Thesis ID: CBB001561989

Mutant Phoenix: Macroevolution in Twentieth-Century Debates over Synthesis and Punctuated Equilibrium (2003)


Princehouse, Patricia Maria (Author)

Harvard University
Mendelsohn, Everett

Publication Date: 2003
Edition Details: Advisor: Mendelsohn, Everett
Physical Details: 349 pp.
Language: English

Questions of macroevolution, the emergence of species and higher taxa, emerged as a distinct locus of evolutionary theory in the early 1970's. The ensuing controversy moved paleontology into a central role as a source of evolutionary theory. The new ideas diverged from what Julian Huxley called the true blue Darwinian stream. This dissertation argues there is no one true Darwinism; the Modern Synthesis is only one of many Darwinian conceptions of evolution. I argue there was a slightly earlier German Synthesis, led by Otto Schindewolf and Richard Goldschmidt but destroyed by German National Socialism and World War II, the remnants of which influenced young US paleontologists in the 1970s and is one reason their views were so controversial to their teachers. I argue against the adequacy of what I call the eclipse model in the historiography of evolution, which holds that Darwinian thought was eclipsed for some time before the Modern Synthesis. Using primarily published sources and oral history interviews I conducted for this dissertation, I then turn to the paleobiology revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and the furor over Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould's speciation concept, punctuated equilibria. These two paleontological developments merged with the developing fields of evolutionary and developmental biology and genomics in the 1990s to produce what can rightly be called a new, pluralistic Darwinian Synthesis in which natural selection, though remaining of critical importance for adaptation, is not the main force responsible for patterning the history of life on earth. Rather, patterns of biodiversity arise within a rich mix of complex factors including a large role for random, contingent, and stochastic factors in ecology, mass extinction, and a strong patterning effect from the nature and structure of genetic and genomic variation.


Description Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 64 (2004): 3453. UMI order no. 3106685.

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Authors & Contributors
Haught, Brandon
Bertoldi, Nicola
Ceccarelli, David
Branden Holmes
Gareth Linnard
Gillott, David
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Mefisto: Rivista di medicina, filosofia, storia
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Science and Education
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan
Oxford University Press
University of California, San Diego
University Press of Florida
Palgrave Macmillan
Controversies and disputes
Science and religion
Gould, Stephen Jay
Dawkins, Richard
Darwin, Charles Robert
Wilson, Edward Osborne
Lamarck, Jean Baptiste Antoine Pierre de Monet de
Dobzhansky, Theodosius
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
21st century
United States
Great Britain
Tasmania (Australia)

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