The universe unfolds according to the natural law. These laws dictate the movement of energy, and they lay the foundations that life itself must also abide. It is within this system that we compete, often for limited resources. Paradoxically, these contraints are the drivers of our evolution. They force us to experiment, grow and develop, where those best adapted will prosper. This basic truth is echoed through multiple levels of our existence: at the genetic level, within personal development, within our markets, and between civilizations. Here we'll examine Natural Selection as it applies to the evolution of species. Later in this story we'll examine how sexual selection, and eventually artificial selection, accelerated this process. And we'll see how the principles of natural selection also act as a driving force in the development human civilization & markets.
Within a population of a given species some degree of variation between individuals naturally occurs. Each is slightly unique. The differing combinations of traits give some individuals advantages over their peers for certain tasks. These may ultimately aid in their survival & propagation. What traits are most desirable depends on a vast array of pressures, ranging from the food supply, environmental challenges, and the strengths of competitors. Through a process of natural selection though, over successive generations beneficial traits accumulate in a population, while detrimental ones are wiped out.
Natural selection is the fundamental force that guides how species are shaped by time. Each evolving offshoot abides by the same natural law. In a perpetual evolutionary arms race, they compete for better adaptation, seeking to gain a foothold within the web of life.
DNA is the molecule that makes all this possible. It contains the accumulated wisdom of countless generations of natural selection. The genes within it are decoded into the proteins and cells which compose your body. This genetic formula is the key to how we survive upon Earth, and it's duplicated within the nucleus of each of your cells. When cells divide, their DNA will also undergo replication. The DNA's double helix will spit in two, and each mirror image will reform their complimentary strands. But occasionally there is an error during this replication process, a genetic mutation. This is what introduces variability to a population. It's this genetic drift that allows species to morph and respond to a changing world.
Through natural selection life has slowly been refined since it first appeared on Earth. Most of these genetic mutations provided no benefit, and so weren't successful in propagating. But occasionally a slight variation gave a unique advantage, allowing it to dominate the gene pool. Those organisms that lacked an essential trait were eventually out-competed. Over successive generations, populations accumulated these incremental improvements. And so through the eons, across spans of time that are difficult to fathom, life advanced. From single cells evolved more complex multicellular life. From fish evolved amphibians, which gave rise to reptiles. These evolved into mammals, primates, and this process ultimately gave rise to Homo sapiens.
Bearing Witness to the Creation
For some, acknowledging the reality of evolution might be considered taboo, running counter to the ancient creation myths that they were raised with. They may look at the huge complexity of advanced life, and see the intervention of some greater power as the only possible explanation for it. In a way they'd be right - a greater power was involved. But this power is an entirely natural one. It's natural selection itself. It didn't require a micro-managing designer to intentionally develop each unique species. It arose according to a natural law that is inherit within the universe. The process by which organisms evolve, via genetic mutation and natural selection, has now even been witnessed firsthand within labs, and reproduced in peer reviewed studies. Each will come to their own conclusion as to the reason for the physics that allow this natural process of selection to take place, or whether some kind of cosmic intelligence is at the root of it. But if there is a God, it would take a design of this elegance to be worthy of a divine creator. To suggest that a mere few thousands years ago we suddenly appeared here, complete in our final form, only diminishes this true nature of the creation and the epic scale of time involved.
"Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."