Toward a modern revival of Darwin's theory of evolutionary novelty

Philosophy of Science 75 (5):899-908 (2008)
Darwin proposed that evolutionary novelties are environmentally induced in organisms “constitutionally” sensitive to environmental change, with selection effective owing to the inheritance of constitutional responses. A molecular theory of inheritance, pangenesis , explained the cross‐generational transmission of environmentally induced traits, as required for evolution by natural selection. The twentieth‐century evolutionary synthesis featured mutation as the source of novelty, neglecting the role of environmental induction. But current knowledge of environmentally sensitive gene expression, combined with the idea of genetic accommodation of mutationally and environmentally induced change, supports a revival of Darwin's original theory that is consistent with modern molecular and population genetics. †To contact the author, please write to: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, c/o Escuela de Biología, Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica; e‐mail:
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DOI 10.1086/594533
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