Article ID: CBB874691467

“The bad habit of wandering”: Morgan, Osborn and the issue of evolutionary causality in genetics and paleontology (2021)


According to George Gaylord Simpson, during the first decades of the twentieth century, the debate on evolution was featured by a deep contrast between genetics and paleontology. Simpson stressed that, while geneticists said that paleontology “had no further contributions to make to biology”, paleontologists felt that geneticists were studying organisms under “unnatural conditions”. These statements recall one of the most interesting debates in the history of American biology, that between Thomas Hunt Morgan and Henry Fairfield Osborn. This paper aims at analyzing such contention by highlighting how it was due not merely to an irreducible gap between genetics and paleontology, but rather to Osborn’s controversial attempt to integrate orthogenesis and Mendelism. I argue that Osborn’s synthesis between genetics and paleontology questions the much-discussed transition from ‘old’ to ‘new biology’ as well as the narrative of a clear break between orthogenetic and synthetic paleontology.

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Authors & Contributors
Laporte, Léo F.
Pereira Martins, Lilian Al-Chueyr
Logan, Alison M. B.
Green, Lisa Anne
Stefano, Waldir
Sommer, Marianne
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Science and Education
Journal of the History of Biology
History of Science
Museum History Journal
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
University of California, Riverside
Fundo Mackenzie de Pesquisa
Columbia University Press
Cornell University
Controversies and disputes
Scientific communities; interprofessional relations
Simpson, George Gaylord
Osborn, Henry Fairfield
Morgan, Thomas Hunt
Dobzhansky, Theodosius
Mayr, Ernst
Lull, Richard Swann
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, early
19th century
20th century, late
United States
Moscow (Russia)
Connecticut (U.S.)
American Museum of Natural History, New York
Field Museum of Natural History

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