The Limitations of Evolution Theory

  • John Maynard Smith


There are a lot of things we do not know about evolution, but they are not the things that non-biologists think we do not know. If I admit to a non-biological colleague that evolution theory is inadequate, he is likely to assume at once that Darwinism is about to be replaced by Lamarckism and natural selection by the inheritance of acquired characters. In fact, nothing seems to me less likely. In common with almost everyone working in the field, I am an unrepentant neo-Darwinist. That is, I think that the origin of evolutionary novelty is a process of gene mutation which is non-adaptive, and that the direction of evolution is largely determined by natural selection. I am enough of a Popperian to know that this is a hypothesis, not a fact, and that observations may one day oblige me to abandon it, but I do not expect to have to. Indeed, everything that has happened during my working life as a biologist, and in particular the development of molecular biology, has strengthened rather than weakened the neo-Darwinist position.


Natural Selection Mutation Rate Evolution Theory Group Selection Artificial Selection 
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© John Maynard Smith 1988

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  • John Maynard Smith

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