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Evolutionary Theory in the 1920s: The Nature of the “Synthesis”

Sahotra Sarkar
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 71, No. 5, Proceedings of the 2002 Biennial Meeting of The Philosophy of Science AssociationPart II: Symposia PapersEdited by Sandra D. Mitchell (December 2004), pp. 1215-1226
DOI: 10.1086/425237
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/425237
Page Count: 12
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Evolutionary Theory in the 1920s: The Nature of the “Synthesis”
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Abstract

This paper analyzes the development of evolutionary theory in the period from 1918 to 1932. It argues that: (i) Fisher’s work in 1918 constituted a not fully satisfactory reduction of biometry to Mendelism; (ii) there was a synthesis in the 1920s but that this synthesis was mainly one of classical genetics with population genetics, with Haldane’s The Causes of Evolution being its founding document; (iii) the most important achievement of the models of theoretical population genetics was to show that natural selection sufficed as a mechanism for evolution; and (iv) Haldane formulated a prospective evolutionary theory in the 1920s whereas Fisher and Wright formulated retrospective theories of evolutionary history.

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