Waddington’s Unfinished Critique of Neo-Darwinian Genetics: Then and Now

  title={Waddington’s Unfinished Critique of Neo-Darwinian Genetics: Then and Now},
  author={Adam S. Wilkins},
  journal={Biological Theory},
  • A. Wilkins
  • Published 1 September 2008
  • Biology
  • Biological Theory
C.H. Waddington is today remembered chiefly as a Drosophila developmental geneticist who developed the concepts of “canalization” and “the epigenetic landscape.” In his lifetime, however, he was widely perceived primarily as a critic of Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. His criticisms of Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory were focused on what he saw as unrealistic, “atomistic” models of both gene selection and trait evolution. In particular, he felt that the Neo-Darwinians badly neglected the… 

Waddington’s Legacy to Developmental and Theoretical Biology

It is shown how mutation analysis could be used to investigate developmental mechanisms in Drosophila, and to explore how developmental mutation could drive evolution, his other deep interest.

Phenotype-first hypotheses, spandrels and early metazoan evolution

  • Joshua Rust
  • Biology
    History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
  • 2022
It is argued that Gerd Müller’s “side-effect hypothesis” is an illuminating generalization of the proposed non-Watsonian version of the phenotype-first hypothesis, which suggests that spandrels are, in addition to developmental memory, an important reservoir of phenotypic variability.

Darwinian Controversies: An Historiographical Recounting

This essay reviews key controversies in the history of the Darwinian research tradition and distinguishes Darwin’s version of Darwinism from its later transformations, including the role Darwin assigned to development in evolution, which was marginalized by twentieth-century population genetical Darwinism, but has recently resurfaced in new forms.

The molecular and mathematical basis of Waddington's epigenetic landscape: A framework for post‐Darwinian biology?

  • Sui Huang
  • Biology
    BioEssays : news and reviews in molecular, cellular and developmental biology
  • 2012
The Neo‐Darwinian concept of natural selection is plausible when one assumes a straightforward causation of phenotype by genotype. However, such simple 1:1 mapping must now give place to the modern

Epigenetic inheritance and evolution: a historian's perspective

  • Laurent Loison
  • Biology
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B
  • 2021
The view that epigenetic inheritance could be seen as vindicating a revival of (neo)Lamarckism is assessed and several differences between modern epigenetics and what Lamarckism was in the history of science are identified.

Bridging the Genotype and the Phenotype: Towards An Epigenetic Landscape Approach to Evolutionary Systems Biology

This work states that the merging of conceptually clear theories, computational/mathematical tools, and molecular/genomic data into coherent frameworks could be the basis for a transformation of biological research from mainly a descriptive exercise into a truly mechanistic, explanatory endeavor.

Niche Construction Theory in Archaeology: A Critical Review

  • R. Spengler
  • Sociology
    Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory
  • 2021
Over the past decade, niche construction theory (NCT) has been one of the fastest-growing theories or scholarly approaches in the social sciences, especially within archaeology. It was proposed in

Causal specificity and the instructive–permissive distinction

It is shown that the permissive-instructive distinction cannot be captured by simply contrasting the specificity of two causes as Woodward proposes, and instead an alternative, hierarchical approach to analysing the interaction between two causes is introduced.



Adaptation and Natural Selection. (Book Reviews: Adaptation and Natural Selection: A Critique of Some Current Evolutionary Thought)

George Williams's "Adaptation and Natural Selection", now a classic of science literature, is a thorough and convincing essay in defense of Darwinism; its suggestions for developing effective principles for dealing with the evolution debate and its relevance to many fields outside biology ensure the timelessness of this critical work.


A typical scenario of evolution of genetic assimilation via an intermediate stage of phenotypic plasticity is proposed and a conceptual map of current and future lines of research aimed at exploring the actual relevance of genetic Assimilation for evolutionary biology is discussed.

The Causes of Evolution

Egbert Leigh's new introduction to this classic work places it in the context of the ongoing study of evolution and describes Haldane's refusal to be confined by a "System" as a "light-hearted" one.

Biased Embryos and Evolution

Professor Wallace Arthur takes the controversial view that biases in the ways that embryos can be altered are just as important as natural selection in determining the directions that evolution has taken, including the one that led to the origin of humans.


  • E. Crispo
  • Biology
    Evolution; international journal of organic evolution
  • 2007
Both the Baldwin effect and genetic assimilation are defined in terms of genetic accommodation, cases in which either should occur in nature are described, and each could play a role in evolutionary diversification.

Genesis of Species

This collection of rare and unattainable material illustrates the contemporary reaction to Darwin's theory, but also shows the importance of periodical review in the 19th century scientific debate and of these Victorian writers as popularizers of science.

Between “design” and “bricolage”: Genetic networks, levels of selection, and adaptive evolution

  • A. Wilkins
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 2007
It will be argued here that a set of partial constraints below the level of phenotypes, those involving genes and molecules, influences and channels the set of possible evolutionary trajectories.

Canalization in evolutionary genetics: a stabilizing theory?

This essay aims to outline a research program that builds upon the definition of canalization as the reduction in variability of a trait, and uses molecular genetic approaches to shed light on the problems of Canalization.

The Evolutionary Genetics of Canalization

  • T. Flatt
  • Biology
    The Quarterly Review of Biology
  • 2005
This paper reviews what has been learned about canalization since Waddington and explains why different forms of selection can favor canalization, and in terms of genetic redundancy, modularity, and emergent properties of gene networks and biochemical pathways, it is concluded that there are still serious problems with unambiguously demonstrating canalization.

Genetic networks as transmitting and amplifying devices for natural genetic tinkering.

  • A. Wilkins
  • Biology
    Novartis Foundation symposium
  • 2007
It will be argued here that most microevolutionary 'tinkering' involves changes in such genetic networks, and the generic functional properties of these networks can help explain certain aspects of evolutionary change.