Reply to Thomas: Diffusion of militarytechnologies is a plausible explanation for theevolution of social complexity, 1500 BCE–AD 1500

Peter Turchin, Thomas Currie, Edward A. L. Turner, Sergey Gavrilets
PNAS January 17, 2014 Journal Link PDF


We thank Thomas for his comments (1) on our recent paper, in which we show that a very simple model can explain a remarkably high proportion of variance in historical data on the origins and spread of macrostates in Afroeurasian history (2). The core of Thomas’s critique is that our model is “too simple and too abstract” (1). We, however, see model simplicity as a desirable feature in developing theory that is both grounded in sociological mechanisms and tested with historical data. Too many previous attempts at theory building in the social sciences have foundered as a result of being highly complex and including in them too many mechanisms. The ability of our simple model to accurately predict data speaks for itself.
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