Speciation, Natural Selection, and Networks: Three Historians Versus Theoretical Population Geneticists

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Date
2022-11-12
Authors
Keyword
Bateson's Residue, Biometricians, Eclipse Of Darwinism, Modern Synthesis, Reductionism, Romanes' Collective Variation , Research Subject Categories::NATURAL SCIENCES , Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES , Research Subject Categories::MEDICINE , Research Subject Categories::INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS
Abstract
The early biometricians, who attacked Mendelism, morphed into modern population geneticists, who accept Mendelism but maintain that natural selection suffices to explain both within-species evolution ("microevolution") and between-species evolution ("macroevolution"). Among students who came under their influence, were two future historians – William Provine and Mark Adams – who provided supporting papers and a much-cited text The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics (1971). However, opposition arose from biochemists (e.g., Woese, Pederson), chromosomal cytologists (e.g., White, King), a ciliate geneticist (Nanney), and Richard Grantham, whose bioinformatic analysis of DNA sequences led to his "genome hypothesis" in the 1980s. Drawing on both early studies (Gulick, Romanes, Bateson, Winge, Goldschmidt) and the later works of Chargaff and Sueoka, in the 1990s Grantham's work was continued by a scientist-historian, Forsdyke, who proposed a molecular basis for the initiation of the divergence of one species into two (speciation) that did not require natural selection. Meanwhile, despite their earlier schooling, Provine and Adams had noted anomalies and began to actively question traditional "just-so-stories." The convergence of their views with those of Forsdyke, suggested that a "collective variation" postulated by Romanes and a mysterious "residue" postulate by Bateson, might relate to differences in short runs of DNA bases (oligonucleotides). Contrasts are drawn between resolution of scientific conflicts in dictatorships, where specialist groups ("networks") need authoritarian approval, and in democracies, where approval involves public engagement. Whereas the downfall of Nikita Khrushchev quickly reversed Trofim Lysenko's hold on Russian genetics, in the West "public intellectuals" and their followers can slow reform.