The action of selection is based on a few simple principles that are general to all self-replicating systems, and which constitute a distinct branch of science. This introductory chapter presents a brief overview of some of these principles in a wide range of systems. It is divided into various sections on the following discussion topics: RNA viruses are the simplest self-replicators; exponential growth can be maintained by serial transfer; replication is always imprecise; imprecise replication leads to differential growth; selection acts directly on rates of replication; selection may act indirectly on other characters; the indirect response to selection is often antagonistic; evolution typically involves a sequence of alterations; the evolution of increased complexity is a contingent process; very improbable structures rapidly arise through the cumulation of alterations; competitors are an important part of the environment; evolution through selection is a property of self-replicators; self-replicating algorithms evolve in computers; and finally evolution through selection is governed by a set of general principles.
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