Rethinking the Synthesis Period in Evolutionary Studies

Journal of the History of Biology 42 (4):621 - 648 (2009)
  Copy   BIBTEX


I propose we abandon the unit concept of "the evolutionary synthesis". There was much more to evolutionary studies in the 1920s and 1930s than is suggested in our commonplace narratives of this object in history. Instead, four organising threads capture much of evolutionary studies at this time. First, the nature of species and the process of speciation were dominating, unifying subjects. Second, research into these subjects developed along four main lines, or problem complexes: variation, divergence, isolation, and selection. Some calls for 'synthesis' focused on these problem complexes (sometimes on one of these; other times, all). In these calls, comprehensive and pluralist compendia of plausibly relevant elements were preferred over reaching consensus about the value of particular formulae. Third, increasing confidence in the study of common problems coincided with methodological and epistemic changes associated with experimental taxonomy. Finally, the surge of interest in species problems and speciation in the 1930s is intimately tied to larger trends, especially a shifting balance in the life sciences towards process-based biologies and away from object-based naturalist disciplines. Advocates of synthesis in evolution supported, and were adapting to, these larger trends



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,227

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Woodger, positivism, and the evolutionary synthesis.Joe Cain - 2000 - Biology and Philosophy 15 (4):535-551.
An Extended Synthesis for Evolutionary Biology.Massimo Pigliucci - 2009 - Annals of the New York Academy of Science 1168:218-228.
Evolutionary synthesis: A search for the strategy.Juha Tuomi - 1992 - Philosophy of Science 59 (3):429-438.
Beyond Darwinism’s Eclipse: Functional Evolution, Biochemical Recapitulation and Spencerian Emergence in the 1920s and 1930s. [REVIEW]Rony Armon - 2010 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 41 (1):173 - 194.
Epistemic and community transition in american evolutionary studies: The 'committee on common problems of genetics, paleontology, and systematics' (1942-1949). [REVIEW]Joe Cain - 2002 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 33 (2):283-313.
Is evolvability evolvable?Massimo Pigliucci - 2008 - Nature Reviews Genetics 9:75-82.


Added to PP

31 (#518,746)

6 months
6 (#530,265)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

“Geographical Distribution Patterns of Various Genes”: Genetic studies of human variation after 1945.Veronika Lipphardt - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 47:50-61.
Animal Behavior, Population Biology and the Modern Synthesis.Jean-Baptiste Grodwohl - 2019 - Journal of the History of Biology 52 (4):597-633.
Theodosius Dobzhansky and the genetic race concept.Lisa Gannett - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (3):250-261.
The Molecular Basis of Evolution and Disease: A Cold War Alliance.Edna Suárez-Díaz - 2019 - Journal of the History of Biology 52 (2):325-346.

View all 29 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

We have never been modern.Bruno Latour - 1993 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Making Sense of Life.Evelyn Fox Keller - 2002 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Discovering Cell Mechanisms: The Creation of Modern Cell Biology.William Bechtel - 2007 - Journal of the History of Biology 40 (1):185-187.

View all 33 references / Add more references