The Harvard University Division of Science, Cabot Science Library, and Harvard Book Store welcome distinguished primatologist RICHARD WRANGHAM—Ruth B. Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University—for a discussion of his latest book, The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution.
What during human evolution accounts for this paradox: we can be the nicest of species and also the nastiest? What are the two kinds of aggression that primates are prone to, and why did each evolve separately? How does the intensity of violence among humans compare with the aggressive behavior of other primates? How did humans “self-domesticate” themselves? And how were the acquisition of language and the practice of capital punishment determining factors in the rise of culture and civilization?
Authoritative, provocative and engaging, The Goodness Paradox offers a startlingly original theory of how, in the last 250 million years, humankind became an increasingly peaceful species in daily interactions, even as its capacity for coolly planned and devastating violence remains undiminished. In tracing the evolutionary histories of reactive and proactive aggression, biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham forcefully and persuasively argues for the necessity of social tolerance and the control of savage divisiveness still haunting us today.
“A fascinating new analysis of human violence, filled with fresh ideas and gripping evidence from our primate cousins, historical forebears, and contemporary neighbors.” —Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature
“A brilliant analysis of the role of aggression in our evolutionary history.” —Jane Goodall, author of In the Shadow of Man
“This is the most thought-provoking book I have read in years. In clear, elegant prose, drawing on riveting data and vivid scenes gathered from species all over the world, renowned anthropologist Richard Wrangham examines the issues most central to human morality. The Goodness Paradox is a breakthrough that deserves careful reading, thoughtful consideration, and lively debate among all those who care about our evolutionary history and the future of human morality.” —Sy Montgomery, author of How to Be a Good Creature
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.