Stability-based sorting: The forgotten process behind (not only) biological evolution

Journal Article
Toman, J. & Flegr, J.
Journal of Theoretical Biology, 435, 29-41.

Natural selection is considered to be the main process that drives biological evolution. It requires selected
entities to originate dependently upon one another by the means of reproduction or copying, and for the
progeny to inherit the qualities of their ancestors. However, natural selection is a manifestation of a more
general persistence principle, whose temporal consequences we propose to name “stability-based sorting”
(SBS). Sorting based on static stability, i.e., SBS in its strict sense and usual conception favors characters
that increase the persistence of their holders and act on all material and immaterial entities. Sorted entities
could originate independently from each other, are not required to propagate and need not exhibit
heredity. Natural selection is a specific form of SBS—sorting based on dynamic stability. It requires some
form of heredity and is based on competition for the largest difference between the speed of generating
its own copies and their expiration. SBS in its strict sense and selection thus have markedly different
evolutionary consequences that are stressed in this paper. In contrast to selection, which is opportunistic,
SBS is able to accumulate even momentarily detrimental characters that are advantageous for the long-term
persistence of sorted entities. However, it lacks the amplification effect based on the preferential
propagation of holders of advantageous characters. Thus, it works slower than selection and normally is
unable to create complex adaptations. From a long-term perspective, SBS is a decisive force in evolution—
especially macroevolution. SBS offers a new explanation for numerous evolutionary phenomena, including
broad distribution and persistence of sexuality, altruistic behavior, horizontal gene transfer, patterns of
evolutionary stasis, planetary homeostasis, increasing ecosystem resistance to disturbances, and the universal
decline of disparity in the evolution of metazoan lineages. SBS acts on all levels in all biotic and
abiotic systems. It could be the only truly universal evolutionary process, and an explanatory framework
based on SBS could provide new insight into the evolution of complex abiotic and biotic systems

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