The Biological Basis of Human Nature


    ALMOST everything which has been written on the biological foundations of human society is based upon a false antithesis with a historical background, which should be evident to everyone who is familiar with the progress of animal biology during the last century. Before the emergence of the cell doctrine during the ’thirties, Kolliker's discovery that the sperm is produced by the transformation of a single cell in the testis of the male parent, and the elucidation of the phenomenon of fertilisation by Fol in 1879, the prevailing biological concept of inheritance was very much like the legal one. While the egg was still regarded as an adult in miniature, it was natural to think that we pass on our noses in much the same way as we pass on our mortgages. When the essential features of fertilisation were established, it was natural that biologists should challenge the legal view of inheritance associated by custom with the name of Lamarck. Had Weissmann confined himself to this modest task, his influence on biological theory would have been one of permanent usefulness. Unfortunately, he could not stop at that. From a total misconception of the role of the external environment in relation to the materials of inheritance, biological doctrine swung over to a total neglect of the role of environment in the process of development.

    The Biological Basis of Human Nature.

    Prof. H. S. Jennings. Pp. xviii + 384. (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1930.) 15s. net.

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    The Biological Basis of Human Nature . Nature 127, 263–264 (1931).

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