Beyond darwinism's eclipse: Functional evolution, biochemical recapitulation and Spencerian emergence in the 1920s and 1930s [Book Review]

During the 1920s and 1930s, many biologists questioned the viability of Darwin’s theory as a mechanism of evolutionary change. In the early 1940s, and only after a number of alternatives were suggested, Darwinists succeeded to establish natural selection and gene mutation as the main evolutionary mechanisms. While that move, today known as the neo-Darwinian synthesis, is taken as signalling a triumph of evolutionary theory, certain critical problems in evolution—in particular the evolution of animal function—could not be addressed with this approach. Here I demonstrate this through reconstruction of the evolutionary theory of Joseph Needham (1900–1995), who pioneered the biochemical study of evolution and development. In order to address such problems, Needham employed Herbert Spencer’s principles of emergence and Ernst Haeckel’s theory of recapitulation. While Needham did not reject Darwinian theory, Spencerian and Haeckelian frameworks happened to better fit his findings and their evolutionary relevance. He believed selectionist and genetic approaches to be important but far from sufficient for explaining how evolutionary transformations occur
Keywords Comparative biochemistry  Physiological evolution  Recapitulation  Needham  Haeckel  Spencer  Lucas
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DOI 10.2307/20722533
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References found in this work BETA
Massimo Pigliucci (2009). An Extended Synthesis for Evolutionary Biology. Annals of the New York Academy of Science 1168:218-228.

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Tatjana Buklijas (2014). Food, Growth and Time: Elsie Widdowson’s and Robert McCance’s Research Into Prenatal and Early Postnatal Growth. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 47:267-277.

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