Study: Social Complexity is 'evolution'

LONDON, Oct. 13 (UPI) — Human societies evolve slowly from the simple to the complex in much the same way as living organisms have evolved, a British study says.

Tom Currie of University College of London says most scientists “think that biological evolution happens in small steps. We found the same thing in political evolution.”


The study defined political “complexity” as the number of layers of authority, from local to regional power bases, covering ever-expanding areas, from small tribes or bands with informal leadership roles to complex modern nation states, WorldScience.net reported.

Currie and his colleagues used methods adapted from biology to place existing societies on a “family tree” then tried to reconstruct how they would have looked when they first arose and how changes would have occurred since then.

The researchers tested various model of political “evolution” and concluded the one that fit best was one in which complexity increases one step at a time, with one layer of authority added at a time as a society becomes more complex.

It’s a “rough analogy” to biological evolution, Currie says, “single cells aggregating into larger organisms, then groups of organisms.”

As with the evolution of individual species, Currie says, competition plays an important part in the shaping of societies and their complexity.

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