Selection and Increasing Complexity in Evolution


Börje Ekstig


This paper explores the concept of complexity in the evolution of life and human culture, proposing that the overarching increase in complexity is driven by the fundamental mechanism of selection. From the origin of life to contemporary human culture, selection plays a pivotal role in favoring complexity in reproductive processes and cultural expressions. The paper distinguishes two main phases of life on Earth: the emergence and evolution of life and animals, and the subsequent emergence of the human species with its complex cultural expressions. Despite apparent differences, both phases are argued to be guided by the same fundamental mechanism—selection, taking various forms such as adaptive natural selection, non-adaptive selection, sexual selection, and memetic selection. The paper identifies the acquisition of language as a crucial development, influenced by imitation and sexual selection, and suggests that the strong selective pressure for language has driven the rapid growth of the human brain and intelligence. This enhanced intelligence, in turn, has played a pivotal role in cultural, scientific, and technological achievements marked by unprecedented levels of complexity. The role of memetic selection is explored in the dissemination of religion across human societies, and the unintended consequences of Martin Luther's introduction of literacy and schooling for Western culture are examined. By integrating evolutionary principles with cultural and linguistic insights, this paper offers a comprehensive perspective on the unifying force of selection in the evolution of complexity in life and human culture.


Author Biography

Börje Ekstig, Uppsala University

Börje Ekstig holds a PhD in physics and is a retired assistant professor at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. Long ago he made a discovery of a regular pattern in evolution, the analysis of which has led to some publications summarized in the recent book, Mechanisms of Evolution, together with important novel discoveries and conclusions.