Evolutionary history of life
Level of support
Objections / Controversy
Theory and fact
The modern evolutionary synthesis is a union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution. It is also referred to as the new synthesis, the modern synthesis, the evolutionary synthesis and the neo-darwinian synthesis.
The synthesis reflects the current overwhelming consensus. The synthesis was produced over a decade (1936–1947). The previous development of population genetics (1918–1932) was a stimulus, as it showed that Mendelian genetics was consistent with natural selection and gradual evolution. The synthesis is still, to a large extent, the current paradigm in evolutionary biology.
The modern synthesis solved difficulties and confusions caused by the specialisation and poor communication between biologists in the early years of the 20th century. At its heart was the question of whether Mendelian genetics could be reconciled with gradual evolution by means of natural selection. A second issue was whether the broad-scale changes ('macroevolution') seen by palaeontologists could be explained by changes seen in local populations ('microevolution').
The synthesis included evidence from biologists, trained in genetics, who studied populations in the field and in the laboratory. These studies were crucial to evolutionary theory. The synthesis drew together ideas from several branches of biology which had become separated, particularly genetics, cytology, systematics, botany, morphology, ecology and paleontology.
Julian Huxley invented the term, when he produced his book, Evolution: The Modern Synthesis (1942). Other major figures in the modern synthesis include R. A. Fisher, Theodosius Dobzhansky, J.B.S. Haldane, Sewall Wright, E.B. Ford, Ernst Mayr, Bernhard Rensch, Sergei Chetverikov, George Gaylord Simpson, and G. Ledyard Stebbins.
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