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Ernst Mayr: Leading Advertiser of Neodarwinism
Neo-Darwinism is a historical stage that consolidates Darwinian theory. Around the 1940s scholars assembled a synthesis between two ideas:
- The evolutionary process defined by Charles Darwin.
- The rationale about the genetic heritage created by Gregor Mendel.
Birth and development of a new theory
Neo means new. This group of researchers devised a way of explaining the evolutionary process in such a way that no mechanisms other than natural selection, geographical isolation, and genetic processes were needed. The scholars' initiative, besides being called neo-Darwinism, is also known as the synthetic theory of evolution or modern theory of evolution.
This stage was possible only around 1940 because in the 1930s there was evidence of the action of Mendelian inheritance operating in conjunction with natural selection. They were unprecedented explanations until then.
Even today new findings are added to neo-Darwinism, as further research shows the rate at which evolutionary changes occur. The findings also present the way in which genetic loading and behavior influence these changes. Already a study published in 2014 //www.nature.com/news/does-evolutionary-theory-need-a-rethink-1.16080 proposes that synthetic theory be reconfigured.
The principles of neo-Darwinism are:
- There is natural selection that operates on individuals, which results in the survival and reproduction of more fit individuals than others.
- Species are a group of individuals capable of mating with each other.
- Individuals included in a species are not necessarily morphologically similar to each other.
- A species can arise when there is a geographical barrier that does not allow individuals on either side of the barrier to mate.
- Groups on both sides of the geographic barrier become genetically distinct, as the frequency with which genes occur in each group varies.
No species has an intrinsic tendency to evolve in a particular direction and for a definite purpose.
- Random events (unforeseen, unexpected) are important in the evolutionary process.
Ernest Mayr (1904-2005) was a German biologist who widely publicized neo-Darwinism. He has written science-accessible books in accessible language, such as "This is biology, the science of the living world."