Natural reward drives the advancement of life?

A proposal for a second mechanism of non-random selection, “Natural Reward”.

My quick take is that this describes organisms discovering niche environments where existing variation/mutation “fits”, rather than evolving to fit the local environment. This seems like a distinction without a difference; of course organisms will exploit their environment and no one thought otherwise. This goes on with analogy to innovation in economic systems to argue that Reward can be applied to macroevolution more clearly that Selection alone.

Fluffy pop article:

Main article:

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It’s a little odd to see a paper introduce a new theory without including any theory (i.e., math).


Agreed, but then Origin of Species didn;t have much math either.

I think it might be interesting to consider the evolution of ecosystems as a sort of marketplace driven system for macroevolution. It’s would be better to give some more concrete examples.

Figure C from the main article:

Gilbert OM (2020) Natural reward drives the advancement of life. Rethinking Ecology 5: 1-35.

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Sure, but what a genius Gentleman of Leisure could get away with in the 19th century is quite different from what is expected of scientists in the 21st.

I’m certainly not saying the idea–which I haven’t investigated–lacks any merit. It just seems like a pretty unsatisfying way to present an alternative to current theory.


Seems like another way of saying that unexplored niches provide the opportunity for evolutionary innovation to become selectively beneficial. But it does make me wonder what conditions favor the evolution of generalists over specialists.


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