Natural Selection As A Path Process
December 9, 2018 by Aaruni Kaushik
Evolution through the process of natural selection is a beautiful process, especially when taken into account the “designed” end result of the random mutation process. Many people argue that the exceedingly complex design of modern organisms can only come about as a result of some greater power and intelligence designing it. Or, as the watchmaker analogy to the argument goes, design implies a designer. In this article, I attempt to illustrate a simplified example of how just random mutation could bring about change in the design of an organism and their population composition. All without an intelligent designer.
Evolution, as I understand it, is simply change. Random mutation in genes brought about by mere chance, and its interaction with an ever changing, uncaring environment. Consider a grid. One corner of the grid represents the “zero” design of your favorite species. This is the design at “time zero”, that is, the design at which we start studying it. The diagonally opposite corner of the grid represents the “omega” design for the species. This design represents peak performance and survivability under all possible conditions. Any other cell in the grid represents an inferior design when compared to the omega design. Further, consider that every design cell contributes to all adjacent design cells in each generation. That is, from generation 0 to generation 1, Design0 gives rise to three new designs, one for each cell adjacent to Design0.
Imagine a thin path connecting D0 to DF. This path of shaded cells represents the designs which are “optimal” to survive in a given set of environment constraints like temperature, humidity, scarcity of food, and even likeliness to reproduce. All these optimal designs live a happy life and are represented in bold. Designs in close proximity of this shaded path aren’t the best designs to survive right now, but they manage to get by as a minority of the population. These are represented in a lighter text. All other designs simply do not work with the environment, and unfortunately, die out. We choose to ignore these, for the sake of simplicity.
Now, imagine a random chance event which changes the survivability condition. This event may be anything : sudden abundance of food, extra terrestrial contact, or your favorite calamity. As a result of this change, our red path of survival will change as slightly or as drastically as you want. For the purposes of this article, we suppose it changes as shown in the illustration, which has been decided upon by a reliable random number generator. The same treatment as before is applied to arrive at to denote the dominant designs, workable designs, and dead designs.
It is easy to notice that in the wake of a random change in living, continuous random genetic mutation in an organism always tends to the “omega” body design, while all failed designs are simply eliminated. In other words, the random process of change subject to the principle of survival of the fittest is a perfectly wonderful and feasible way of explaining the intricate and efficient design of bodies, without invoking the need for an intelligent designer.
Post written by Aaruni Kaushik
Aaruni is currently pursuing his master's course in mathematics at Technische Universität Kaiserslautern. An avid reader of trivia and a techno enthusiast in his spare time, he occasionally also writes on a variety of topics. His personal blog can be found here.