Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

Nicholas A Christakis

My review 2019-08-01

The author argues that we, the species Homo sapiens, has a "social suite" of features, including love, friendship, sociality, mild hierarchy, cooperation and social learning, based on our genetic legacy. The message is that all humans share these important properties, and that this universal heritage should be given more focus. The problem is that this positive view of humanity doesn't explain why we are also prone to forming oppressive societies and cultures, and why we wage war. Indeed, the author acknowledges, in the last few pages of the book, that his description has a "sociodicy" problem, analogous to the theodicy problem of religions that posit a benevolent god who somehow allows evil in the world. Christakis does not resolve the problem. But the book has many qualities, giving good summaries of much recent scientific work in a number of fields. It is a good read. I plan to write about the book elsewhere, so I will not to into more detail here.