Othenio Abel, “Die Festgabe der ‘Palaeobiologica,’” Palaeobiologica
(1928), 1–8.Google Scholar
1912, p. 117. A chronological bibliography of Dollo's work on irreversibility is presented at the close of this article. Citations herein are by date and refer to these works.
1922, p. 219.
1922, p. 223.
1912, p. 140.
Paleontologists today refer to this phenomenon as “mosaic evolution.”
1895, p. 88.
Letter to Tilly Edinger, November 26, 1927. It is often mentioned in subsequent letters.
1903, pp. 25–26.
Such a belief is usually associated with various shades of vitalism, but this was certainly not the case with Dollo. Lamarck was accused of vitalism for his belief in the sentiment intérieur, but the existence of such fluxes and flows was central to his view of the physical world and carried no implication of a special status for life. Likewise, Dollo believed that phyletic life cycle was as natural an idea as individual life cycle. As a convinced mechanist, Dollo was a foe of vitalism in any of its forms. Never could any internal force work to produce or even to preserve an inadaptive configuration. An “old” species dies because it cannot evolve the required adaptation to a changing environment.
1893, p. 165.
1905a, p. 131.
1909a, p. 386.
Ibid., p. 387.
To emphasize this point, Dollo often and proudly cited his demonstration (1895) that the gephyrocercal tail of modern lungfishes is a secondary adaptation to benthic life and not a sign of primitive status. At that time, many paleontologists wanted to view living lungfish as survivors of a primitive stock that had given rise to terrestrial vertebrates.
Ibid., p. 443.
1903, p. 32.
1895, p. 88.
1922, p. 218.
1907, p. 12.
It is a testable statement only if “good faith” is maintained in interpreting the qualifying term “complex.” This term gives the statement an “open texture” that allows an unscrupulous supporter to exclude any event from its domain by claiming that the event was not sufficiently complex. See Friedrich Waismann, “Verifiability,” in A. Flew (ed.), Language and Logic
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1951). Flew claims that we lose interest in such a hypothesis because it has suffered “death by a thousand qualifications” (A. Flew, New Essays in Philosophical Theology
[London SCM Press], pp. 96–97). With a reasonable limit upon the term “complex”, Dollo's statement is testable; if “complex” is used to exclude any possible counterinstance, the statement becomes unfalsifiable.Google Scholar
1912, pp. 108–109.
1922, p. 224, for example.
See 1905b, p. 442.
Osborn referred to irreversibility as the “law of alternate adaptation.” H. F. Osborn, The Origin and Evolution of Life
(New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1917).Google Scholar
Pleiotropy, and Gregor Mendel for that matter, were unknown when Dollo formulated his views.
Branislav Petronievics, “Sur la loi de l'évolution irréversible,” Sci. Prog.
(1918), 406–419; O. H. Schindewolf, Grundfragen der Paläontologie
(Stuttgart: Schweizbart, 1950), p. 209.Google Scholar
1913, p. 59.
1900, p. 14; 1903, p. 32.
1922, p. 215.
1895, p. 122.
It is, of course, well known that simple structures with a simple genetic base can be reconstituted when lost. See Bjorn Kurtén, “Return of a lost structure in the evolution of the felid dentition,” Soc. Scient. Fenn. Comment. Biol.
(1963), 3–11; G. Hemmingsmoen, “Zig-zag evolution.” Norsk Geol. Tids., 44
(1964), 341–352.Google Scholar
1909b, p. 430; 1909a, p. 410.
1907, p. 7.
Charles Depéret, Les Transformations du monde animal
(Paris: Ernest Flammarion, 1919), pp. 243, 246.Google Scholar
L. Cuénot, L'Evolution biologique
, (Paris: Masson, 1951), pp. 49–51, 537.Google Scholar
K. Beurlen, Die stammesgeschichtlichen Grundlagen der Abstammungslehre
(Jena: Gustav Fischer, 1937), p. 42.Google Scholar
1905a, p. 130.
W. H. Easton, Invertebrate Paleontology
(New York: Harper, 1960), p. 42.Google Scholar
1912, p. 106, and 1922, p. 216.
J. R. Beerbower, Search for the Past
(Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1960), p. 156; Kurt Ehrenberg, Paläozoologie
(Vienna: Springer, 1960), p. 22.Google Scholar
The correct interpretation so far.
Francis Nopcsa, “Reversible and irreversible evolution; a study based on reptiles,” Proc. Zool. Soc. London, (1923), 1058. The same point has been made, with different examples in: G. J. Fejérvary, “Quelques observations sur la loi de Dollo et l'épistréphogénèse en consideration spéciale de la loi biogénétique de Haeckel,” Bull. Soc. Vaud. Sci. Nat., 53 (1920), 343–372; P. P. Sushkin, “Notes on the pre-Jurassic tetrapods from the U.S.S.R.,” Trav. Inst. Paléozool. Acad. Sci. U.S.S.R. Leningrad, 5, (1936), 43–91; and, more recently by: M. A. Shishkin, “Morphogenetic factors and the irreversibility of evolution,” Paleont. J., 3 (1968), 293–299.
