We consider how to discern whether or not evolution is taking place in an observed system. Evolution will be characterized in terms of a particular macroscopic behavior that emerges from microscopic organismic interaction. We de ne evolutionary activity as the rate at which useful genetic innovations are absorbed into the population. After measuring evolutionary activity in a simple model biosphere, we discuss applications to other systems. We argue that evolutionary activity provides an objective, quantitative interpretation of the intuitive idea of biological teleology. We also propose using evolutionary activity in a test for life
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