I thought I understood evolution

Here is my crude picture of how evolution works. There’s a pool of genes engaged in a endless series of prize-fights (generations) with life as their opponent. Winning genes stay in the pool and losing genes tend to be pushed out. Since its an aggregate phenomenon, things take time. There may be a lot of instances of a gene in the pool at first, but if circumstances change for the worse, then instances of that gene will disappear. Really bad gene’s won’t last very long at all and new genes are created through mutation.

As I recently read, the view is more nuanced than this because genes are not only competing against life, but against females as well. Losing genes will be whittled away by circumstances not conducive to their continuation (light skin in the tropics for example), but they will also be whittle away by discerning females. In other words, natural selection picks winning genes, but natural selection also selected for females to have the ability to select winning genes. In other words, female discernment of desirable traits acts as a second level of selection. So a gene, to be successful, must not only keep its bearer alive and not kill them (like cold bloodedness in northern latitudes), but it must also not repel females.

The literature goes in a lot of direction on how this all works out, but I did discover this while reading around: Charles Darwin probably discovered about 90% of all explanatory facts about all animals. That guy was on fire.


1 Response to “I thought I understood evolution”

  1. 1 aaron
    March 24, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    instead of thinking of about a second level of selection, think of a gene’s end goal as propagation of itself. this goal can be thwarted by multiple factors, inability to stay warm and failure to attract females simply being two possibilities.

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