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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a biological concept that regards evolution as a discontinuous process resulting from major isolated hereditary changes.

According to mutationism, changes called macromutations, or saltations, arise in individuals of an original species and immediately create new life forms which, if environmental factors are favorable, become the progenitors of new species. Mutationism considers evolution to be the result of an.internal factor, hereditary change. The theory thus denies that external factors such as natural selection are the motivating force behind evolution. Natural selection is treated as a factor that limits the variety of life forms by eliminating species that are incompatible with the environment. Mutationism is close in this respect to autogenesis. It differs from autogenesis in that it does not view evolution as a continuous process.

Mutationism is not a single theory. Alternate views of evolution have been espoused by several researchers. H. De Vries, who formulated the mutation theory of evolution, was the original proponent of mutationism. Views similar to mutationism underlie the theory of preadaptation, advanced by the French biologist L. Cuénot; the theory of saltation, advanced by the German biologist R. Goldschmidt; and some other less familiar theories.


Sovremennye problemy evoliutsionnoi teorii. Leningrad, 1967.
Shmal’gauzen, I. I. Problemy darvinizma. 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1969.
Goldschmidt, R. The Material Basis of Evolution. New Haven-London, 1944.
Cuénot, L. L’Evolution biologique. Paris, 1951.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The second part of the book, entitled The Major Anthropological Currents, is constructed at a formal level, in order to facilitate the initiation in the field of anthropology, summarizing currents like Evolutionism, Mutationism, Diffusionism, Structuralism (the founders, the main works and the central theses of each current).
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In the Netherlands, Hugo de Vries advanced a new evolutionary theory known as mutationism which essentially rejected natural selection as a major evolutionary process.
When Mendel's laws of heredity were rediscovered at the turn of the century, Darwin's idea that evolution proceeds through small, gradual changes was challenged by evolutionary mutationism, which argued for a discontinuous, dramatic model involving "leaps" that nature is axiomatically said to abjure (natura non facit saltum).
This moderation allows him to accept some of my criticism of "mutationism", first expressed in 1992,(2) but he tends, all the same, firmly to reject it.