Turns Out Competition is Not Required for Evolution


Social Darwinism has always been a problematic theory. The idea that survival of the fittest is the best way to move society forward was never endorsed by Darwin, it is made somewhat hypocritical by the fact that many 'Social Darwinists' do not believe in biological evolution and it kind of goes against the idea of a social contract. If 'survival of the fittest' was a good system, then there was no point in creating civilizations in the first place.

Now the science of evolution has moved even farther away from the Social Darwinist model. Io9 points to this paper by Kenneth Stanley and Joel Lehman which says that diversity, not competition, is the key factor in evolution:


Why evolvability appears to have increased over evolutionary time is an important unresolved biological question. Unlike most candidate explanations, this paper proposes that increasing evolvability can result without any pressure to adapt. The insight is that if evolvability is heritable, then an unbiased drifting process across genotypes can still create a distribution of phenotypes biased towards evolvability, because evolvable organisms diffuse more quickly through the space of possible phenotypes. Furthermore, because phenotypic divergence often correlates with founding niches, niche founders may on average be more evolvable, which through population growth provides a genotypic bias towards evolvability. Interestingly, the combination of these two mechanisms can lead to increasing evolvability without any pressure to out-compete other organisms, as demonstrated through experiments with a series of simulated models. Thus rather than from pressure to adapt, evolvability may inevitably result from any drift through genotypic space combined with evolution's passive tendency to accumulate niches.
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