233: Richard Wrangham | Domestication, Aggression, And Human Evolution In “The Goodness Paradox”

Humans have evolved to become more domesticated, and there are multiple variables at work causing this shift. It wasn’t always this way, and human species have had a two-sided relationship with virtue and violence a long period of time. Dr. Richard Wrangham, author of The Goodness Paradox, joins on episode 233 to discuss this shift and relationship.

Professor Wrangham (PhD, Cambridge University, 1975) is Ruth B. Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University and founded the Kibale Chimpanzee Project in 1987. 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, and on the role of cooking in human evolution, described in the book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. Together with Elizabeth Ross, he co-founded the Kasiisi Project in 1997, and serves as a patron of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

It was neat to talk with Professor Wrangham about the ways that evolution has impacted humans as they have progressed. We also included some material on his understanding of cooking and its impacts.

Show notes:

  • how proactive and reactive aggression differ, and why that is important
  • some of the ways that Professor Wrangham has done research on chimpanzees to understand more about humans
  • where humans stand on the threshold of reactive and proactive aggression
  • the elements that separated Homo sapiens from the other species of humans
  • how intra and inter group cooperation without expectation of future returns works in principle but struggles in person
  • the impact of capital punishment as a way to reduce societal reactive aggression via conformity
  • the window of socialization that exists early in life
  • how the leaders of alpha males of a group impact the rest of the group, and what happens when they die off or are vanquished

Glad to have Dr. Wrangham on the show~ You can check out The Goodness Paradox on Amazon, look at his faculty page, or check out his chimpanzee project website.