Mr. Wrangham’s argument and his discussion makes compelling reading. One reason is the wealth of research that he brings to the book, including both his own early work with chimpanzees and bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and that of other researchers ... Richard Wrangham tells the history of Belyaev and other researchers with a sure sense of anecdotal pacing and vivid choice of detail. Indeed, the narrative of The Goodness Paradox is handled with great patience and attention to the needs of a non-specialist audience. This becomes especially useful in the final part of the book, which deals with proactive aggression ... Often The Goodness Paradox has the compulsive readability more typical of novels. Indeed, like detective fiction it deals with the clarification of mystery, and it’s even more exciting because it’s science—and illuminating science at that. It’s a must-read.
The question of how humans came to be domesticated...has plagued philosophers and scientists for hundreds of years. Wrangham addresses this question by assessing fascinating evidence from studies of primates, foxes, domesticated animals and hominid fossils to reconstruct the process of our domestication as a species ... The Goodness Paradox pieces together findings from anthropology, history and biology to reconstruct a vivid and comprehensive history of how humans evolved into domesticated creatures. Some readers may find it challenging at times ... Nevertheless, the end result is rewarding, as The Goodness Paradox presents a complex but convincing perspective on how good and evil may have come to co-exist in our unique species.
By giving a detailed comparison of human violence and aggression with that of our close primate relatives, Mr. Wrangham has given a possible explanation for how our species might have domesticated itself. That makes this book essential reading as geneticists start to unwrap the package of genes that responded to domestication, which may give hints about our own evolutionary history.
Wrangham puts biology in charge. Sometimes he takes this principle to lengths that seem far-fetched. Did you know that 'broader-faced men' who play professional hockey spend more minutes in the penalty box than do their counterparts with narrow faces? Wrangham duly notes that facial breadth is correlated with a propensity for reactive aggression. So then, if it’s just a correlation – not a causation – what meaning does the penalty-box comparison for hockey players carry? Who knows? ... given especially his focus on coalitionary power and a tendency for execution among males, could it be on the basis of evidence rather than ideology that Wrangham might run into criticism? For one thing, his conclusions are predicated on accepting a binary relationship between reactive and proactive aggression ... Another problem is that Wrangham characterizes aggression in non-human primates as bloody and brutal ... Wrangham’s skills at 'thinking big' make him a compelling writer. The Goodness Paradox will be a boon to discussion of our own prehistory and the role of violence in it. Its readers would do well to think hard about the 'layer model' that Wrangham uses, in which biology determines, and culture modifies, human behaviour ... Wrangham invites counter-arguments that I hope will be aired widely.
... [Wrangham] deploys fascinating facts of natural history and genetics ... Although he downplays such a comparatively domestic story of self-domestication, Wrangham has nonetheless highlighted a puzzle at the core of human evolution, and delivered a reminder of the double-edged nature of our virtues and vices.
Wrangham has clearly done his research ... Various species are examined in depth, especially chimpanzees and other primates, sometimes more so than humans, which makes the subtitle somewhat misleading. The author aims to provide a work accessible to those outside the scientific field, offering a great deal of information. However, some readers might struggle with the dense, scholarly writing style ... For academic-minded readers.
... Wrangham gives a detailed and highly plausible account of how, just as 'design' does not require a designer, this 'domestication' doesn’t always require a breeder ... Fascinating as [the study of bonobos is], the space given to all this is far greater than the space given to weighing just how decisive it is.
... The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence In Human Evolution explores in rich detail ... The first half is maddeningly repetitive and often textbook-dull; Wrantham can’t quite shed the tweeds and lecterns of academia ... But as its pieces jigsaw into place, The Goodness Paradox picks up velocity, its themes emerging with force and clarity ... Once The Goodness Paradox has methodically mapped out self-domestication and its selective underpinnings, the book shrugs off its academic chrysalis; its prose eases into graceful lines, mimicking the syndrome itself. Wrantham moves beyond biological survey into the realms of politics and philosophy.
Wrangham closely examines the social behavior of chimpanzees, who are far more disposed to violence than humans, as well as the ways of bonobos and other simians ... Wrangham’s book adds materially to a conversation that includes Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, Matthieu Ricard’s Altruism, and other recent texts on human behavior.
Wrangham...undertakes a thorough and persuasive examination ... Wrangham does not, however, propose that readers passively accept sanctioned violence as a necessary aspect of modern-day societies, concluding his well-argued treatise by rejecting the continued use of capital punishment [.]