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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index D > Theodosius Dobzhansky Quotes

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Theodosius Dobzhansky
(25 Jan 1900 - 18 Dec 1975)

Ukrainian-American geneticist and evolutionist whose work had a major influence on 20th-century thought and research on genetics and evolutionary theory. He made the first significant synthesis of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution with Gregor Mendel's theory of genetics in his book Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937).

Science Quotes by Theodosius Dobzhansky (19 quotes)

At the beginning of its existence as a science, biology was forced to take cognizance of the seemingly boundless variety of living things, for no exact study of life phenomena was possible until the apparent chaos of the distinct kinds of organisms had been reduced to a rational system. Systematics and morphology, two predominantly descriptive and observational disciplines, took precedence among biological sciences during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. More recently physiology has come to the foreground, accompanied by the introduction of quantitative methods and by a shift from the observationalism of the past to a predominance of experimentation.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
In Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937, 1982), 6.
Science quotes on:  |  18th Century (19)  |  19th Century (29)  |  Biology (169)  |  Boundless (13)  |  Chaos (78)  |  Description (84)  |  Discipline (55)  |  Experiment (603)  |  Foreground (3)  |  Introduction (35)  |  Morphology (18)  |  Observation (451)  |  Organism (152)  |  Physiology (84)  |  Precedence (4)  |  Predominance (3)  |  Rational (57)  |  Shift (30)  |  Systematic (33)  |  Variety (72)

Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts. ... the blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
In 'Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution', The American Biology Teacher (Mar 1973), 125-129.
Science quotes on:  |  Accused (3)  |  Anthropology (56)  |  Arise (49)  |  Astronomy (207)  |  Biology (169)  |  Blasphemy (6)  |  Blunder (17)  |  Clash (8)  |  Conflict (55)  |  Construed (2)  |  Creator (56)  |  Doctrine (75)  |  Elementary (45)  |  Evolution (540)  |  Evolutionary (23)  |  Faith (157)  |  Geology (202)  |  Holy (17)  |  Imaginary (16)  |  Insoluble (15)  |  Intended (3)  |  Lead (162)  |  Mean (101)  |  Mistake (133)  |  Religious (50)  |  Science And Religion (304)  |  Scripture (12)  |  Symbol (73)  |  Systematic (33)  |  Textbook (27)

Evolutionary plasticity can be purchased only at the ruthlessly dear price of continuously sacrificing some individuals to death from unfavourable mutations. Bemoaning this imperfection of nature has, however, no place in a scientific treatment of this subject.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937), 127.
Science quotes on:  |  Evolution (540)  |  Genetics (101)  |  Mutation (31)

Genetics is the first biological science which got in the position in which physics has been in for many years. One can justifiably speak about such a thing as theoretical mathematical genetics, and experimental genetics, just as in physics. There are some mathematical geniuses who work out what to an ordinary person seems a fantastic kind of theory. This fantastic kind of theory nevertheless leads to experimentally verifiable prediction, which an experimental physicist then has to test the validity of. Since the times of Wright, Haldane, and Fisher, evolutionary genetics has been in a similar position.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
Oral history memoir. Columbia University, Oral History Research Office, New York, 1962. Quoted in William B. Provine, Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology (1989), 277.
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (169)  |  Experiment (603)  |  Experimental Physicist (8)  |  Fischer_Ronald (2)  |  Genetics (101)  |  J.B.S. Haldane (50)  |  Mathematician (387)  |  Mathematics (1210)  |  Physics (350)  |  Prediction (71)  |  Sewall Wright (9)

I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God's, or Nature's method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
In 'Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution', The American Biology Teacher (Mar 1973), 125-129.
Science quotes on:  |  Billion (63)  |  Creation (245)  |  Creationist (15)  |  Event (116)  |  Evolution (540)  |  Evolutionist (7)  |  God (538)  |  Happen (83)  |  Method (241)  |  Nature (1227)  |  Process (268)  |  Science And Religion (304)  |  Still (5)  |  Year (306)

