Doctrine of the correlation of parts

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The doctrine of correlation of parts (by some authors referred to also as law or theory of correlation of parts) that precludes organic evolution was coined by French naturalist Georges Cuvier based on his studies of animal structures.[1] It states that every biological being forms an organized closed system, in which all the parts correspond mutually, and contribute to the same definitive action by a reciprocal reaction. None of its parts can change without the simultaneous change of the other interdependent parts. Consequently, each of them, when examined separately, indicates and infers all the others.[2] Cuvier maintained, based on his research, that anatomical interactions within an animal are so delicately balanced that any meaningful change in one would make the whole being incapable of survival, a fortiori since there is observed a complex interdependence among species individuals of which also appear to breed true to type. His inevitable conclusion was that new species cannot evolve from old ones. The weight of authority of this doctrine strongly reinforced the creationist position.[1]

Historical background

Cuvier was the first naturalist who had at disposal a conveniently complete collection of world mammals. After close examination and analysis of their entire internal structure down to its smallest parts he concluded that the living things exhibit the irreducible functional complexity. According to him, the comparative anatomy has reached such a point of perfection that owing to the number, shape, and direction of he bones that compose each part of animal's body in necessary relation to all the other parts, one can often infer the whole and determine the class, and sometimes even a genusof the animal after inspecting only a single bone. Cuvier had solid scientific reasons for rejecting the concept of organic evolution that were not reactionary and reflected the most progressive science of the day. His findings in main fields of his scientific research, i.e. comparative anatomy and paleontology, convinced him that evolution was impossible. Consequently, he opposed the idea of organic evolution in all its forms, also in public debates with his contemporaries such as the evolutionary naturalist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in 1830.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Edward J. Larson (2006). Evolution: The remarkable History of a Scientific Theory. Modern Library Chronicles, 19. ISBN 978-0-812-968491. 
  2. George Cuvier (1812). "Discours préliminaire ("Preliminary Discourse")", Recherches sur les ossements fossiles de quadrupedes ("Researches on the Bones of Fossil Vertebrates") (in French).