A Harvard biological anthropology professor offers a 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.
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.