Analogies between evolutionary dynamics and statistical mechanics, such as Fisher’s second-law-like “fundamental theorem of natural selection” and Wright’s “fitness landscapes”, have had a deep and fruitful influence on the development of evolutionary theory. Here I discuss a new conceptual link between evolution and statistical physics. I argue that natural selection can be viewed as a coarsening phenomenon, similar to the growth of domain size in quenched magnets or to Ostwald ripening in alloys and emulsions. In particular, I show that the most remarkable features of coarsening—scaling and self-similarity—have strict equivalents in evolutionary dynamics. This analogy has three main virtues: it brings a set of well-developed mathematical tools to bear on evolutionary dynamics; it suggests new problems in theoretical evolution; and it provides coarsening physics with a new exactly soluble model.
Journal of Statistical Physics – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 21, 2017
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