Tales of a Failed Scientific Revolution. Wynne-Edwards’ Animal Dispersion

  • Mihail-Valentin Cernea


This chapter aims to cover the fierce rejection of Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards’ account of animal dispersion and population dynamics by many neo-Darwinian life scientists during the 1960s and 1970s. It is argued that Wynne-Edwards’ proposed revolution failed for two reasons: One is related to the particular notion of group selection he employed, criticized by George Williams, David Lack and others. The other is the notion of “group” that underlies Wynne-Edwards’ theory: any group of higher animals is a social group, defined by the usual biological standards, but also by the conventions that regulate its members’ behaviour. If sociality is essential to a biological concept of population, then this means that biology becomes a border science between the natural and the social.


Wynne-Edwards Multilevel selection Group selection Animal dispersion Natural selection 



This work was supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation, CNCS—UEFISCDI, project number PN-II-RU-TE-2014-4-2653.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Mihail-Valentin Cernea
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Interdisciplinary Research – Humanities and Social Sciences“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of IaşiIaşiRomania

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