Developing an Axiomatic Theory of Evolution

Sean H. Rice
Texas Tech University

The basic goal of this project is to start with a small set of basic biological premises (termed 'scientific axioms') and derive from these the exact mathematical rules underlying all evolutionary processes, both deterministic and stochastic.

I use the term "scientific axioms" do distinguish these assumptions (which we have good reason to think are true) from the simplifying assumptions commonly used in model building (more details of this idea are given below). Using the mathematical rules derived from these axioms, the larger goals of the project are to: 1) Show how all of the main results of classical evolutionary theory can be derived from these rules, and 2) Identify and investigate evolutionary processes that have been missed by classical theory.

Though the aim of this project is unification, its scope means that this work will have to be presented in a series of publications. The papers that are published or in the works present the general rules governing: Directional change in one trait in a closed population; Directional change in an open population; Directional change in multiple traits; Non directional evolution (drift); The maintenance of variation in temporally varying environments; Speciation; Fixation of an allele; and Population extinction.

The purpose of this page is to provide updated links to all of the parts published so far (all will be in Open Access journals) and to provide a conceptual background and overview.

Papers published
so far

Directional change in a closed population.
Rice, S.H. 2008. BMC Evolutionary Biology 8:262

Directional change in an open population.
Rice, S.H. & A. Papadopoulos. 2009. PLoS ONE 4(10):
e7130. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007130

Less technical summary of directional stochastic
evolution; including stochastic heritability.
Rice, S.H, A. Papadopoulos, & J. Harting.
In: Evolutionary Biology. P. Pontarotti, ed. Springer-Verlag, Berlin

A discussion of the evolution of novel traits and the
introduction of the method of orthogonal polynomials
to capture nonlinear inheritance.
Rice, S.H. 2012. J. Exp. Zool. B (Mol. Dev. Evol.)


Background and less
technical discussion

Population genetics and the Price equation.

Random variables and directional
stochastic effects



More technical

Detailed derivation of .

Basic philosophy
and motivation

What do we mean by "axiomatic"?


People involved in this project

Sean H. Rice (PI)
Anthony Papadopoulos (Post-doc)
John Harting (PhD student)

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Jul 8, 2021