Virtue versus violence in human evolution: Is humanity inherently good or instinctively evil?

Jan 31, 2019

Author and professor of biological anthropology Richard Wrangham

Author and professor of biological anthropology Richard Wrangham; Credit: Stewart Halperin

Matt Bynum | AirTalk®

It’s a question as old as time. Are we as a species naturally aggressive, violent and corruptible, or are we innately selfless, civilized and peaceful?

If we’ve evolved to simply do good then why do we have such a propensity for violent acts such as war and genocide? If we evolved to be typically evil then why do we continue to spread tolerance, trust and understanding across the world?

In “The Goodness Paradox” anthropology professor and author Richard Wrangham seeks to answer these questions by exploring the complex relationship between aggression, self-domestication, capital punishment, and the set of moral systems we as a society have created to become what we are today.

Wrangham joins Larry to discuss his new book and why humans can be the nastiest of species, while also simultaneously being the nicest.


Richard Wrangham, author of “The Goodness Paradox: the Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution” (Pantheon 2019); professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University

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