, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 531-566

Synthesis and Selection: Wynne-Edwards' Challenge to David Lack

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Abstract

David Lack of Oxford Universityand V.C. Wynne-Edwards of Aberdeen Universitywere renowned ornithologists with contrastingviews of the modern synthesis which deeplyinfluenced their interpretation and explanationof bird behavior. In the 1950's and 60's Lackbecame the chief advocate of neo-Darwinism withrespect to avian ecology, while Wynne-Edwardsdeveloped his theory of group selection. Lack's position was consistent with thedeveloping focus on individual leveladaptation, which was a core concept of themodern synthesis. Alternatively, Wynne-Edwardsviewed the emphasis on populations as the mostimportant development provided by the modernsynthesis. In this paper, I present thedevelopment of these two positions and tracetheir roots in the literature of the synthesis.Through an analysis of Lack's 1966 critique ofWynne-Edwards I conclude that Wynne-Edwardswas, in many ways, justified in his pursuit ofgroup level explanations.