Mathematical Biology Seminar

William Provine, Cornell University
Wednesday April 18, 2007
2:55pm LCB 219
Random Genetic Drift: A Critique in Historical Perspective

Abstract: Random genetic drift has become a primary feature of modern evolutionary biology. Textbooks of evolution all include a section on random genetic drift. This is especially true of molecular evolution, where everyone knows much selectively neutral DNA changes by random genetic drift. I will argue that both R. A. Fisher and Sewall Wright misconceived random genetic drift from the beginning, and that the understanding of random genetic drift in molecular biology has subsequently suffered. After showing the particular problems with these approaches, particular regarding recombination, I argue that understanding neutral DNA has transformed molecular evolutionary biology from a dull science to a very exciting field of study.