Will the proposed new universal law of evolution fulfill its promise?

Gerald R. Baron
19 min readOct 29, 2023

Science headlines claim a new law of evolution fills a huge gap. Will it succeed in solving the mysteries of evolution?

A group of scientists, led by Michael Wong of Carnegie Science’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, wrote a paper titled “On the roles of function and natural selection in evolving systems.” In it the authors propose a

“universal law…for both living and non-living evolving systems that is consistent with the second law of thermodynamics but may not follow inevitably from it.”

The popular science press dutifully created the clickbait headlines that successfully attracted my attention. Scitechdaily’s headline: “Beyond Biology: Scientists Uncover a Universal ‘Missing Law of Evolution.’”

Sci.news similarly claimed that these scientists have unraveled all the remaining secrets of evolution: “Scientists Unveil Nature’s Missing Evolutionary Law.”

Neuroscience claimed “Unveiling Nature’s Law: Beyond Biology.”

These headlines do nothing to dispel my distaste for clickbait headlines that mislead, especially when it comes to science topics. My fear is that such clickbait contributes to the continuing erosion of trust in science even as the fear-uncertainty-doubt-outrage formula that feeds most media today has led to the general loss of trust in our media channels.

However, it worked. I read them. Succeeding in getting me to read these posts, the question then becomes whether an actual new universal law that solves the mystery of evolution has been actually discovered?

And we thought evolution was settled

For a long time now we have been told that the modern synthesis of genetic mutation combined with natural selection tells the complete story of evolution. Sure, there is still work to be done on the transition from non-life to life, but researchers like those pursuing the RNA world and the autocatalysis of Stuart Kauffman are closing in on even that difficult problem. A recent commenter on one of my posts on consciousness informed me without a shred of doubt that the questions of evolutionary processes have been answered and they indubitably lead to consciousness.

But, if the questions about evolution are essentially settled, why would the headline writers be so excited about some idea that is needed to explain it…

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Gerald R. Baron

Dawdling at the intersection of faith, science, philosophy and theology.