By Russ Hodge
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Additional resources for The Future of Genetics (Genetics and Evolution)
The question was how to detect it. The mathematicians Godfrey Hardy (1877–1947) and Wilhelm Weinberg (1862–1937) independently came up with the same answer, based on statistics and probability. Their formula to describe the spread of an allele, now called the HardyWeinberg rule, consists of the following steps: 1. Determine the frequency of specific alleles among the adults in a species. 2. Find out which types of adults mate with each other. 3. Estimate the frequency of alleles among their offspring using Mendel’s ratios.
Calculating rates of species change required numbers, so Fisher invented a value called variance. In his 1930 book, The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, he also introduced a concept of fitness, meaning a measurement of how well a species is adapted (or not) to its environment. For most species, which had been shaped by millions of years of natural selection, this value would be high. But it could change because species were molded by the environments of the past, rather than the present. Human fitness, for example, was the product of the huntergatherer lifestyle practiced for 99 percent of human history, rather than the circumstances of modern industrial society.
But Haeckel took the idea much further, claiming that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” was a law. A human embryo did not simply resemble that of a fish; he believed that it actually became a fish—an adult fish—on its way to becoming an adult human. The hypothesis claimed that evolution worked by adding new developmental stages to the end of an animal’s life. The Origins of Twenty-first-Century Biology 37 Evolutionary adaptations can take This would soon be replace at any stage of development.
The Future of Genetics (Genetics and Evolution) by Russ Hodge