Although evolution does not explain why we are here or nail down the origin of the universe, it accurately describes a framework that allows us to understand “how” natural life progresses based on relatively simple principles – replication, variation and natural selection.
Evolutionary Biology is a very large field of science that has developed for more than 100 years. It’s absolutely fascinating and many scientists have spent their lives studying and contributing to it. If you’re curious, one start point is here.
While the science of biological evolution is extensive and profound, it is based on a framework consisting of a few simple principles: replication, variation and natural selection, and this conceptual framework itself can be applied in a multitude of areas ranging from cosmology and technology, to art and economics. The evolution ‘concept’ can be leveraged in virtually any human endeavor where complex emergent systems are at play.
Very briefly: Replication is the process by which organisms retain their traits from generation to generation. Replication which is based on DNA – the building blocks of all life – is imperfect and incorporates some random Variation. Natural Selection is the non-random process that fine-tunes the fitness of organisms within their environment based on their survival. Traits that allow their owners to out survive competitors, tend to perpetuate and dominate over time (e.g. survival of the fittest)..And this is the mechanism by which new variations and species evolve over time.
When you carefully consider and imagine how evolution actually works, it’s mind-blowing. There is a subtlety in it that most people don’t see. It’s not that organisms have a built-in smart capability to develop new desirable traits over time. There is no such thing – no inherent force controlling their direction, improvement and destiny. Instead, It’s the downward pressure on their survival in whatever challenging environment they are subject to that shapes them,….how whatever freakish combination of traits they might happen to have – through partially random variation – allows them to out-survive their competitors in a specific environment. These organisms, often with bazar mixtures of traits, slowly become the dominant new species. Survivors and new species emerge in an unpredictable way.