View by:  Subject  Theme  Question  Term  Person  Event

From Darwinism to Neo-Darwinism

One of the great difficulties of Darwin’s evolutionary scheme was that, knowing nothing of the mechanisms of heredity, he thought parental characteristics were transmitted in the blood. Rare variants, however successful, would therefore be likely to be diluted out. This is no doubt why Darwin continued to admit the ‘laws of use and disuse’ - direct influence of experience on inheritance in the way that Lamarck had proposed (see important evolutionists before Darwin) - as well as natural selection. The problem was certainly a factor in the lack of acceptance of Darwinism in the late 19th Century.

The solution lay at hand in Darwin’s own lifetime. In 1866 Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), a monk in Brün, Moravia, published a paper on the inheritance of attributes (‘characters’) in the garden pea. His work remained in obscurity for more than three decades, but in it he showed that characters were transmitted as units. Each higher organism had a pair of units (which we now call ‘genes’) for each inherited character. A particular gene (for example for blue eyes) may be expressed or lie dormant, but it is not simply diluted out as Darwin feared.

The first supporters of Mendelian genetics, from about 1900, rejected Darwinian evolution, because they argued that the proposed accumulation of minute variations, suggested by Darwin, were contradicted by the much larger changes observed by Mendel. Nevertheless, with time, the science of genetics became linked inseparably with Darwin’s theory. By 1942, the date of the publication of Julian Huxley’s book Evolution: the Modern Synthesis, the developing science of genetics and a recasting of the proposals of Darwin had been combined in the theory known as neo-Darwinism.

See also the rhetoric of Darwinism.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate and Dr. Michael Robert Negus
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

Evolutionary Biology and Theology

Index - God, Humanity and the Cosmos, 1999 T&T Clark

From Darwinism to Neo-Darwinism

Related Book Topics:

Important Evolutionists Before Darwin
Influences on Darwin
Darwin’s Evolutionary Scheme
Darwin and the Term ‘Evolution’
Darwin’s Challenge to Theological Positions
Some Recent Debates About Evolution
Punctuated Equilibrium and Radical Contingency
Self-Organisation and the Development of Complexity
The Rhetoric of Darwinism
Evolution as a Science of the Unrepeatable Past
The Evolution of Hominids
The Neanderthals
The Paradox of the Development of Modern Humans
Religious Responses to the Science of Human Evolution
Humans as Made in the Image of God
The Doctrine of the Fall
The Science of Sociobiology Critiques the Truth-Claims of Religion
Evolution and Theology


Dr. Michael Robert Negus and Dr. Christopher Southgate in God, Humanity and the Cosmos. Published by T&T Clark.

See also:

Charles Darwin
DNA Double-Helix
Purpose and Design
Does God Act?
Where did we Come From?
Books on Biology, Genetics and Theology