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In many data mining applications that address classification problems, feature and model selection are considered as key tasks. That is, appropriate input features of the classifier must be selected from a given (and often large) set of possible features and structure parameters of the classifier must be adapted with respect to these features and a given data set. This paper describes an evolutionary algorithm (EA) that performs feature and model selection simultaneously for radial basis function (RBF) classifiers. In order to reduce the optimization effort, various techniques are integrated that accelerate and improve the EA significantly: hybrid training of RBF networks, lazy evaluation, consideration of soft constraints by means of penalty terms, and temperature-based adaptive control of the EA. The feasibility and the benefits of the approach are demonstrated by means of four data mining problems: intrusion detection in computer networks, biometric signature verification, customer acquisition with direct marketing methods, and optimization of chemical production processes. It is shown that, compared to earlier EA-based RBF optimization techniques, the runtime is reduced by up to 99% while error rates are lowered by up to 86%, depending on the application. The algorithm is independent of specific applications so that many ideas and solutions can be transferred to other classifier paradigms.