The necessary roles of both innovation and conservativism – Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson

May 17, 2007

On a blog called “Todd’s Hammer” here on, Todd wrote:

There are a couple professors at UC Davis who have done a series of mathematical studies and have shown that human cultures have a balance of conservative and innovative thinkers within them. If the culture is too conservative, its members will fail to adapt to a changing environment; if a culture is too innovative, its members will adopt possibly maladaptive meanings in the wrong times and places. Cognitive scientists are finding that individuals tend to lean to one side or the other, and that both sides are necessary for survival.

Makes perfect sense, and the idea that both conservativism and innovation play essential roles in a society’s survival is relevant to the Church of Azazel paradigm, so I asked for more info and sources. Todd’s reply:

Actually, now that I look at it, one is at UC Davis, the other at UCLA. They are basically doing statistical analyses of the evolution of culture/cognition; that is, the role of culture/cognition in survivability/adaptation.

Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson, _The Origin and Evolution of Cultures_ (Oxford University Press, 2005).

The statistical analysis I was referencing is described in the first chapter of that book; but I recommend the whole thing.

Todd is a gay ex-Mormon, now apparently an atheist. I discovered his blog by clicking on one of the tags (either “gay rights” or “same-sex marriage,” I forget which) at the bottom of one of my own recent posts.


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