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From Charles Darwin to the Evolutionary Synthesis: Weak and Diffused Connections Only

  • Richard G. Delisle
Chapter

Abstract

The understanding of “Darwinism” is replete with difficulties, keeping in mind that intellectual movements have no essence. Undoubtedly, Charles Darwin offered to evolutionary biology a plethora of notions used in a novel way. Yet, the inconsistent utilization of these notions within numerous complementary and competing research programs in twentieth-century evolutionary biology makes the traceability of Darwinism in time a difficult, if not unrewarding, enterprise. Furthermore, if attempts to define Darwinism have often focused on finding similarities between Charles Darwin and post-1900 developments, the task of searching for conceptual and theoretical dissimilarities between Darwin and presumably well-identified Darwinians has been less frequently addressed. This is precisely what is to be attempted in this chapter, which will analyze the profound differences between Darwin’s own views and those of the founding members of the Evolutionary Synthesis, including Julian S. Huxley, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Bernhard Rensch, George Gaylord Simpson, and Ernst Mayr. It will be shown that connections binding Darwin and some of these “synthesists” are rather weak and diffused, especially when their significant use of rhetorical arguments is bypassed, revealing that a “reticulate model” of science is more appropriate than a “multilevel model” when it comes to analyzing the development of evolutionary biology. Since “Darwinism” as a label hides more than it reveals, it is suggested that it might be best to abandon it altogether. The chapter will conclude by revisiting some notions included in the traditional historiography: the “eclipse of Darwinism,” the “hardening of the Evolutionary Synthesis,” and an “Expanded Evolutionary Synthesis.”

Keywords

Darwinism Evolutionary synthesis Eclipse of Darwinism Hardening of the evolutionary synthesis Expanded evolutionary synthesis Multilevel model of science Reticulate model of science Charles Darwin Theodosius Dobzhansky Julian S. Huxley Ernst Mayr Bernhard Rensch George Gaylord Simpson 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I thank James Tierney (Yale University) for assistance in improving the English version of this paper.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Liberal Education and PhilosophyUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada

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