Posted by: zyxo | December 8, 2008

Evolution in blue and red

A phylogenetic tree of living things, based on...
Image via Wikipedia

What is evolution ?

Let us start with a wikipedia definition : “In biology, evolution is a change in the inherited traits of a population from one generation to the next.

Yes, “in biology”. But there is anoter one : Universal evolution, parallelly introduced by Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin : They describe nine levels : 1=strings, 2=elementary particles, 3=atomic particles, 4=atomic, 5=molecules, 6=eobionts;7=protozoa,8=metazoa,9=socialisation, where levels 6 to 8 represent the biological evolution.

Recently there was also a paper about evolution of minerals, which I already mentioned in a previous post, and then there is also something like artificial evolution as discribed in Chapter 6 of “Artificial Life” by Prof. Dr. R. Pfeifer, Dale Thomas and Max Lungarella.

So there is evolution everywhere. But is it the same evolution ? I like the things simple. So let us come to the very basic idea of evolution, and for that I will use an extremely simple example.
Say we have two experimental setups, eacht with 100 red balls and 100 blue balls.
After a certain time, in the first setup, 25 of the red balls have changed colour and turned blue (do not ask me why, just accept it). At the same time 25 of the blue balls have turned red.
In the second setup only 25 red balls changed into blue, all blue balls stayed blue.

Now the very simple question : in which setup did we notice evolution ? I would say : in the first one. Why? Because the group of balls as a whole changed. In the second one, although some individual ballc changed, the group of balls remained the same.

So, if I can permit to write a new and very basic definition of evolution : “a change in the characteristics of a group of items (caused by a change in the characteristics of at least some of the items so that the statistical distribution of the item characteristics in the group has changed).”

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  1. Evolution can occur in any evolutionary system, and an evolutionary system needs a code, a set of rules used to store and transmit information. This code specifies the items in the system – either through a blueprint or by specifying the traits directly. Evolution comes into play if we have an interplay of continuation (replication & heredity) and variation (mutation & recombination) for this code, which results in natural selection and survival of the fittest.

    Evolution is one of the most fundamental laws. In the broad sense, universal evolution can be applied to many levels, and maybe to the most fundamental level at all. However, the interesting things happen during major transitions between different evolutionary systems.

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