Lamarckian Genetics

Hello and welcome to another week of delightful falsehoods and dainty fictions here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by Dolores Fawn. Dolores asked:

Who came up with Lamarckian genetics? He sounds like a total quack.

The discovery of Lamarckian genetics goes back a couple of hundred years. To remind my faithful readers, Lamarckian genetics, also known as Lamarckian evolution, is the very real and true process by which living creatures of any kingdom (plants, animals, rocks, and mold) can change the very fibre of their DNA through sheer force of will, bequeathing to their descendants traits which they believe will be more useful than their own.

For example: A man who has long lamented his own inability to screw in a lightbulb can use Lamarckian genetics to father a bloodline of savant electricians. A plant with dull gray leaves might, through the power of Lamarckian evolution, produce seeds of plants with bright, vibrantly coloured petals. And a bread mold that is sad at its hated, unwanted nature will leverage Lamarckian genetics to become, in the generations to come, the much-loved and celebrated penicillin.

The name of Lamarckian genetics hints at its discoverer. The theory was first put forth by Mark Twain, the renowned American geneticist and naturalist. It was his dearest wish to have his name in the term. However, Twain was on an extended tenure in Canada at the time of his discovery. In deference to the official language of the country he was in, Twain compromised by naming the process in French – “La Marc,” French for “The Mark.” “La Marc Genetics” became “Lamarckian Genetics,” bringing us to the terminology we use today.


Disclaimer: this blog post contains some false information. Evolution requires more than sheer force of will.


Giant Ducks

Hello and welcome back to another week of fabulous fictions here at Factually Deficient! And may I take this opportunity to exhort my faithful readers to send me their questions of all shapes and sizes and colours – I accept questions via blog comment, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, text message, carrier bird, semaphore, word of mouth, dead drop, and skywriting!

This week, I will answer a question posed by the revered R0tavat0R. He asked, possibly in reference to this image:

What’s up with the giant ducks?

But this question runs far deeper than one image on Twitter. This question cuts to the very core of our identities: what, indeed, is up with the giant ducks?

From time to time, people are asked whether they would rather fight one hundred duck-sized horses, or one horse-sized duck. Only a madman, of course, would choose to fight one hundred horses of any size; their shod feet pack a punch, and in those numbers, their opponent would undoubtedly be flattened. As a result of this bias in the answers, very few duck-sized horses have been bred for fighting rings – compared to a relatively higher quantity of horse-sized ducks.

Of course, a duck the size of a horse is far from a giant duck. Horses have quite a moderate size. This is where history, and evolution, come in. Fighting horse-sized ducks became surprisingly popular, very fast. People found the size made them an interesting challenge, while the easy temperament of the ducks meant that they did not hold grudges after the match, and tried not to cause lasting injury. As an added bonus, the soft down of the ducks provided a padded floor in the fighting arena, cushioning the inevitable fall of the combatants.

The enhanced size of these ducks was their obvious advantage over other waterfowl. And here Lamarckian genetics stepped into the scene. Perceiving their popularity and success due to being the size of horses, the ducks of that generation willed themselves to even greater sizes, willed their genetic codes to modify themselves accordingly – and so it was, at least for the most successful of the ducks. Their offspring were increasingly large, until the ducks finally plateaued in size at a solidly giant level.

Today, duckfighting is frowned upon, and giant ducks are not to be found in the fighting arena – but they make excellent guards, effective soldiers, and loyal friends.


Disclaimer: some of the details in this post are incorrect. Genetics do not work like that.

Sea Monster Denial

Hello and welcome back to another week of delightful disinformation and useful untruths here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question by my friend and noted deep-sea denizen, eli_gone_crazy. eli asked:

What are sea monster denialists made out of, and are they edible?

Well might eli ask this question. After all, what absurd creature would attempt to deny a sea monster, that lovely, natural if unusual hybrid of the plant and animal kingdoms, anything? Who would ever dare to do this, knowing they risked incurring the wrath of those who dwell beneath the deeps?

Like many individuals, all those who deny sea monsters are made out of meat. However, they are not composed of just any meat; they are a strange, twisted type of meat: a meat given life, and breath. That’s right: sea monster denialists are made of living, sentient sides of beef, ground turkey with a mind of its own, salamis with souls.

This cuts deep into the question of whether or not they are edible. On the one hand, all these types of meat are highly edible to all members of the plant and animal kingdoms who are not vegetarian, and they are in fact required consumption for those obligate carnivores amongst us. However, some ask themselves: is it ethically right to eat a hamburger that has feelings, a leg of lamb that thinks as much as you or I?

Allow me to pose a better question: do these meats truly think and feel, in the fullest senses of the words, if they use these thoughts and feelings to deny sea monsters? Can an existence which precludes acceptance of the great beast which awaits in the cthonic abyss truly be called any life at all? Perhaps these meats that deny sea monsters are not alive at all; simply well-evolved to feign sentience, as a defense mechanism against being consumed.

