The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness

Princeton University Press
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In a world supposedly governed by ruthless survival of the fittest, why do we see acts of goodness in both animals and humans? This problem plagued Charles Darwin in the 1850s as he developed his theory of evolution through natural selection. Indeed, Darwin worried that the goodness he observed in nature could be the Achilles heel of his theory. Ever since then, scientists and other thinkers have engaged in a fierce debate about the origins of goodness that has dragged politics, philosophy, and religion into what remains a major question for evolutionary biology.

The Altruism Equation traces the history of this debate from Darwin to the present through an extraordinary cast of characters-from the Russian prince Petr Kropotkin, who wanted to base society on altruism, to the brilliant biologist George Price, who fell into poverty and succumbed to suicide as he obsessed over the problem. In a final surprising turn, William Hamilton, the scientist who came up with the equation that reduced altruism to the cold language of natural selection, desperately hoped that his theory did not apply to humans.


Hamilton's Rule, which states that relatives are worth helping in direct proportion to their blood relatedness, is as fundamental to evolutionary biology as Newton's laws of motion are to physics. But even today, decades after its formulation, Hamilton's Rule is still hotly debated among those who cannot accept that goodness can be explained by a simple mathematical formula. For the first time, Lee Alan Dugatkin brings to life the people, the issues, and the passions that have surrounded the altruism debate. Readers will be swept along by this fast-paced tale of history, biography, and scientific discovery.

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About the author

Lee Alan Dugatkin is Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Louisville. He is the author of many books, including the popular Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees: The Nature of Cooperation in Animals and Humans and Model Systems in Behavioral Ecology (Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Oct 30, 2011
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Pages
208
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ISBN
9781400841431
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Social Psychology
Science / General
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The fifteen stages from Ramepithecus to Homo sapiens sapiens-the story of human evolution.

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Yellowtip's accidental discovery of weaponry provides the basis for the first chronicle in Glenorchy McBride's personal take on the history of evolution. Like many great discoveries over the history of time, some of the fifteen steps on the long road from Ramepithecus to Homo sapiens sapiens were serendipitous and some the result of trial and error, but all are described with wit and compassion in this entertaining and thought-provoking book.

We squat with Fireboy as he anxiously nurtures the first flickering embers and run with Ton and his beloved wolf-cub. We sit at Roo's feet as she shares her dreams of the first totem spirit; we meet the first artists, the first traders, the first herders and, finally, the Sower of seeds, the visionary who led her people towards our own modern agriculture.

Drawing on his long and distinguished career as an internationally recognised ethologist, Glenorchy McBride illustrates each of his chronicles with detailed scientific background material. The Genesis Chronicles present a picture of the history of evolution, a picture which prompts McBride to ask whether our evolution has fitted us for the world we have created or whether we are irredeemably flawed by our ancestral experiences.
New York Times Bestseller

A Summer Reading Pick for President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg

From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?

Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.

Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?

Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.

Cooperation is the fabric that keeps society together. Civilization could not have been achieved -- and will not be sustained -- without it. But what is it? How and why does it work? Could the secret of enhancing human cooperation lie in an investigation of the animal kingdom?
In Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees, evolution and animal behavior expert Professor Lee Dugatkin, known throughout the academic community for his ingenious animal behavior experiments, reports, from the cutting edge of scientific research on the startling evolutionary truth about cooperation and how it works. He explains the four paths to cooperation that we share with animals and provides the experimentally verified definitions of a behavior no one thought science could ever explain. The first path is through our families and demonstrates that blood really is thicker than water; the second shows why it makes biological sense to do unto others as they do unto you; the third reveals the dynamics of a kind of selfish teamwork; and the last and grandest path is to complete altruism Dugatkin illustrates his argument with marvelous behaviour in the natural world: baby-sitting mongooses and squirrels that willingly martyr themselves to save relatives; fish that switch sexes in order to share reproductive duties; and vampire bats that regurgitate blood for their hungry mates. With these colorful insights into the natural world, Dugatkin shows that what comes naturally to animals can teach us about the instincts that underlie the complex web of human social networks. We can use our understanding of these instincts to encourage purposeful human cooperation, even in situations where animals would not naturally band together.
Those readers with an interest in ecology, evolutionary biology, psychology, even anthropology will find Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees an essential handbook of the dynamics of cooperation. And everyone will find it to be a lucid introduction to the surprising evolutionary history of how we came to behave in the ways that we do, of how nature came to be less brutal than we tend to think.
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