Madrid, 17 years old (European Press)
It is the statement of the “missing law of nature” described in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which recognizes for the first time an important criterion in the workings of the natural world.
In essence, the new law states that complex natural systems evolve toward states of greater pattern, diversity, and complexity.
The authorship corresponds to a nine-member team: scientists from the Carnegie Institution for Science, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Cornell University, and philosophers from the University of Colorado.
The “macroscopic” laws of nature describe and explain phenomena that occur daily in the natural world. The natural laws of force, motion, gravity, electromagnetism, and energy, for example, were described more than 150 years ago.
The new work introduces a recent addition: a microscopic law that recognizes evolution as a common feature of complex systems in the natural world, which is characterized by:
– Made up of many different components, such as atoms, molecules, or cells, which can be repeatedly organized and rearranged.
– It is subject to natural processes that cause the formation of a countless number of different arrangements.
– Only a small portion of all these formations survive in a process called “selection for the job.”
Regardless of whether the system is alive or not, when the new configuration works well and the function improves, evolution occurs.
The authors’ “Law of Increasing Functional Information” states that a system will evolve “if many different configurations of the system are selected for one or more functions.”
Dr. Michael L. says: “An important element of this proposed natural law is the idea of ’selection for function,'” Wong, an astrobiologist at Carnegie University and first author of the study, said in a statement.
In the case of biology, Darwin equated function primarily with survival: the ability to live long enough to produce fertile offspring.
The new study expands on this perspective, noting that at least three types of jobs occur in nature.
The primary function is stability: stable arrangements of atoms or molecules are chosen to persist. Dynamic systems with continuous power supplies are also selected for continuity.
The third and most interesting feature is “novelty”: the tendency of evolving systems to explore new configurations that sometimes lead to surprising behaviors or features.
The evolutionary history of life is rich with new elements: photosynthesis evolved when individual cells learned how to harness light energy, multicellular life evolved when cells learned to cooperate, and species evolved thanks to new useful behaviors such as swimming, walking, flying, and thinking.
The same kind of development is happening in the mineral kingdom. The first minerals represented stable arrangements of atoms. These primitive minerals provided the basis for subsequent generations of minerals, which participated in the origin of life. The evolution of life and minerals is intertwined, with life using minerals to make shells, teeth, and bones.
In fact, Earth’s minerals, which started with about 20 at the dawn of our solar system, now number nearly 6,000 known today thanks to increasingly complex physical, chemical and biological processes over 4,500 million years.
In the case of stars, the article points out that only two major elements (hydrogen and helium) formed the first stars shortly after the Big Bang. Those first stars used hydrogen and helium to produce about 20 heavier chemical elements. The next generation of stars has relied on this diversity to produce nearly 100 additional items.
“Charles Darwin eloquently explained the way in which plants and animals evolve by natural selection, with many variations and traits of individuals and many different configurations,” says co-author Robert M. Hazen of Carnegie for Science, who led the research.
“We maintain that Darwinian theory is simply a very special and very important case within a much broader natural phenomenon. The idea that selection for a function drives evolution applies equally to stars, atoms, metals, and many other conceptually based situations. Configurations are subject to selective pressures.”
The co-authors themselves represent a unique interdisciplinary setup: three philosophers of science, two astrobiologists, a data scientist, a mineralogist, and a theoretical physicist.
Dr Wong said: “In this new paper, we consider evolution in the broader sense (change over time) which includes Darwinian evolution based on ‘regression with modification’ details.”
“The universe generates new combinations of atoms, molecules, cells, etc. These stable combinations that can generate further novelties will continue to evolve. This makes life the most obvious example of evolution, but evolution is everywhere.”