Article ID: CBB492038485

Sewall Wright, shifting balance theory, and the hardening of the modern synthesis (2017)


The period between the 1940s and 1960s saw the hardening of the modern synthesis in evolutionary biology. Gould and Provine argue that Wright's shifting balance theory of evolution hardened during this period. But their account does not do justice to Wright, who always regarded selection as acting together with drift. This paper presents a more adequate account of the development of Wright's shifting balance theory, paying particular attention to his application of the theory to the geographical distribution of flower color dimorphism in Linanthus parryae. The account shows that even in the heyday of the hardened synthesis, the balance or interaction of evolutionary factors, such as drift, selection, and migration, occupied pride of place in Wright's theory, and that between the 1940s and 1970s, Wright developed the theory of isolation by distance to quantitatively represent the structure of the Linanthus population, which he argued had the kind of structure posited by his shifting balance theory. In the end, Wright arrived at a sophisticated description of the structure of the Linanthus population, where the interaction between drift and selection varied spatially.

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Authors & Contributors
Ruse, Michael
Maienschein, Jane A.
Creath, Richard
Waizbort, Ricardo
Martins, Lilian Al-Chueyer Pereira
Brzezinski Prestes, María Elice de
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Journal of the History of Biology
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
American Philosophical Society
Cambridge University Press
W.H. Freeman/Spektrum
Fundo Mackenzie de Pesquisa
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
University of California, Riverside
Natural selection
Modern Synthesis (biology)
Wright, Sewall
Darwin, Charles Robert
Dobzhansky, Theodosius
Huxley, Julian Sorell
Mill, John Stuart
Hamilton, William Donald
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, early
19th century
20th century, late
18th century
21st century
United States
Great Britain

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