Principles of Evolution

Keys to Understanding the Process of Evolution

Josh Mortensen
Jan 13 · 10 min read

Darwin’s Original Principles

Below are the evolutionary principles that Charles Darwin originally outlined in his scientifically groundbreaking book The Origin of Species.

  1. Phenotypic Variation/Heritable Differences: Heritable, genetic differences can be found within the individuals of each species. These differences manifest themselves as both visible and invisible traits and create advantages or disadvantages for the individual. From the perspective of a species, variation is preferred and necessary, as it provides a higher chance of survival for that species.
  2. Survival of the Fittest: The individuals with the genetic characteristics best suited for survival within the environment will survive and pass on their heritable genes. The advantages manifest themselves in all sorts of characteristics or traits — strength, speed, endurance, intelligence, social skills, resistance to pathogens, etc…
  3. Descent with Modification/Phylogenesis: The reproductive isolation of groups within a species leads to the diversion of genetic characteristics, which allows new species to emerge from a common ancestor. The line of descent from one common ancestor to the various species that have arisen is known as the Phylogenetic tree.

Additional Principles

In addition to the principles laid out by Darwin, there are a number of other principles that I have come across and that help me understand how evolution has and is taking place.

5. Absence of Design/Intelligent Influence

This is a big one, so lets start here. Most every religious dogma provides for the idea that some intelligence or living being designed, created, and guides the universe in a state of consistent equilibrium. This belief provides a wealth of emotional support for those who ponder difficult, existential questions such as how life is possible and what the purpose of existence might be.

6. Evolution Cannot Produce Perfection

As I’ve just explained, evolution is not based on design. It has no agenda and no end goal. Species simply move forward in relation to their changing environments.

7. Survival of the Good Enough

Building upon the the two previous principles, this principle helps us to see how the process of Natural Selection takes place just a bit clearer.

8. Evolutionary Change Occurs at the Genetic Level

Our genes can be thought of as a sequence of codes that determine the traits we possess. Thus, every visible characteristic of humans, plants, and animals is based on the DNA sequence found in the nucleus of the cells.

9. Simple on Top of Simple Becomes Complex

The small changes that take place at the genetic level are simple, but over time these simple changes can lead to more complex organic structures.

10. Evolution Takes Time (a lot of time)

To arrive at the world we see today, with its biodiversity and ecological diversity, the process of evolution needed a lot of time — nearly 3.6 billion years.

Parting Thoughts

These principles have helped me to conceptualize the process of evolution, as well as understand questions I have related to my own psychology, the social interactions I experience, and the biological world I see around me.

Thanks for Reading

My aim is to produce evolution related topics that are of interest to you (see below for potential article topics) and to explain them via the the principles laid out above.

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Evolution and Us publishes a periodic newsletter, which contains my latest posts, news from the world of evolutionary science, updates, and announcements. Even if it is not financial support, just knowing that you’re interested and that my audience is growing keeps me going. You can also respond to the newsletter with comment, questions, or request for future content.

Potential Article Topics

Below are some topics I’m considering for future articles. Please highlight any of them that you would like to read. I will focus on the ideas that get the most highlights.

  1. Evolution and Homosexuality
  2. Evolution and Home sapiens Ascent via Technology
  3. Evolution and Morality
  4. Evolution and the Downplaying of Darwin

Evolution and Us

Exploring the Human Experience Through the Lens of Evolution

Josh Mortensen

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Exploring the Human Experience through the lens of Evolution @

Evolution and Us

Exploring the Human Experience Through the Lens of Evolution