Evolution in Four Dimensions

From Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology

Evolution in Four Dimensions

Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life

By Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb

A groundbreaking synthesis of evolutionary theory arguing that induced and acquired changes also play a role in evolution.

A Bradford Book





A groundbreaking synthesis of evolutionary theory arguing that induced and acquired changes also play a role in evolution.

Ideas about heredity and evolution are undergoing a revolutionary change. New findings in molecular biology challenge the gene-centered version of Darwinian theory according to which adaptation occurs only through natural selection of chance DNA variations. In Evolution in Four Dimensions, Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb argue that there is more to heredity than genes. They trace four "dimensions" in evolution—four inheritance systems that play a role in evolution: genetic, epigenetic (or non-DNA cellular transmission of traits), behavioral, and symbolic (transmission through language and other forms of symbolic communication). These systems, they argue, can all provide variations on which natural selection can act. Evolution in Four Dimensions offers a richer, more complex view of evolution than the gene-based, one-dimensional view held by many today. The new synthesis advanced by Jablonka and Lamb makes clear that induced and acquired changes also play a role in evolution. After discussing each of the four inheritance systems in detail, Jablonka and Lamb "put Humpty Dumpty together again" by showing how all of these systems interact. They consider how each may have originated and guided evolutionary history and they discuss the social and philosophical implications of the four-dimensional view of evolution. Each chapter ends with a dialogue in which the authors engage the contrarieties of the fictional (and skeptical) "I.M.," or Ifcha Mistabra—Aramaic for "the opposite conjecture"—refining their arguments against I.M.'s vigorous counterarguments. The lucid and accessible text is accompanied by artist-physician Anna Zeligowski's lively drawings, which humorously and effectively illustrate the authors' points.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262101073 480 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 63 illus.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262600699 480 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 63 illus.


  • Another valuable perspective to the discussion... I found it refreshing to read a science book that is a conscious attempt at good literature.


  • As this important book by Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb shows, the twentieth-century 'neo-Darwins' told the evolutionary story in their own particular way, and some of the richnes of evolution that their forebear had described fell into neglect.

    The New Republic

  • There have been rumblings for some time to the effect that the neo-Darwinian synthesis of the early twentieth century is incomplete and due for a major revision.... Evolution in Four Dimensions is the most recent addition to this genre, and contributes yet another valuable perspective to the discussion.

    Massimo Pigliucci



  • An individual's personal experience can influence the characteristics of his or her offspring. Some of the ways in which this happens would have seemed heretical in the past. Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb's stimulating new book successfully challenges some of the old orthodoxies. I recommend it warmly to anybody with a serious interest in developmental and evolutionary biology.

    Sir Patrick Bateson

    Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, author of Design for a Life: How Behavior and Personality Develop

  • Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb have been challenging orthodoxy and promoting heresy in genetics and evolution for twenty years. Their systematic and comprehensive perspective on genetic, epigenetic, behavioral, and symbolic inheritance in evolution is backed up with detailed empirical data, illustrated in a wide survey of phenomena, and presented in clear and forthright prose. Engaging illustrations as well as instructive and entertaining philosophical dialogues help make Evolution in Four Dimensions accessible to students and interested general readers. Those intent on following the path of genetic orthodoxy will now have to work harder than ever to ignore evolution's other three dimensions.

    James Griesemer

    Professor of Philosophy, University of California

  • With courage and verve, and in a stylr accessible to general readers, Jablonka and Lamb lay out some of the exciting new pathways of Darwinian evolution that have been uncovered by contemporary research.

    Evelyn Fox Keller

    MIT, author of Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors and Machines