The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society with Nicholas Christakis

by Scott Barry Kaufman, April 10, 2019

“We should be humble in the face of temptations to engineer society in opposition to our instincts. Fortunately, we do not need to exercise any such authority in order to have a good life. The arc of our evolutionary history is long. But it bends toward goodness.” -Nicholas Christakis

Today we have Nicholas Christakis on the podcast. Christakis is a physician and sociologist who explores the ancient origins and modern implications of human nature. He directs the Human Nature Lab at Yale University, where he is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science in the departments of Sociology, Medicine, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Statistics and Data Science, and Biomedical Engineering. He is also the codirector of the Yale institute for Network Science, the coauthor of Connected, and most recently, author of the book Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society, which on its first week became a NY Times bestseller.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why breadth of knowledge across fields is important
  • The evolutionary forces that have shaped our capacity for living socially
  • Can you love your own group without hating everyone else?
  • How can crowds be a force for good?
  • How the capacity for friendship is connected to the evolution of cooperation
  • Can you love your own group and evenloveother groups as well?
  • Framing group dynamics in terms of collective narcissism
  • The “social suite” of human nature
  • The “forbidden experiment”
  • Experiments on artificial societies
  • How long will Homo Sapiens last?
  • The importance of elephant friendships
  • How evolution has shaped our societies
  • The importance of recognizing our common humanity


2 Responses to “The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society with Nicholas Christakis”

  1. Great podcast. Agree with the above arguments.
    Reminds me of the following “pluralism” related lecture-deals with “religion” though. In this context “religion” is “self-knowledge” which can be realized through multiple paths.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyoN_G0u5bY
    Tribalism is an instinct. Rational thought/intuition can be used to overcome this.

  2. Sonja Holthaus says:

    I thought Nicholas Christakis would be interested in the following article from 1843 Magazine entitled The Death Of A Calorie. The author, Peter Wilson, states that the reason the human brain evolved to be the size that it is, bigger than our ape ancestors, is due to food preparation.

    https://www.1843magazine.com/features/death-of-the-calorie

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