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(l) A process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse, to a higher, more complex, or better state; a process of change in some direction. (Webster's) (2) The coming into being of a new and higher order process. (Laszlo) (3) The development of each species from different, usually simpler ancestral forms. The more similar are two species, the closer in time are they likely to be to a common ancestor. (Arbib) (4) history of change in the realization of an invariant organization embodied in independent unities sequentially generated through reproductive steps, in which the particular structural realization of each unity arises as a modification of the preceding one (or ones) which, thus, constitutes both its sequential and historical antecedent. (Maturana and Varela, 1979)
The theory concerned with how existing varieties of species of organisms, plants and animals, have come about through a progressive diversification of ancestral forms interacting with their respective environments. The theory pits essentially two processes against each other: First, variety in the inherited endowment of a species is generated by the combination of genetic material through the mating of parent organisms and by essentially random mutation of a gene, or in the structure of chromosomes. Second, variety in the organisms that come into being as the result of suitable genetic endowments is reduced by natural selection, i.e. by elimination of those organisms that are either unable to develop, unfit or ill equipped to live in their environment. What survives the alternating pressures of these two processes is that genetic material which has proven not to be disadvantageous. For biology, evolution is a theory of communication of GENETIC INFORMATION in the presence of noise and through a selective channel provided by the grown organisms with selection criteria stemming primarily from organism-environment interactions. For cybernetics, evolution is the process in which variety is alternatingly generated and destroyed so that which survives is not being effected by either.
To clarify three common misunderstandings: Evolution is an essentially stochastic process, not a deterministic one. It applies to the interaction between species or organisms and their environments, not to particular organisms. Evolution lets survive all those organisms that do not develop or exhibit disadvantageous properties. It does not favor the fittest. Evolution is an opportunistic process, neither progressive nor guided by any particular goal. A "survival instinct" postulated by many biologists and ingrained in popular culture does not exist. (Krippendorff)
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