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Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics

The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics
William Provine

The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics
I’ll be honest, here — I never went to kindergarten. I’m not completely sure what one learns there, but book store titles seem to suggest that it would have been everything that I really needed to know. It seems sort of a waste to have participated in the other seventeen years of schooling when I could have gotten it over with at age five, but hindsight is always 20-20, and nobody bothered to clue me in at the time. Now I’m stuck taking classes about the history of evolutionary philosophy, and there isn’t a finger-painting smock in sight.
One of the lessons that I would have presumably learned (had I not plunged headlong into first grade) is how to play well with others. If I am to take The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics at face value, I’d say that kindergarten did not yet exist at the turn of the twentieth century, or at least that the geneticists of the day made the same error as me in bypassing it. Provine tells the tale of the development of population genetics as a rock-em sock-em rumble between the Darwinians and the Mendelians, both of whom were so convinced of their correctness that they managed to avoid combining the two systems for over twenty years. The modern scholar can merely look back and say “Duh”, but when it’s a race to the swings on the playground of science, I’m not so sure that we’re doing much better these days. (I mean, do modern genetic engineering and conservation ecology really have to be at odds so often?) A read through Provine’s work suggests to me that perhaps we’re all due for a little global naptime to think things over. Hell, I’ll even spring for juice and cookies.