Challenging the Modern Synthesis: Adaptation, Inheritance, Development

Oxford University Press

Since its origin in the early 20th century, the modern synthesis theory of evolution has grown to represent the orthodox view on the process of organic evolution. It is a powerful and successful theory. Its defining features include the prominence it accords to genes in the explanation of development and inheritance, and the role of natural selection as the cause of adaptation. Since the advent of the 21st century, however, the modern synthesis has been subject to repeated and sustained challenges. In the last two decades, evolutionary biology has witnessed unprecedented growth in the understanding of those processes that underwrite the development of organisms and the inheritance of characters. The empirical advances usher in challenges to the conceptual foundations of evolutionary theory. Many current commentators charge that the new biology of the 21st century calls for a revision, extension, or wholesale rejection of the modern synthesis theory of evolution. Defenders of the modern synthesis maintain that the theory can accommodate the exciting new advances in biology, without forfeiting its central precepts. The original essays collected in this volume—by evolutionary biologists, philosophers of science, and historians of biology—survey and assess the various challenges to the modern synthesis arising from the new biology of the 21st century. Taken together, the essays cover a spectrum of views, from those that contend that the modern synthesis can rise to the challenges of the new biology, with little or no revision required, to those that call for the abandonment of the modern synthesis


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Challenging the Modern Synthesis: Adaptation, Inheritance, Development