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Blind Variation and Selective Retention

"Blind Variation and Selective Retention" (BVSR) is a phrase introduced by Donald T. Campbell, as a way of describing the most fundamental principle underlying Darwinian evolution. (Campbell only applied it to the evolution of knowledge, but we here apply it in the most general context). The BVSR formula can be understood as a summary of three independent principles: blind variation, asymmetric transitions, and selective retention. The second principle is implicit in the "and" of "blind-variation-and-selective-retention", since it ensures that configurations produced by blind variation can make the transition to stability, i.e. selective retention. That this is not obvious is shown by classical mechanics where unstable or variable configurations necessarily remain unstable (see asymmetric transitions) .

Copyright© 1993 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

F. Heylighen,

Oct 15, 1993 (modified)
Sep 2, 1993 (created)


Metasystem Transition Theory

Principles of Systems and Cybernetics / The trial-and-error method

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The Principle of Selective Retention

The Principle of Asymmetric Transitions

The Principle of Blind Variation


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