In order to understand both the past and future directions of research in evolutionary biology we need to begin by understanding in what way these programs of research differ from the model of most scientific work. The study of evolutionary processes and, in particular, the genetics of the evolutionary process must confront special difficulties in both the conceptual and the methodological aspects of research. On the conceptual side, unlike for molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, there is no basic mechanism that evolutionists are attempting to elucidate. There is no single cause of the evolutionary change in the properties of members of a species. Natural selection may be involved but so are random events, patterns of migration and interbreeding, mutational events, and horizontal transfer of genes across species boundaries. The change in each character of each species is a consequence of a particular mixture of these causal pathways.


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