Molecular Evolution Activities

Responses to the Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution

The Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution

The Response to Kimura (1968) and King and Jukes (1969)

Initial Reactions and Citation Analysis

Reflecting on this early period, James Crow writes that: "The initial response was generally one of dismay and disbelief. The reactions ranged from skepticism to outright rejection. To some it was utter nonsense." To many evolutionary biologists neutral changes were simply uninteresting; the proper business of evolutionary biologists was the study of adaptations.
        (See James Crow, "Motoo Kimura: An Appreciation," in Population Genetics and Molecular Evolution, eds. T. Ohta and K. Aoki. Tokyo: Japan Scientific Societies Press, 1985, p. 1.)

"Non-Darwinian Evolution:" What's in a name?

King and Jukes chose the provocative title of "Non-Darwinian Evolution" for their paper, and the name stuck to the hypothesis until the early 1970's when it was redubbed the neutral theory of molecular evolution. Kimura was not fond of the "non-Darwinian" label and asked King and Jukes to change it to emphasize molecular evolution, instead of evolution in general. King and Jukes had choosen their title with the intention of provoking the evolutionary establishment. Although both reviewers rejected their article, it was published upon appeal and the blasphemous title remained unchanged.
(See King's recollections of this episode)

Citation Analysis

Citations from ISI Web of Science.

The longer and more data-rich King and Jukes paper became a citation classic in 1983 in part as a result of its strong initial reception. More recently Kimura's 1968 paper has begun to recieve more citations. Is this perhaps an artifact of how the neutral theory is being remembered?


This page was written by Michael Dietrich. It was last updated on 11 October 2002. Michael Dietrich