Theodosius Dobzhansky

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Theodosius Dobzhansky in 1943

Theodosius Grigorevich Dobzhansky (January 25, 1900December 18, 1975) was a noted geneticist, evolutionary biologist, and a leader of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis. He was born in Russia (Ukraine) and attended Kiev University.


  • The evolution of life, and the evolutionary origin of mankind, are scientifically established as firmly and completely as any historical event not witnessed by human observers. Any concession to anti-evolutionists, suggesting that there are scientific reasons to doubt the facticity of evolution, would be propagating a plain untruth.
    • In a letter to J. Kunamoto, 1972.
  • According to Goldschmidt, all that evolution by the usual mutations—dubbed "micromutations"—can accomplish is to bring about "diversification strictly within species, usually, if not exclusively, for the sake of adaptation of the species to specific conditions within the area which it is able to occupy." New species, genera, and higher groups arise at once, by cataclysmic saltations—termed macromutations or systematic mutations—which bring about in one step a basic reconstruction of the whole organism. The role of natural selection in this process becomes "reduced to the simple alternative: immediate acceptance or rejection." A new form of life having been thus catapulted into being, the details of its structures and functions are subsequently adjusted by micromutation and selection. It is unnecessary to stress here that this theory virtually rejects evolution as this term is usually understood (to evolve means to unfold or to develop gradually), and that the systematic mutations it postulates have never been observed. It is possible to imagine a mutation so drastic that its product becomes a monster hurling itself beyond the confines of species, genus, family, or class. But in what Goldschmidt has called the "hopeful monster" the harmonious system, which any organism must necessarily possess, must be transformed at once into a radically different, but still sufficiently coherent, system to enable the monster to survive. The assumption that such a prodigy may, however rarely, walk the earth overtaxes one's credulity, even though it may be right that the existence of life in the cosmos is in itself an extremely improbable event.
    • Genetics and the Origin of Species (1941) 2nd revised edition
  • The living world is not a single array . . . connected by unbroken series of intergrades.
    • Genetics and the Origin of Species (1951) p. 4.
  • My genes have indeed determined what I am, but only in the sense that, given the succession of environments and experiences that were mine, a carrier of a different set of genes might have become unlike myself.
    • Mankind Evolving (1962)

"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" (1973)


The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 35, pp 125-129, March 1973. Presented at the 1972 NABT convention.

  • Seen in the light of evolution, biology is, perhaps, intellectually the most satisfying and inspiring science. Without that light it becomes a pile of sundry facts -- some of them interesting or curious but making no meaningful picture as a whole.
  • 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. As pointed out above, the blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness.

Mourning and Funerals—For Whom (1977)

Mourning and Funerals—For Whom?, The Watchtower magazine, June 1, 1977.
  • No known human group . . . simply throw[s] out its dead without any ritual or ceremony. In stark contrast, no animal practices burial of dead individuals of its own species.
  • Man is the only living being who has a developed self-awareness and death-awareness.


  • The greatest evolutionist of our century.
  • Between 1937 and 1941, Dobzhansky went from being able to allow for the possibility of evolutionary mechanisms other than those he favored to a position in which everything that did not fit his definition of evolution was rejected.
    In the midst of his outpouring of anger at and dismissal of Goldschmidt, Dobzhansky neglected to consider the fact that while Goldschmidt's systemic mutations may not have been observed, neither had the mechanisms of speculation that he, or anyone else, for that matter, had proposed. was and still is the case that, with the exception of Dobzhansky's claim about a new species of fruit fly, the formation of a new species, by any mechanism, has never been observed.
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