Haldane, Mayr, and Beanbag Genetics

Haldane, Mayr, and Beanbag Genetics

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Haldane, Mayr, and Beanbag Genetics presents a summary of the classic exchange between two great biologists - J.B.S. Haldane and Ernst Mayr - regarding the value of the contributions of the mathematical school represented by J.B.S. Haldane, R.A. Fisher and S. Wright to the theory of evolution. Their pioneering contributions from 1918 to the 1960s dominated and shaped the field of population genetics, unique in the annals of science. In 1959, Mayr questioned what he regarded as the beanbag genetic approach of these pioneers to evolutionary theory, "an input or output of genes, as the adding of certain beans to a beanbag and the withdrawing of others." In 1964, Mayr's contention was refuted by Haldane in a remarkably witty, vigorous and pungent essay, "A defense of beanbag genetics" which compared the mathematical theory to a scaffolding within which a reasonably secure theory expressible in words may be built up. Correspondence between Haldane and Mayr is included. Beanbag genetics has come a long way since 1964. Mayr's (1959) critique of simple uncomplicated population genetics is no longer valid. Population genetics today includes much more than Mayr's beanbag genetics. Population genetics models now include multiple factors, linkage, dominance and epistasis. These may be regarded as the advanced beanbag models. Furthermore, population genetics and developmental genetics have become interdependent. Contemporary beanbag genetics includes molecular clocks, nucleotide diversity, coalescence and DNA-based phylogenetic trees, along with the four major holdovers from classical genetics, mutation, selection, migration and random drift. Molecular genetics has made it possible to study evolution rates at the nucleotide level. It is also possible today to compare DNA similarities and divergence in diverse species of animals and plants, which were not previously crossable.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 296 pages
  • 142.24 x 210.82 x 25.4mm | 453.59g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195387341
  • 9780195387346
  • 1,311,900

Review quote

"This volume continues (Dronamraju's) contributions to our collective understanding of Haldane's work and influence. His book uses one exchange between Haldane and Mayr around 1950 as the reference point. From there, he takes us backwards and forwards in the history of evolutionary biology. We're offered a complex picture of how these two experts worked to balance the usefulness of simple models with the reality of complexity in genetic systems. The gem of the book is the appendix, which compiles correspondence between Haldane and Mayr, 1947-1964. Here, the personalities and substantive issues shine brightly." -- Dr. Joe Cain, Department of Science and Technology Studies, University College London "This interplay of ideas about 'beanbag genetics' between J.B.S. Haldane and Ernst Mayr is both rewarding and stimulating. It reminds us of how ideas change as new fields emerge and how debates need not lead to enmities but actually benefit the minds of two friends who agree to disagree. Historians of science, geneticists, evolutionary biologists, and those who enjoy reading about the way ideas evolve will find hours of pleasure reading Dronamraju's analysis and presentation of their lives and work." --Prof. Elof Axel Carlson, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Stony Brook University, New York"A fine job of synthesizing a great deal of material and making sense out of it. This was a very interesting argument, carried on in a friendly way at a high intellectual plane." --Prof. James F. Crow, University of Wisconsin at Madison "It is a short, clearly written and interesting read." -- Investigative Genetics "The inclusion of these original sources as well as the author's reliance on scientific articles contemporary to the 'beanbag genetics' debate should prove interesting to anyone in the scientific community who wishes to explore a significant moment in the history of our understanding of genes." -- Quarterly Review of Biology, Chicagoshow more

About Krishna Dronamraju

Krishna Dronamraju is President of the Foundation for Genetic Research, in Houston, Texas. His publications include 17 books and over 200 research papers in genetics, biotechnology and history of science. A former student and colleague of J.B.S. Haldane, he is a Visiting Professor of the University of Paris and a nominee for the Nobel Prize.show more

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