The remarkable discreteness of being
Altruism; ecological drift; genetic drift; neutral biodiversity; spatial clustering in ecology
Life is a discrete, stochastic phenomenon: for a biological organism, the time of the two most important events of its life (reproduction and death) is random and these events change the number of individuals of the species by single units. These facts can have surprising, counterintuitive consequences. I review here three examples where these facts play, or could play, important roles: the spatial distribution of species, the structuring of biodiversity and the (Darwinian) evolution of altruistic behaviour.