Free course

Evolution through natural selection

Free statement of participation on completion

In this free course, Evolution through natural selection, we describe the theory of evolution by natural selection as proposed by Charles Darwin in his book, first published in 1859, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. We will look at natural selection as Darwin did, taking inheritance for granted, but ignoring the mechanisms underlying it.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • understand that by biological evolution we mean that many of the organisms that inhabit the Earth today are different from those that inhabited it in the past
  • understand that natural selection is one of several processes that can bring about evolution, although it can also promote stability rather than change
  • understand that the four propositions underlying Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection are: (1) more individuals are produced than can survive; (2) there is therefore a struggle for existence; (3) individuals within a species show variation; and (4) offspring tend to inherit their parents’ characters
  • understand that the three necessary and sufficient conditions for natural selection to occur are: (1) a struggle for existence; (2) variation; and (3) inheritance
  • understand that Endler's experiment with guppies demonstrated that evolution through natural selection can occur in relatively few generations.

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Course content