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For 8 years I have been pursuing in print an ambitious and at times highly technical programme of work, the 'Formal Darwinism Project', whose essence is to underpin and formalize the fitness optimization ideas used by behavioural ecologists, using a new kind of argument linking the mathematics of motion and the mathematics of optimization. The value of the project is to give stronger support to current practices, and at the same time sharpening theoretical ideas and suggesting principled resolutions of some untidy areas, for example, how to define fitness. The aim is also to unify existing free-standing theoretical structures, such as inclusive fitness theory, Evolutionary Stable Strategy (ESS) theory and bet-hedging theory. The 40-year-old misunderstanding over the meaning of fitness optimization between mathematicians and biologists is explained. Most of the elements required for a general theory have now been implemented, but not together in the same framework, and 'general time' remains to be developed and integrated with the other elements to produce a final unified theory of neo-Darwinian natural selection.

Original publication




Journal article


J Evol Biol

Publication Date





1243 - 1254


Animals, Biological Evolution, Genetics, Population, Humans, Models, Genetic, Selection, Genetic