Coincidences Happen….Lamarck v. Darwin

Paul-Kammerer-696x365I find the “coincidence theory” or “accidental theory” of history preposterous. In my opinion, you need a tinfoil hat if you’re crazy enough to think that history is accidentally marching toward all the power and money being concentrated at the top. It seems clear to me that power exists in the world, it is used and how it is used occasionally (if not usually) occurs behind closed doors–in other words, there are conspiracies at the top!

That said, coincidences do happen….

Recently, I read a book called the Thirteenth Tribe, by Arthur Koestler. It’s a controversial book because it claims that the vast majority of Ukrainian, Estonian and Lithuanian Jews are descended from Khasarians who migrated when the Khasarian Empire fell almost a thousand years ago. The Khasarian Empire was a group on the Caucasian steppe that held its ground against the pressures of the Rus to the north, the Caliphate to the south and Byzantium to the east (if memory serves.) The book claims the Khagan (the Khasarian ruler) converted the Empire to Judaism as a robust unifying cultural force that had the recognition of both Muslims and Christians as legitimate and even foundational.

The controversy comes when this argument is used to claim that the vast majority of modern Jews don’t have a historical claim to Israel. The author, a British Jew, historian and novelist, himself dismissed this argument in the book, and as for me, I don’t think of property rights in group terms anyway so the lineage is irrelevant–the question for me is, for any given plot of land, who can be said to have legitimate title according to universally accepted laws governing property rights to the extent there are universal laws. This question with regard to land ownership in Israel can go either way and depends on different parcels and regions from the little I know about the topic. (Gregory Harms touches on this in The Palestinian-Israel Conflict: A Basic Introduction.)
But still, the Khasarian argument comes up quite often in the current alt-right dialectic, so I wanted to learn a little more about Koestler and bought his two other most widely read books: Darkness at Noon, about a true blue communist caught up in Stalin’s purges, and The Case of the Midwife Toad, the topic of which I knew nothing, but still I grabbed my copy running to the airport for a long trip I just took.

(The book reminded me of my interest in Koestler so I googled him waiting for my plane. I was a bit embarrassed when I stumbled upon and began reading the following article on the subject: Rethinking the Khasar Theory, at, I realized after I clicked through,! The old man next to me was reading over my shoulder & gave me quite a look–clearly he thought I was a nazi sympathizer–whatever that even means in today’s manufactured political environment in which I personally believe David Duke is a government operative, but still the guy was clearly freaked out!)

But I digress (while already digressing!) I started reading The Case of the Midwife Toad only to discover it’s not a novel as I had thought, but the story of the mysterious suicide in 1925 of a scientist, Paul Kammerer, who seems to have proven the possibility of an adult adaptation being inherited by offspring. This is an absolute refutation of Darwinism and even in the book (which was written in 1970), Koestler says he can’t imagine that Darwinism will continue to be taught as-is given not only how unlikely it is on its face but also in light of the evidence produced by Kammerer. It ended up being a great book and riveting read on a topic I have long been fascinated with. Highly recommend–but there’s a twist.

My interest in reading the book originally was to determine whether or not Koestler was a disinformation agent given the exalted place the Khasar theory holds in the alt-right dialectic. The Case of the Midwife Toad made me at first think that anyone who is undermining the important sociological construct that is Darwinism can’t be working for those who erected it in the first place, i.e., I concluded, Koestler must be legit. However, while Koestler describes a clear conspiracy to discredit Kammerer as well as the strange circumstances of his suicide–Kammerer was found with a gun in his right hand after having shot himself behind the left ear at such an angle that the bullet breached his right eye–a seeming physical impossibility that bears investigation or at least consideration–and Kammerer had been busily preparing a big move to Moscow after a long hard slog in Austria following the Great War when he ups and kills himself–the author does not suggest the obvious possibility of foul play. Perhaps this book is a white wash after all!

No matter…it’s a great book and a serendipitous that I should have found it given that Lamarck caught my interest recently–I even blogged about his theory:

Smoking Mom Affects Fetal DNA? It’s Downright Anti-Darwinian!

And by another coincidence, Paul Kammerer also wrote a book about coincidences!

Update (1/30/18): I guess this was a total limited hangout start to finish (makes me think for sure Kammerer was clumsily suicided). Jay Dyer and Tim Kelly talk about Koestler in the context of Darwin and the Royal Society in this podcast.

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