September 17, 2020, via Zoom webinar
18th Annual Paul D. Bartlett, Sr. Lecture
Presented by the Linda Hall Library in association with the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Kansas City, the Princeton Alumni Association of Greater Kansas City, and the Yale Club of Kansas City.
We Homo sapiens can be the nicest of species and also the nastiest. What occurred during human evolution to account for this paradox? 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 domesticate themselves? And how were the acquisition of language and the practice of capital punishment determining factors in the rise of culture and civilization?
Biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham 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, he argues for the necessity of social tolerance and the control of savage divisiveness still haunting us today.
Richard Wrangham is Ruth B. Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University and founder of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project. He has conducted extensive research on primate ecology, nutrition, and social behavior. He is best known for his work on the evolution of human warfare, described in the book, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence, and on the role of cooking in human evolution, described in the book, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. His latest book, The Goodness Paradox, was published in 2019. He earned a BA from Oxford University and a PhD in zoology from Cambridge University.