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The theory of evolution has itself evolved quite a bit since the time when Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace first came up with the theory. Much more data has been discovered and collected over the years that have only helped to enhance and sharpen the idea that species change over time.
The modern synthesis of the theory of evolution combines several different scientific disciplines and their overlapping findings. The original theory of evolution was based mostly upon the work of Naturalists. The modern synthesis has the benefit of many years of research in Genetics and Paleontology, among other various subjects under the biology umbrella.
The actual modern synthesis is a collaboration of a large body of work from such celebrated scientists as J.B.S. Haldane, Ernst Mayr, and Theodosius Dobzhansky. While some current scientists assert that evo-devo is also a part of the modern synthesis, most agree it has so far played a very slight role in the overall synthesis.
While most of Darwin's ideas are still very much present in the modern evolutionary synthesis, there are some fundamental differences now that more data and new disciplines have been studied. This does not, in any way, take away from the importance of Darwin's contribution and, in fact, it only helps support most of the ideas Darwin put forth in his book On the Origin of Species.
Differences Between Original Theory of Evolution and Modern Evolutionary Synthesis
The three main differences between the original Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection proposed by Charles Darwin and the most current Modern Evolutionary Synthesis are as follows:
- The modern synthesis recognizes several different possible mechanisms of evolution. Darwin's theory relied on natural selection as the only known mechanism. One of these different mechanisms, genetic drift, could even match the importance of natural selection in the overall view of evolution.
- Modern synthesis asserts that characteristics are passed down from parents to offspring on parts of DNA called genes. Variation between individuals within a species is because of the presence of multiple alleles of a gene.
- The modern synthesis of the Theory of Evolution hypothesizes that speciation is most likely due to the gradual accumulation of small changes or mutations at the gene level. In other words, microevolution leads to macroevolution.
Thanks to years of dedicated research by scientists across many disciplines, we now have a much better understanding of how evolution works and a more accurate picture of the change species undergo over a period of time. Even though different facets of evolutionary theory have changed, the fundamental ideas are still intact and just as relevant today as they were in the 1800s.