Survival of the Fittest (SoF) is Darwin's grand principle of biological adaptation and evolutionary change. It is unlike any other known dynamics in physics or chemistry. It is self-serving (selectively harnessing resources); a force for ordering, not disordering (growing and evolving, not tending towards equilibrium, for 3.5 billion years); more resourceful and innovative than simple self-replication processes that only make copies of themselves; driven towards fitness for environments by bootstrapping advantages -- even leveraging the smallest over the largest -- unlike positive feedback that simply amplifies all signals. Unlike the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which has operated since the beginning of time, SoF must have arisen at the Origins of Life (OL), since physics and chemistry don't use it.
We will develop theoretical and computer modeling for how SoF could have emerged from simple prebiotic physical chemistry. This work has 3 parts: seeking a general dynamical principle for how physico-chemical systems achieve and sustain persistence; specific mechanistic models that could have embodied that principle on the early earth; and a microscopic nonequilibrium statistical mechanics of their fluctuations, to learn how exceptional rare advantageous events are bootstrapped to the larger scale.
We are well-positioned for this, with 35 years expertise in protein biophysics, 15 years expertise in the foundations of nonequilibrium physics, and several past publications relevant to molecular origins of life. We will make tests with our experimental collaborators. We will publish in research journals. We will give seminars to our colleagues as well as outreach to high-school teachers.