Natural Selection in the Physical Domain

Just a few years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, George Perkins Marsh in Man and Nature claimed that the weathering of granite was a form of natural selection in the nonliving domain. More recently, the Rice University team that discovered buckminsterfullerene (C60, a.k.a., “buckyballs”) clearly realized that the formation of C60 was the result of a selective process; this realization allowed them to do a proper functional analysis of C60, enabling them to quickly zero-in on the soccerball structure, the discovery for which they received the Nobel prize. Such examples may be multiplied. In general, natural selection is a pervasive force that shapes physical nature at scales that range from the level of a proton to galactic superclusters, and perhaps even the universe itself.

Natural selection of physical systems entails that they are functionally organized in the biological sense—otherwise, they would fall apart and be selected against.

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