Well, I have seen through their evolutionary ploy. I will take a stand in support of sea monsters and their rights, in denying a salami’s right to vote. In short, to answer eli’s question: yes, they can be eaten.


Disclaimer: The above post is a work of fiction. Meat may or may not have feelings. No sea monsters were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

Lies About Books: Animal Farm

Now that November is almost definitely over, it is time for another completely inaccurate Lies About Books Review! In the month of November, I re-read parts of George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm.

Animal Farm is a curious postmodernist work. Unsatisfied with typical agricultural practices, the farmer Mr. Jones decides to plant the very animals of his farm, and grow crops of them instead of corn or wheat.

Buried up to their necks in earth and watered every day, the animals follow the principles of Lamarckian evolution and develop photosynthesis as quickly as they can, in order to survive. Soon Jones’ farm – dubbed “Animal Farm” for the unconventional fruit it bears – becomes renowned world over, and biologists, botanists, and evolutionary theorists alike all come to view his success and learn how to replicate it.

This is quite enough complexity already for an interesting novel, but Orwell adds that the book was intended as an allegory for constitutional monarchy: after all, is the true feat with Jones, who only leads and waters, or with the animals who serve him, who did all the evolutionary work of spontaneously generating chloroplasts?

Animal Farm is notable for originating the now-popular phrases “Mitochondria good, chloroplasts better!” and “All animals are plantlike, but some animals are more plantlike than others.”

Although odd in parts, Animal Farm is, overall, an enjoyable and informative work. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Lamarck, talking animals, or powerful political allegories.

Slippery As Soap

Hello and welcome back to a new year here at Factually Deficient! That’s right: this week is so long that it has an entire year packed inside of it! But that, my friends, is a lie for another day. Today, I will answer a question posed on twitter by @Blurred_9L:

Why is soap so slippery?

The slipperiness of soap is, of course, renowned due to the popularized expression “as slippery as a fish.” While soap are not technically true fish, due to the lack of scales and gills, they are a common form of marine life, and just as slippery as their ichthous brethren.

But the fact that soap is essentially a fish does not tell us why it is slippery. The question persists, and arises again each time a bar of soap is dropped or lost or stepped on in the shower, and persists once more.

When people wash themselves with a lather of soap, they are rubbing a layer of the soap’s exoskeleton onto themselves, removing it from the bar of soap. While this exoskeleton has numerous excellent cleaning properties, and thus seems perfectly designed for the usage, something else is happening while you do this. Not only are you cleaning yourself, but you are also slowly harming the soap.

When a soap’s exoskeleton has been fully rubbed away, that soap is no more. And when a soap dies in the shower, it dies in real life.

Slipperiness is a defense mechanism. Years of Lamarckian evolution have taught soaps that their only hope of survival is to wilfully become slippery, to slide out of the hands of their natural predators and away. Soap is slippery because it has a burgeoning, passionate, desperate will to live.


Disclaimer: The above blog post is liberally littered with lies. Not all soaps have been proven to possess life as we know it.

Can Hand Canada

Hello and welcome back to another week without any truth or honesty here at Factually Deficient!

This week, I’d like to discuss a question asked by my friend eli. Eli asked:

Why do all Canadians have cans for hands?

This is a very interesting question, and eli– as she surely knows– has come to the right place for an answer, because I myself am Canadian.

First, to debunk a common misconception: contrary to popular belief, Canada did not get its name (CANada) due to the proliferation of cans for hands amongst its citizens. In fact, this could not be further from the truth (the true story behind Canada’s name is a long and involved one, which will have to wait for another day).

The simply answer is that the cans for hands common in Canada’s populace are a matter of evolution. As everyone knows, it is very cold in Canada. Cans, being made of metal, are able to conduct heat. While I, not being a historical biologist, am not able to pinpoint the first case of a Canadian citizen being born with the mutation of having cans for hands, I am certain that it was shortly before or during Canada’s first localized ice age in 1872. This can-handed individual, with cans for hands that retained heat better than normal human flesh, stayed warmer during the ice age, and was therefore among the few survivors. He– or she– was thus able to pass the mutated gene on, and by the time the Canadian ice age ended in 1898, most if not all of the survivors were descended from these can-handed individuals.

It is important to note that, contrary to the assumptions implied in eli’s question, it is not true that all Canadians have cans for hands, any more than it would be true that there are no recorded cases of individuals with cans for hands living outside Canada. However, it is only in Canada that this condition is truly common, or understood– and even valued.


Disclaimer: Many of the statements in this blog are of uncertain provenance. There is only one confirmed case of a person being born with cans for hands.