In its essence, the theory of natural selection is primarily an attempt to give an account of the probable mechanism of the origin of the adaptations of the organisms to their environment, and only secondarily an attempt to explain evolution at large. Some modern biologists seem to believe that the word 'adaptation' has teleological connotations, and should therefore be expunged from the scientific lexicon. With this we must emphatically disagree. That adaptations exist is so evident as to be almost a truism, although this need not mean that ours is the best of all possible worlds. A biologist has no right to close his eyes to the fact that the precarious balance between a living being and its environment must be preserved by some mechanism or mechanisms if life is to endure.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
Genetics and Origin of Species (1937), 150.
Science quotes on:  |  Adaptation (49)  |  Evolution (540)  |  Genetics (101)  |  Life (1141)  |  Natural Selection (90)

Judged superficially, a progressive saturation of the germ plasm of a species with mutant genes a majority of which are deleterious in their effects is a destructive process, a sort of deterioration of the genotype which threatens the very existence of the species and can finally lead only to its extinction. The eugenical Jeremiahs keep constantly before our eyes the nightmare of human populations accumulating recessive genes that produce pathological effects when homozygous. These prophets of doom seem to be unaware of the fact that wild species in the state of nature fare in this respect no better than man does with all the artificality of his surroundings, and yet life has not come to an end on this planet. The eschatological cries proclaiming the failure of natural selection to operate in human populations have more to do with political beliefs than with scientific findings.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
Genetics and Origin of Species (1937), 126.
Science quotes on:  |  Extinction (67)  |  Genetics (101)  |  Mutation (31)  |  Natural Selection (90)

Marxists are more right than wrong when they argue that the problems scientists take up,. the way they go about solving them, and even the solutions they arc inclined to accept, arc conditioned by the intellectual, social, and economic environments in which they live and work.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
In Mankind Evolving: The Evolution of the Human Species, 128. As cited in Ted Woods & Alan Grant, Reason in Revolt - Dialectical Philosophy and Modern Science (2003), Vol. 2, 183.
Science quotes on:  |  Accept (65)  |  Argue (23)  |  Economic (26)  |  Environment (182)  |  Inclined (12)  |  Intellectual (123)  |  Live (273)  |  Problem (502)  |  Right (198)  |  Scientist (527)  |  Social (112)  |  Solution (216)  |  Solving (6)  |  Work (646)  |  Wrong (139)

Mutations and chromosomal changes arise in every sufficiently studied organism with a certain finite frequency, and thus constantly and unremittingly supply the raw materials for evolution. But evolution involves something more than origin of mutations. Mutations and chromosomal changes are only the first stage, or level, of the evolutionary process, governed entirely by the laws of the physiology of individuals. Once produced, mutations are injected in the genetic composition of the population, where their further fate is determined by the dynamic regularities of the physiology of populations. A mutation may be lost or increased in frequency in generations immediately following its origin, and this (in the case of recessive mutations) without regard to the beneficial or deleterious effects of the mutation. The influences of selection, migration, and geographical isolation then mold the genetic structure of populations into new shapes, in conformity with the secular environment and the ecology, especially the breeding habits, of the species. This is the second level of the evolutionary process, on which the impact of the environment produces historical changes in the living population.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
Genetics and Origin of Species (1937), 13.
Science quotes on:  |  Chromosome (19)  |  Evolution (540)  |  Genetics (101)  |  Injection (9)  |  Mutation (31)  |  Origin Of Species (42)

Nature's stern discipline enjoins mutual help at least as often as warfare. The fittest may also be the gentlest.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
Mankind Evolving (1962), 134.
Science quotes on:  |  Genetics (101)  |  Survival Of The Fittest (38)  |  War (164)

No evidence is powerful enough to force acceptance of a conclusion that is emotionally distasteful.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
'Review of Evolution, Creation and Science by F. L. Marsh', American Naturalist, 79, 1945, 75.
Science quotes on:  |  Evidence (184)  |  Evolution (540)

Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
Title of article, 'Nothing in Biology makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution', The American Biology Teacher (Mar 1973), 125. Used earlier, stated in a different word order in 'Biology, Molecular and Organismic', American Zoologist, 1964, 4, 449.
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (169)  |  Evolution (540)

Nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
'Biology, Molecular and Organismic', American Zoologist, 1964, 4, 449. Later, worded slightly differently as an article title, 'Nothing in Biology makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution', The American Biology Teacher (Mar 1973), 125.
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (169)  |  Evolution (540)

