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

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Princeton University Press, 2006 - Psychology - 188 pages
3 Reviews

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

User Review  - Science For The People - Goodreads

Featured on Skeptically Speaking show #202 on March 1, 2013, during an interview with author Lee Alan Dugatkin. http://skepticallyspeaking.ca/episode... Read full review

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

User Review  - kirsten - Goodreads

it was ok. pretty much didn't learn anything more than the review - so i'd suggest just reading the review and not worrying about the whole book. oh and it has quite a few typographical errors and i just don't like books with those. Read full review

Contents

A Special Difficulty That Might Prove Fatal
1
Darwins Bulldog versus the Prince of Evolution
12
The Greatest Word from Science since Darwin
37
JBS The Last Man Who Might Know All There Was to Be Known
61
Hamiltons Rule
86
The Price of Kinship
107
Spreading the Word
115
Keepers of the Flame
123
Curator of Mathematical Models
142
Notes
151
Index
185
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

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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