UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Why Blind-Variation Selective-Retention is an Inappropriate Explanatory Framework for Creativity : Comment on “Creative thought as Blind-variation and Selective-retention: Combinatorial Models of Exceptional Creativity” by Dean Keith Simonton Gabora, Liane


Simonton is attempting to salvage the Blind Variation Selective Retention theory of creativity (often referred to as the Darwinian theory of creativity) by dissociating it from Darwinism. This is a necessary move for complex reasons outlined in detail elsewhere. However, whether or not one calls BVSR a Darwinian theory, it is still a variation-and selection theory. Variation-and-selection was put forward to solve a certain kind of paradox, that of how biological change accumulates (that is, over generations, species become more adapted to their environment) despite being discarded at the end of each generation (that is, parents don’t transmit to offspring knowledge or bodily changes acquired during their lifetimes, e.g., you don’t inherit your mother’s ear piercings). This paradox does not exist with respect to creative thought. There is no discarding of acquired change when ideas are transmitted amongst individuals; we share with others modified versions of the ideas we were exposed to on a regular basis

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