Applications of natural selection outside of the field of biology

February 12, 2012 | By | 5 Replies More

This afternoon I decided to gather uses of evolutionary explanations in fields other than biology. This post features Daniel Dennett discussing evolution in fields other than biology, including languages and music. This discussion is in the video between 15 min and 21 min.

Here is a wealth of other applications of natural selection including mention of Gerald Edelman’s work (it is often called “neural darwinism,” though I didn’t use that term in this article). This same post also discusses Randolf Nesse’s work on “Darwinian Medicine.” Here’s a video featuring Nesse.  This same article also mentions Geoffrey Miller, who has relied on Darwin’s work to explain the evolution of art and consumer behavior.

I previously wrote a long post on Geoffrey Miller’s work on consumer behavior here.  Gad Saad also discusses consumer behavior by reference to evolutionary theory.

An article in Discover Magazine, “We All Live in Darwin’s World,” discusses yet other applications of natural selection outside of biology. This article includes the following quote:

“Natural selection is a source of insight that is unbelievably powerful,” [David Sloan] Wilson says. And its power is not limited to the life sciences. The same selective paradigm can describe the rise of complexity in inanimate systems: stock markets, transit schedules. Though other mathematical models are capable of simulating complex phenomena, only Darwin’s approach shows how certain complex systems not only arise but also adapt over time to the constraints imposed by their environment, as living systems do.


Category: Evolution

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Karl says:

    How can one possibly believe that Nature by itself has the kind of opportunity to make choices like a human can decide what cloths to put on in the morning?

    Nearly all of the examples you have provided as alternate evidences of natural selection have included the use of some degree of human intelligence at work in a human mind interacting with its environment.
    How can you call anything that demonstrates intelligent design as an example of natural selection, unless you attribute intelligence as being present in nature itself from day one?
    In this case you are very much allotting to nature an ability that is not in the least the result of random happen stance.

  2. Karl says:

    I understand perfectly well what you are saying, we just don’t look at natural selection the same way.
    You look a nature and say isn’t that just amazing and wonderful all on its own detached from any other anticedents. I look at nature and say isn’t that amazing and wonderful but for a reason that transcends nature itself.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      That’s incorrect, Karl. I assume that nature is what it is, complete with its own antecedents. I also assume that there is a lot we don’t yet know about nature, but we have learned enough to know, without any doubt, that earth’s life-forms have evolved over time. In short, we know that evolution is a fact, even though scientists are still working to better understand some of its mechanisms. Based on your many posts at this site (I’ve given you lots of space), you prefer to concoct imaginary beings in lieu of explanations, rather than admitting that there are many things you don’t know. That is not a legitimate basis for continued discussion on this topic.

  3. Karl says:

    “Nature with its own antecedents” without a doubt is evolving in the sense that there is change over time. We just differ in the direction of that change and the natural mechanisms that can be clearly associated with it.

    You credit Nature with its own existent ability to bring order out of chaos, life from non-life and cumulative random chance occurrence changes in genetic information that eventually bring into existence new species.

    I credit those to a different source.

    What I observe around me are the opposites, chaos out of what once was ordered, the complexity of living things not coming solely from within the nature of the physical world life itself and cumulative random chance occurrence changes in genetic information that eventually causes extinction of existing species.

    This is just a different perspective which allows some scientists to refrain from locking themselves into a hard and fast belief system by calling things “with out a doubt – facts” which have not been directly observed.

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