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The simplest formal argument for fitness optimization

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Abstract

The Formal Darwinism Project aims to provide a formal argument linking population genetics to fitness optimization, which of necessity includes defining fitness. This bridges the gulf between those biologists who assume that natural selection leads to something close to fitness optimization and those biologists who believe on theoretical grounds that there is no sense of fitness that can usefully be said to be optimized. The current paper’s main objective is to provide a careful mathematical introduction to the project, and it also reflects on the project’s scope and limitations. The central argument is the proof of close ties between the mathematics of motion, as embodied in the Price equation, and the mathematics of optimization, as represented by optimization programmes. To make these links, a general and abstract model linking genotype, phenotype and number of successful gametes is assumed. The project has begun with simple dynamic models and simple linking models, and its progress will involve more realistic versions of them. The versions given here are fully mathematically rigorous, but elementary enough to serve as an introduction.

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Correspondence to Alan Grafen.

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Grafen, A. The simplest formal argument for fitness optimization. J Genet 87, 421–433 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12041-008-0064-9

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