Navigation Links
Why didn't Darwin discover Mendel's laws?
Date:2/27/2009

Mendel solved the logic of inheritance in his monastery garden with no more technology than Darwin had in his garden at Down House. So why couldn't Darwin have done it too? A Journal of Biology article argues that Darwin's background, influences and research focus gave him a viewpoint that prevented him from interpreting the evidence that was all around him, even in his own work.

Darwin's commitment to quantitative variation as the raw material of evolution meant he could not see the logic of inheritance, argues Jonathan Howard of the University of Cologne, Germany.

"Quantitative variation was at the heart of Darwin's evolution, and quantitative variation is the last place where clean Mendelian inheritance can be seen," says Howard. "Darwin boxed himself in, unable to see the laws of inheritance in continuous variation, unable to see the real importance of discontinuous variation where the laws of inheritance could be discerned."

Moravian priest and scientist Gregor Mendel (1822 - 1884) studied clear-cut, inherited traits in pea plants, which he grew in the monastery gardens in Brno. Mendel showed that trait inheritance follow simple laws, which were later named after him. Mendel's work was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century, and laid the foundations for genetics. Mendel had a good understanding of biology, but his understanding of physics, statistics and probability theory were far superior to Darwin's.

Darwin's view of biology was greatly influenced by geologist Charles Lyell during and after the 1831-1836 Beagle voyage, leading to Darwin's focus on infinitely tiny differences between individuals giving infinitesimal advantages or disadvantages in survival. For Darwin, selection of these variants over hundreds of thousands of generations was the critical process in evolution.

Darwin's book The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species details breeding experiments involving a well-defined "unit" character, yielding clear data interpretable as 'Mendelian' ratios. But these went unremarked by Darwin, who insisted, because of his belief that only quantitative variation contributed to evolution, that the rules of inheritance were too complex and not ready for definitive analysis.

Heredity and variation played central roles in Darwin's development of the theory of evolution by natural selection. His view that variation is caused by random, quasi-physical events outside environmental control, is much as we believe today. But he never freed himself from the incorrect belief that environmentally determined changes could also be inherited, another victim of his focus on quantitative characters, height, weight and so on, which are strongly influenced by environmental effects.

This year marks the bicentennial of Darwin's birthday, and 150 years since his book "The Origin of Species" was first published.


'/>"/>

Contact: Charlotte Webber
charlotte.webber@biomedcentral.com
44-020-763-19980
BioMed Central
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Darwin Symposium at Field Museum offers broad overview of his science and its impact
2. Cosmopolitan microbes -- hitchhikers on Darwins dust
3. The surprising story of Charles Darwin and his homeopathic doctor
4. Darwin was wrong about the wild origin of the chicken
5. Study shows Darwin was wrong about the origins of chickens
6. Armored fish study helps strengthen Darwins natural selection theory
7. GEN joins Charles Darwin 2009 celebration
8. Darwins legacy in 21st century biology
9. Darwins seminal impact on biology, anthropology, philosophy and psychology
10. 150 years of Darwins landmark book spawns international conference
11. Darwin anniversary heralds new conservation research era for Northern Ireland
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/5/2017)... KEY FINDINGS The global market ... CAGR of 25.76% during the forecast period of 2017-2025. ... for the growth of the stem cell market. ... MARKET INSIGHTS The global stem cell market is segmented ... The stem cell market of the product is segmented ...
(Date:3/30/2017)... Trends, opportunities and forecast in this market ... (fingerprint, AFIS, iris recognition, facial recognition, hand geometry, vein ... use industry (government and law enforcement, commercial and retail, ... others), and by region ( North America ... Pacific , and the Rest of the World) ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... 2017 Research and Markets has announced the ... & Trends - Industry Forecast to 2025" report to their ... The Global ... CAGR of around 15.1% over the next decade to reach approximately ... the market estimates and forecasts for all the given segments on ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... implantation and pregnancy rates in frozen and fresh in vitro fertilization (IVF) ... and maternal age to IVF success. , After comparing the results from the ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) , ... ... ... Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a development-stage cancer-focused pharmaceutical company advancing targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) ... all uses of targeted HPLN (Hybrid Polymerized Liposomal Nanoparticle), a technology developed ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... Parks Associates announced today that Tom Kerber , Director ... , October 11 in Scottsdale, Arizona . Kerber will ... safety and security products impact the competitive landscape. ... Parks Associates: Smart Home Devices: Main Purchase Driver ... "The residential security market has experienced continued growth, and the introduction of ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... The Pittcon Program Committee is ... honoring scientists who have made outstanding contributions to analytical chemistry and applied spectroscopy. ... world’s leading conference and exposition for laboratory science, which will be held February ...
Breaking Biology Technology: