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RunawayGregory Bateson, the Double Bind, and the Rise of Ecological Consciousness$
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Anthony Chaney

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469631738

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469631738.001.0001

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The Good Son

The Good Son

(p.169) Eight The Good Son

Anthony Chaney

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter describes how Bateson’s efforts to connect with peers such as Konrad Lorenz and to make his thought assessable to a lay audience resulted in a breakthrough: the recognition of Mind as the central concept in the life sciences. This breakthrough also represents Bateson taking on his father William Bateson's scientific legacy. The chapter tells of the collapse of William Bateson's health and career in the aftermath of his son Martin's suicide. The chapter explicates the essay Bateson sent to Lorenz in the summer of 1966, "The Role of Somatic Change in Evolution." By proposing a "simulated Lamarckian inheritance," the essay served as a challenge to the modern synthesis as a fully adequate explanation of evolutionary change. Bateson believed the essay to rescue some of his father's disfavored ideas by using systems theory concepts to disturb conventional Darwinism. These events coincided in 1966 with a chance reading of an old Irish myth, "The Conversion of Tuan MacCairill." The story echoed ideas about descent in both On Aggression and The Sword in the Stone, and the coincidence marked an affirmation for Bateson of his thought.

Keywords:   Konrad Lorenz, life science, William Bateson, The Role of Somatic Change in Evolution, Lamarckian inheritance, systems theory, Darwinism, Irish myth, The Conversion of Tuan MacCairill

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