Scientists often have a naive faith that if only they could discover enough facts about a problem, these facts would somehow arrange themselves in a compelling and true solution.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
In Mankind Evolving: The Evolution of the Human Species, 128. As cited in Ted Woods & Alan Grant, Reason in Revolt - Dialectical Philosophy and Modern Science (2003), Vol. 2, 183.
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The foundations of population genetics were laid chiefly by mathematical deduction from basic premises contained in the works of Mendel and Morgan and their followers. Haldane, Wright, and Fisher are the pioneers of population genetics whose main research equipment was paper and ink rather than microscopes, experimental fields, Drosophila bottles, or mouse cages. Theirs is theoretical biology at its best, and it has provided a guiding light for rigorous quantitative experimentation and observation.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
'A Review of Some Fundamental Concepts and Problems of Population Genetics', Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology, 1955, 20, 13-14.
Science quotes on:  |  Drosphilia (3)  |  Experiment (603)  |  Fischer_Ronald (2)  |  Genetics (101)  |  J.B.S. Haldane (50)  |  Mathematics (1210)  |  Gregor Mendel (21)  |  Microscope (75)  |  Thomas Hunt Morgan (14)  |  Observation (451)  |  Sewall Wright (9)

The frequent allegation that the selective processes in the human species are no longer 'natural' is due to persistence of the obsolete nineteenth-century concept of 'natural' selection. The error of this view is made clear when we ask its proponents such questions as, why should the 'surviving fittest' be able to withstand cold and inclement weather without the benefit of fire and clothing? Is it not ludicrous to expect selection to make us good at defending ourselves against wild beasts when wild beasts are getting to be so rare that it is a privilege to see one outside of a zoo? Is it necessary to eliminate everyone who has poor teeth when our dentists stand ready to provide us with artificial ones? Is it a great virtue to be able to endure pain when anaesthetics are available?
[Co-author with American statistician Gordon Allen]
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
Theodosius Dobzhansky and Gordon Allen, 'Does Natural Selection Continue to Operate in Modern Mankind?', American Anthropologist, 1956, 58, 595.
Science quotes on:  |  Beast (38)  |  Dentist (3)  |  Human (554)  |  Natural Selection (90)  |  Zoo (8)

The outlook seems grim. Natural selection under civilized conditions may lead mankind to evolve towards a state of genetic overspecialization for living in gadget-ridden environments. It is certainly up to man to decide whether this direction of his evolution is or is not desirable. If it is not, man has, or soon will have, the knowledge requisite to redirect the evolution of his species pretty much as he sees fit. Perhaps we should not be too dogmatic about this choice of direction. We may be awfully soft compared to paleolithic men when it comes to struggling, unaided by gadgets, with climatic difficulties and wild beasts. Most of us feel most of the time that this is not a very great loss. If our remote descendants grow to be even more effete than we are, they may conceivably be compensated by acquiring genotypes conducive to kindlier dispositions and greater intellectual capacities than those prevalent in mankind today.
[Co-author with American statistician Gordon Allen.]
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
Theodosius Dobzhansky and Gordon Allen, 'Does Natural Selection Continue to Operate in Modern Mankind?', American Anthropologist, 1956, 58 599.
Science quotes on:  |  Evolution (540)  |  Genetics (101)  |  Natural Selection (90)

The process of mutation is the only known source of the raw materials of genetic variability, and hence of evolution. It is subject to experimental study, and considerable progress has been accomplished in this study in recent years. An apparent paradox has been disclosed. Although the living matter becomes adapted to its environment through formation of superior genetic patterns from mutational components, the process of mutation itself is not adaptive. On the contrary, the mutants which arise are, with rare exceptions, deleterious to their carriers, at least in the environments which the species normally encounters. Some of them are deleterious apparently in all environments. Therefore, the mutation process alone, not corrected and guided by natural selection, would result in degeneration and extinction rather than in improved adaptedness.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
'On Methods of Evolutionary Biology and Anthropology', American Scientist, 1957, 45, 385.
Science quotes on:  |  Evolution (540)  |  Experiment (603)  |  Extinction (67)  |  Genetics (101)  |  Mutation (31)  |  Natural Selection (90)

There is no doubt that human survival will continue to depend more and more on human intellect and technology. It is idle to argue whether this is good or bad. The point of no return was passed long ago, before anyone knew it was happening.
— Theodosius Dobzhansky
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  • 25 Jan - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Dobzhansky's birth.

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