Natural selection. V. How to read the fundamental equations of evolutionary change in terms of information theory

Steven A. Frank

(Submitted on 16 Nov 2012)

The equations of evolutionary change by natural selection are commonly expressed in statistical terms. Fisher’s fundamental theorem emphasizes the variance in fitness. Quantitative genetics expresses selection with covariances and regressions. Population genetic equations depend on genetic variances. How can we read those statistical expressions with respect to the meaning of natural selection? One possibility is to relate the statistical expressions to the amount of information that populations accumulate by selection. However, the connection between selection and information theory has never been compelling. Here, I show the correct relations between statistical expressions for selection and information theory expressions for selection. Those relations link selection to the fundamental concepts of entropy and information in the theories of physics, statistics, and communication. We can now read the equations of selection in terms of their natural meaning. Selection causes populations to accumulate information about the environment.

Thanks. I was possibly in danger of sounding like a “kook” without being rescued by this paper.