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The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution

September 17, 2020, 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

18th Annual Paul D. Bartlett, Sr. Lecture

The lecture

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.

The speaker

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.

Accessing the program

This free, online program will take place via Zoom. Registration is currently open . After you register you will receive an email with a link to join the session. To help us better serve our audiences, we have included some demographic questions in the registration form. Your response to these questions is voluntary but appreciated. Thank you!

Click here to register
Linda Hall Library encourages people of all backgrounds abilities to enjoy our public programs. If you require reasonable accommodations in order to participate, please contact events@lindahall.org or call 816.926.8753 at least 24 hours in advance.

Once you register for this event, you will receive email communications from the Linda Hall Library and the Linda Hall Library Foundation. You may choose to opt out of these communications at any time. Your contact information will not be sold or provided to any third parties.

The program will also be livestreamed on the Library’s Facebook page.

Order your copy of The Goodness Paradox


To purchase your copy of The Goodness Paradox, order online through Rainy Day Books, call 913.384.3126, or visit the bookstore in person at 2706 W. 53rd Street in Fairway, Kansas.

About the Bartlett Lecture

The annual Paul D. Bartlett, Sr. Lecture was established in 2003 to bring the finest university professors to speak on subjects related to the Linda Hall Library´s collections. Paul D. Bartlett, Sr. was the first chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Linda Hall Library. Under his leadership the Halls’ bequest for the creation of a public library in Kansas City was used to establish this library devoted to science, engineering and technology. Mr. Bartlett served on the Board until his death in 1964. The lectures are 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.

Further reading at the Linda Hall Library



September 17, 2020
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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Linda Hall Library
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Questions? Contact Eric Ward at 816.926.8753 for more information about these events.

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