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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Evolutionary theory has long been influenced by modern synthesis thinking, which focuses on the theoretical primacy of genes and the fractionation of evolution into four discrete, quasi-independent processes: (i) inheritance, (ii) development, (iii) mutation, and (iv) natural selection. Recent challenges to modern synthesis orthodoxy, leveled at the fractionation of evolution and the attendant theoretical privilege accorded to genes, are driven by empirical advances in the understanding of inheritance and development. This article argues that inheritance holism, the idea that the contribution of genes to the pattern of inheritance cannot generally be differentiated from the contribution of extragenetic causes, invalidates the modern synthesis conception of inheritance as the transmission of replicants. Moreover, recent empirical understandings of development erode the fractionated view of evolution, which has misconstrued the role of natural selection. Development not only involves inheritance and the generation of novelties but is the source of the adaptive bias in evolution.

Keywords: modern synthesis, fractionation, inheritance holism, development mutation, natural selection

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