POST 4 – 11-02-2014

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POST 4 – 11-02-2014











In the last Post I took us through a brief mention of

  • Cosmic events, following the BIG BANG, with their innate variability.
  • Subsequent events that led to the formation of galaxies, stars, planets and moons.
  •  Life was able to arise from some uncertain prebiotic conditions.
  • Those conditions may have occurred more than once here on earth and possibly numerous times on other planets or planet-like bodies elsewhere in the vast universe.
  • If those conditions occurred here on more than one occasion it appears that, with that one exception, the others were unsuccessful.
  • The biological similarity of all forms of earthly life is such as to show that all life came from a single common origin.
  • That first being must have been able to reproduce itself and so must have had a mechanism that allowed it to copy itself.
  • Each of these beings was a separate unique entity, occupying its own unique piece of real estate, separate in space and time from each and every other being.


Since the Darwinian discovery of the principle of natural selection our knowledge of the process by which it operates has grown. In Darwin’s own terms, if there is “descent [i.e., replication] with modification [variation]” and “a severe struggle for life” [competition], better-equipped descendants will prosper at the expense of their competitors. We now know that the genes with their coded instructions in DNA are the underlying elements that allow evolution by natural selection to occur. Darwin had however identified the key elements of the process when he referred to “descent”, “modification” and “struggle” or as we now call them replication, variation and competition.


The word is used more generally to mean incremental change from the status quo to some new condition and by itself it does not fully describe the process that operates in biological evolution by natural selection. We need a new word or else we need to focus on the key element of the process. Replication may be the key element but it also has many applications.

Evolution is not purposeful and is not aimed at achieving some sort of objective. In colloquial contexts, the word evolution can be used to refer to any sort of progressive development, and often bears a connotation of gradual improvement. This is erroneous in the biological as evolution is not necessarily beneficial. In reality, the evolution of organisms does not entail objective improvement; advancements are only situational. Biological evolution is a process that may result in greater complexity but survival of a genetic variant means just that. The survivor is fit to survive.  If a change survives it has won out in the competition. If winning is progress, then OK, but some successful survivors seem to have undergone regressive steps. How do you attribute progress or regress to a parasite? It is a success in its environment even if it seems to have lost some useful traits.

REPLICATION. There are a number of things that replicate or reproduce or copy themselves and thus they may be candidates for evolutionary change. Living things are the first exemplars but there are others.

VARIATION. Anything that replicates may be subject to copying errors during the process. Most of those errors are detrimental and the changed product of copying is fatal.

SELECTION. Those copying errors that are successful may lead to modifications in the later generations of replicators.


Darwinian evolution results from natural selection and leads to an increased prevalence of particular inherited traits or characteristics. Cultural evolution results in the increase in the prevalence of a particular cultural element or meme. The concept of “memes” identified by Richard Dawkins is now used in applying the concept of replication/variation/survival to cultural entities. See two articles that talk of memes in cultural evolution in The Conversation and in the Smithsonian.

Also see the article on the New Replicators in the “Encyclopaedia of Evolution” for background. It suggests that this three step process can be undergone by a number of replicators including:

“The best candidates are the brainchildren, planned or unplanned, of one species: Homo sapiens”.


The article goes on to describe behaviours and artifacts that are such “brainchildren”. I will later consider nerve impulses as replicators.


To be considered in the next issue – Irritability is the trait of living things that enables them to be responsive to their environment. As they are receivers of inputs from the environment via their sensory mechanisms they have evolved ways of responding to those signals by their motor mechanisms. Seeing how simple organisms respond to stimuli leads to an examination of how more complex organisms make selections between possible responses and thus demonstrate preferences or make choices among the options available to them.

Have a look at this smart crow and then see the hour long video about the science behind it.

Do not forget that the fundamental forces or attractions in the universe are:


Strong nuclear

Weak nuclear


Wikipedia has useful introductory information about them.

A new concept of Time! Time may be an artifact of mathematics.

The “reason physicists have come to reject the reality of time is that they have been bewitched by the beauty and success of the mathematical models they use into mistaking those models for reality”.



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