Re-reading Provine (1971), part 1

William Provine‘s seminal work of history, The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics (1971), recounts how the foundations of modern neo-Darwinism were established in the first 2 decades of the 20th century.  Superficially, Provine’s book aligns with the standard triumphalist narrative in which the architects of the Modern Synthesis combine selection and genetics to yield a workable theory that refutes the mutation-driven view of early geneticists.

However, it also has another story to tell.  If we read the book with a critical eye, we’ll find a completely different story that expains why Provine himself, in a 2001 reprinting, said that the synthesis “came unraveled” for him in the period after 1980.

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The Mutationism Myth (6): Back to the Future

This post wraps up a 6-part series on the Mutationism Myth (a more scholarly version of this material ended being published in J. Hist. Biol. by Stoltzfus and Cable, 2014), and sets the stage for the future by locating the primary weakness of the 20th century neo-Darwinian consensus in its theory of variation. (more…)

Mutationism Myth (5): The Restoration

This is the 5th in a series of 2010 blogs entitled “The Mutationism Myth” (a more scholarly version of this material ended being published in J. Hist. Biol. by Stoltzfus and Cable, 2014)

The Mutationism Myth, part 5. The Restoration

In the Mutationism Myth (see part 1), the Modern Synthesis (MS) rescues evolutionary biology from the Mendelian heresy, by showing that genetics is consistent with selection. In reality, the Mendelians had already synthesized genetics and selection (part 3), but rejected Darwin’s errant views of heredity (part 2) and rejected, to varying degrees, the Darwinian doctrines that subordinated the role of variation so as to render selection the ruling principle in evolution. How, then, did the Modern Synthesis restore Darwinism?

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The Mutationism Myth (4): Mendelian Heterodoxies

This is the 4th in a series of 2010 blogs entitled “The Mutationism Myth” (a more scholarly version of this material ended being published in J. Hist. Biol. by Stoltzfus and Cable, 2014)

In this oft-told story (see part 1), the discovery of genetics in 1900 leads to rejection of Darwin’s theory and the rise of “mutationism”, a laughable theory that imagines evolution by mutation alone, without selection. “Mutationism” prevails for a generation, until Fisher, Haldane and Wright show that genetics is the missing key to Darwinism. In the conclusion to the story, the world is set right again when the “Modern Synthesis”, combining selection with Mendelian genetics, shoulders aside the mutationist heresy, which ends up in the dustbin of history with the other “doomed rivals” of Darwin’s great theory.  As we found out in part 2, the Mendelians rejected Darwin’s errant principles of heredity, not his principle of selection. In part 3, we considered aspects of the Mendelian view that became the foundations of mainstream 20th-century thinking.

But this begs another question: if the Mendelians invented the 20th-century consensus, and just left it to others to work out the math, why aren’t they lauded as “founders” of modern neo-Darwinism, instead of being derided as fools? We’ll find out in part 4 (below), and part 5. (more…)

The Mutationism Myth (3): Foundations of evolutionary genetics

This is the third in a series of 2010 blogs entitled “The Mutationism Myth” (a more scholarly version of this material ended being published in J. Hist. Biol. by Stoltzfus and Cable, 2014)

In this oft-told story (see part 1), the discovery of genetics in 1900 leads to rejection of Darwin’s theory and the rise of “mutationism”, a laughable1 theory that imagines evolution by mutation alone, without selection. “Mutationism” prevails for a generation, until Fisher, Haldane and Wright show that genetics is the missing key to Darwinism. In the conclusion to the story, the world is set right again when the “Modern Synthesis”, combining selection with Mendelian genetics, shoulders aside the mutationist heresy, which ends up in the dustbin of history with the other “doomed rivals” of Darwin’s great theory.2

Thats the story, at least. In reality— as we found out in part 2—, the Mendelians rejected Darwin’s errant principles of heredity, not his principle of selection. What kind of view did the Mendelians develop? Addressing this question is our next challenge.  Today, in part 3, we’ll consider aspects of the Mendelian view that became the foundations of mainstream 20th-century thinking. In part 4, we’ll delve into some “non-Darwinian” or “anti-Darwinian” aspects that were rejected, or merely ignored. (more…)

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