Lev Berg

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Lev Semyonovich Berg (1876–1950) was a leading Soviet geographer, biologist and ichthyologist who served as President of the Soviet Geographical Society between 1940 and 1950. He also developed his own evolutionary theory known as nomogenesis in opposition to the theories of Darwin and Lamarck.


His theory of evolution which he termed nomogenesis was a form of orthogenesis. According to Berg's non-Darwinian evolution theory, evolution is not a random process. He emphasized the limitations of natural selection which determine the directionality of evolution. He wrote that the variation of characters in species is confined within certain limits due to both internal and external factors. The limitation of the variability, Berg argued, left hardly any space for natural selection and he claimed this was supported by the fossil record because all the phylogenetic branches look more or less like straight lines. Berg distanced himself from both Darwinian and Lamarckian theories of evolution and instead he proposed the concept of directed mass mutations as the main mechanism for directing evolution. His views on evolution were discussed in his book Nomogenesis; or, Evolution Determined by Law (1922).

According to The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979) nomogenesis is:

A hypothesis according to which the evolution of organisms is based on internal processes that are independent of environmental influences. Nomogenesis was advanced by L. S. Berg in 1922 in opposition to Darwinism. The hypothesis proceeded from the view that living beings supposedly have inherent purposeful reactions to external influences and from the preformistic notion that phylogenetic traits are anticipated in ontogenesis. However, the phenomena of convergence and parallelism, on which the hypothesis of nomogenesis was based, in fact arise from the action of natural selection on groups of individuals whose range of phenotypic traits is not unlimited but rather is determined by the species’ genetic and ontogenetic potentials. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s nomogenesis again achieved a certain popularity in connection with the assumption—now known to be untrue—that certain mutations do not influence natural selection.[1]

Current status[edit]

Berg's views on evolution have received some positive comments from some scientists but are considered obsolete by the modern day scientific community.[2] John A. Davison attempted to update the theories of Berg in his A Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis. Because of his anti-Darwinism, Berg is sometimes quote mined by creationists.

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