1922, p. 216.
1901, p. 20.
Letter of November 17, 1928. Dollo had enormous respect for Haeckel despite his doubts about recapitulation. He wrote to Tilly Edinger (letter of June 30, 1928): “I do not want you to compare me with Haeckel! ... We exchanged publications, but I never had a personal relationship with him. Nevertheless, a curious thing, he was interested in me and in my work. Abel went to see him several times and, each time, he asked: “How is Dollo? What is Dollo doing?’ ”
E. Stromer, Lehrbuch der Paläozoologie, vol. 2, Wirbeltiere
(Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1912), p. 288; W. B. Scott, A History of Land Mammals in the Western Hemisphere
, (New York: Macmillan, 1929), p. 656; Bernhard Rensch, Evolution Above the Species Level
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1960), p. 124.Google Scholar
1907, p. 7.
Rensch, in Evolution, cites several standard examples.
Othenio Abel, Paläobiologie und Stammesgeschichte
(Jena: Gustav Fischer, 1929).Google Scholar
Letter to Tilly Edinger, November 21, 1926.
Rensch, Evolution, p. 124; Walter Zimmermann, “Methoden der Phylogenetik,” in G. Heberer (ed.) Die Evolution der Organismen (Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer, 1954), pp. 25–102.
, p. 285; G. A. Boulenger, “L'Évolution est-elle réversible? considerations au sujet de certains poissons,” Compt. Rend. Acad. Sci., 168
, (1919), 41–44.Google Scholar
Adolf Remane, “Die Geschichte der Tiere,” in
G. Heberer (ed.) Die Evolution der Organismen
(Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer, 1954), p. 419.Google Scholar
Karl Diener, Paläontologie und Abstammungslehre
(Leipzig: Samml. Goschen, 1910); Othenio Abel, Grundzüge der Palaeobiologie der Wirbeltiere
(Stuttgart: Schweizbart, 1912), and Paläobiologie
; for example, in: W. K. Gregory, “On the meaning and limits of irreversibility in evolution,” Am. Nat., 70
, (1936), 517–528; G. S. Carter, Animal Evolution: A Study of Recent Views and Its Causes
(London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1951).Google Scholar
G. G. Simpson, The Major Features of Evolution
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1953), p. 310; Dollo, 1909a, p. 397.Google Scholar
A. M. Davies, An Introduction to Paleontology
(London: Thomas Murby, 1947); R. C. Moore, C. G. Lalicker, and A. G. Fischer, Invertebrate Fossils
(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1952).Google Scholar
O. Schindewolf, Paläontologie; H. F. Blum, Time's Arrow and Evolution (Harper Torchbacks, 1962), p. 200; H. J. Muller, “Reversibility in evolution considered from the standpoint of genetics,” Biol. Rev., 14 (1939), 27; G. G. Simpson, Evolution, and This View of Life (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1964).
W. K. Gregory, “Basic patents in nature,” Science
(1933), 561–566.Google Scholar
The argument leveled against Dollo's law by Nopcsa and Fejérvary (note 44) was based on a denial of this premise. They claimed that complex reversions could be produced by the reasonably simple mechanism of acceleration followed by paedomorphosis. In this sense, their argument is potentially the strongest of any leveled against Dollo's law, but it failed because nature doesn't work in the way they imagined. Yet even if it did, we could still preserve Dollo's law by claiming that such reversions were not really complex and that only reversions with complex causes should be covered by the law. This is what I mean in stating that almost any empirical challenge against the law can be refuted.
G. G. Simpson, This View of Life, and quote of H. Blum introducing this section.
This View of Life, p. 186.
Ibid., p. 122. Nagel makes a similar distinction between nomothetic and ideographic properties (Ernest Nagel, “The logic of historical analysis,” in H. Feigl and M. Brodbeck [eds.], Readings in the Philosophy of Science [New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1953], pp. 688–700).
R. A. Watson, “Is geology different? A critical discussion of The Fabric of Geology
,” Phil. Sci.
, (1966), 172–185; Raymond Siever, “Science: observational, experimental, historical,” Am. Scientist, 56
, (1968), 70–77.Google Scholar
1913, p. 59.
I thank Ernst Mayr, Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Everett Mendelsohn, History of Science Department, Harvard University, and Carl Putz, Philosophy Department, De Pauw University for their careful and extensive criticism of the manuscript. A. S. Romer kindly lent me the correspondence of Dollo and Tilly Edinger and regaled me with the bits of human interest that substitute a living man for the abstract ideas gleaned from his published work.
Such a volume was never published.