both the fit, as well as the fitter organisms can co-exist in the environment

What is Lamarckism?

Being the first Theory of Evolution, proposed by Jean Baptiste de Lamarck, a French biologist (1744-1829), Lamarckism is defined as a combination of theories consisting of the inheritance of characters acquired and the use and disuse of organs.

In a simpler way, this concept suggests that in all species there is an inner vital force with special consideration of basic needs and desires to produce new structures and alter the behaviour of whole organisms.

Major Concepts Explained by this Theory

  • Internal Vital Force: As a result of a pre - existing inner vital force, all living things and their component parts are steadily increasing in number and size.

  • Effect of Environment and New Needs: Environment acts as an influential factor in all types of organisms, and a simple environmental change tends to bring about significant changes in organisms. It also gives rise to new needs that can over time create new systems and alter the organism's habits.

  • Use and Disuse of Organs: If an organ is used constantly, it will progressively develop over time where the disuse of an organ results in its degeneration.

  • Inheritance of Acquired Characters: As a result of the internal vital force listed above, individuals acquire characters and features during lifetime. These will eventually pass to generations to come. This whole process will continue, and these variations will accumulate to a certain degree after several generations, creating new species.

Example: Evolution of Giraffe

Originally the giraffe's ancestors had a small neck and forelimbs and looked like horses. But since they lived in places without any vegetation on the surface, they had to stretch out their neck and forelimbs to pick leaves to eat, resulting in a slight elongation of these parts. Those beneficial characteristics, however, passed over time from generation to generation and ultimately resulted in a species with long necks and forelimbs.

Limitations to Lamarckism 

Lamarck’s theory also had certain limitations as follows: 

According to Lamarckism, the coming/future generations tend to inherit the acquired characteristics. However, there’s a loophole here in this concept because he was unable to explain the association between those acquired characteristics and reproductive cells. 

In fact, he ended up misinterpreting it all because it is not possible for said acquired characteristics to be inherited by an organism, thereby rendering his notion incorrect. 

Difference Between Darwinism and Lamarckism: 

Concept - 

Darwinism: Darwinism suggests that all species of organisms arise and develop by natural selection of small and hereditary variations which enhance an individual's ability to compete, survive and reproduce.

Lamarckism: Lamarckism is based on new desires that generate new structures and change organismal habits over time.


Darwinism: Darwinism does not believe in the concept of the internal vital force explained in Lamarckism.

Lamarckism: Lamarckism refuses to accept Darwin 's natural theory of selection.

Struggle for Existence & Survival of the Fittest

Darwinism: Two major factors mentioned in Darwinism are the battle for life and survival of the fittest.

Lamarckism: Lamarckism does not recognize struggle for life and survival of the fittest.

Darwinism: Only useful variations will be translated over successive generations, according to Darwinism.

Lamarckism: Lamarckism proposes that the next generation inherit all of the acquired characters.



This theory was anticipated by Jean Baptiste de Lamarck. 

This theory was anticipated by Charles Darwin.

Individual population has identical characteristics. Individuals can make a difference. 

The interbreeding population of individuals always has similar characteristics with certain variability. Individuals are eternal. The population will turn itself.

Internal drive towards greater complexity, influenced by the inheritance of properties acquired. Variations are tailored to the needs of the organism. 

Variation does exist regardless of the condition of the organism. 

Example: The long neck of a giraffe. 

Example: Keen eyesight of a hawk.

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FAQs on Difference Between Darwinism and Lamarckism

1. What is Lamarck's Theory?

Lamarckism, an evolutionary theory based on the principle that physical changes in organisms could be transferred to their offspring over their lifetime — such as greater development of an organ or a component through increased use.

2. Why is Darwin's Theory Better than Lamarck's?

In doing so, Lamarck believed that each generation would grow their necks slightly longer and pass that trait onto their offspring. (See this paper in the journal Genetics for a much deeper history of Lamarck's theories of evolution.) In contrast, Darwin believed in evolutionary theory through natural selection.

3. What was Darwin's Theory on Giraffes?

As for the giraffe example, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection would imply that by chance a giraffe was born with a longer neck. Access to more food allowed the giraffe to live longer and breed more, eventually leading to more long - necked giraffes.

4. Is Lamarck's Theory Accepted Today?

Now it's commonly accepted that the theories of Lamarck were incorrect.

5. What is the central basis of Darwinism? 

According to Charles Darwin, the founder of Darwinism, evolution takes place through natural selection only. This theory of biological evolution was heavily researched upon by him. There are three main components that follow his research; the first being variation, which happens to be a liberalising factor, the second being the inheritance of an individual’s physical traits, and the last being only those individuals who have certain favourable traits, would be able to make it out of the battle of existence. 

6. How does Lamarckism describe the theory of evolution to be? 

Lamarckism, a theory presented by Jean Baptiste de Lamarck, focuses mainly on the physical characteristics of an organism as it describes the theory of evolution. It states that the physical changes that occur with regard to an organism through the course of its life, can be transmitted to its offspring as well. The principal notion behind the following chain of thought is the theory of inheritance of characteristics that are already acquired. Another one of the salient features of this theory is the use and disuse of organs, which is emphasised by Lamarck a lot.

7. Are there any limitations to Darwin’s theory of evolution? 

Although Charles Darwin talked about natural selection and survival of the fittest through his theory of evolution, there were a couple of aspects that he missed to consider. One of the most prominent limitations when it comes to his theory is that of his failure to elaborate variation because although he mentioned it as to be a valuable part of his theory, Darwin was unable to explain its roots, sources, or even how exactly variations tend to occur within a particular species. 

8. Does Lamarckism have any weaknesses? 

Yes, Lamarck’s theory of evolution also possessed some loose ends. One of the biggest ones is that Lamarck was wrong about the claim and concept of inherent characteristics. According to him, acquired characteristics are inherited, which if we look at the outside of theory, is certainly not possible. Besides, questions were also raised on the overall message that this theory gave out because there was no deeper understanding provided for it. For instance, if new organs depended on new needs and developed accordingly, then people would have gotten wings and horns by now.

9. How does Vedantu clarify complex concepts like these?

Vedantu provides an in-depth analysis of various theories like these, which not only focus on the basic definitions and examples of it but also talk about different points of view, different possibilities, etc., to widen the horizon of the student’s knowledge. And although it gives the students access to loads of study material, all of it is broken down into better and easily fathomable material so that it is more convenient and less time consuming for the student to go through it all.