Hi, I'm Tim Tyler - and today I will be discussing NanoDarwinism - which is a cut down version of Darwin's theory with a smaller number of axioms.

There have been a number of approaches to generalising Darwinism so that it more obviously applies to other adaptive systems, such as human culture.

Here I'll discuss a novel approach to generalising Darwinism called "NanoDarwinism".

NanoDarwinism is Darwininsm with a smaller number of axioms. Conventionally, Darwinian evolution requires copying with variation. NanoDarwinism simply drops the "copying" requirement.

There are many systems consisting of elements that come into existence without copying being involved. The resulting elements are still subject to natural selection.

To give some examples, this happens with raindrops, snowflakes, islands, mountains, streams, stars, planets, atoms, flames and crystals - as well as many other natural systems.

Although there's no possibility for cumulative adaptation, such systems still exhibit Darwinian dynamics to some extent - because of the influence of selection. The features that we see are the result of natural selection.

Instead of "suvival of the fittest". NanoDarwinism exhibits "survival of the most stable".

This idea has long been appreciated. For example, here is Richard Dawkins, writing on page 12 of The Selfish Gene:

Darwin's survival of the fittest is really a specific case of a more general law of survival of the stable. The universe is populated by stable things.
NanoDarwinism represents that more general law. It is dominated by forces which I have characterised as being "natural production" and "natural elimination" - which correspond to new elements coming into existence and then subesquently going out of existence.

So, as a simple example, snowflakes come into existence as microscopic water droplets condense inside clouds, and they go out of existence when they melt on the ground. The snowflakes we see are a result of the balance between these two forces.

Dawkins classified the properties of the elements in traditional Darwinism with categories of "fecundity", "fidelity" and "longevity". NanoDarwinism drops the "fidelity" category. That leaves "longevity" - and though the word "fecundity" no longer seems applicable, we can rechristen the concept to be "productivity".

The frequencies of the elements in nanoDarwinian systems can conveniently be analysed using frequency analysis. For example, if the elimination rate of the elements exceeds their production rate then the number of elements will dwindle rapidly.

NanoDarwinism covers a very large number of natural processes. It includes Darwinism as a special case in which production takes place via a copying process.

NanoDarwinism is an important and very basic scientific concept. I hope that understanding the idea enhances your appreciation of how the world operates.



  1. Tim Tyler - Natural production and natural elimination;
  2. Tim Tyler - Universal selection.

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