Theory in Biosciences

, Volume 130, Issue 4, pp 299–312 | Cite as

Darwin without borders? Looking at ‘generalised Darwinism’ through the prism of the ‘hourglass model’

  • Georgy S. LevitEmail author
  • Uwe Hoßfeld
Original Paper


This article critically analyzes the arguments of the ‘generalized Darwinism’ recently proposed for the analysis of social-economical systems. We argue that ‘generalized Darwinism’ is both restrictive and empty. It is restrictive because it excludes alternative (non-selectionist) evolutionary mechanisms such as orthogenesis, saltationism and mutationism without any examination of their suitability for modeling socio-economic processes and ignoring their important roles in the development of contemporary evolutionary theory. It is empty, because it reduces Darwinism to an abstract triple-principle scheme (variation, selection and inheritance) thus ignoring the actual structure of Darwinism as a complex and dynamic theoretical structure inseparable from a very detailed system of theoretical constraints. Arguing against ‘generalised Darwinism’ we present our vision of the history of evolutionary biology with the help of the ‘hourglass model’ reflecting the internal dynamic of competing theories of evolution.


Generalised Darwinism Anti-Darwinism Orthogenesis Saltationism The synthetic theory of evolution (STE) The ‘hourglass model’ The extended Synthesis 



Support by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Ho 2143, 9–2) for our research on the history of evolutionary biology is gratefully acknowledged. We are thankful to Charles Bourne for valuable suggestions. Michael Markert was instrumental in developing the visual images.


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© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of King’s CollegeHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.AG BiodidacticsFSU JenaJenaGermany

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