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Friday, June 9, 2017

Sapolsky on the biology of human evil

Sean Illing
Originally posted May 23, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

The key question of the book — why are we the way we are? — is explored from a multitude of angles, and the narrative structure helps guide the reader. For instance, Sapolsky begins by examining a person’s behavior in the moment (why we recoil or rejoice or respond aggressively to immediate stimuli) and then zooms backward in time, following the chain of antecedent causes back to our evolutionary roots.

For every action, Sapolsky shows, there are several layers of causal significance: There’s a neurobiological cause and a hormonal cause and a chemical cause and a genetic cause, and, of course, there are always environmental and historical factors. He synthesizes the research across these disciplines into a coherent, readable whole.

In this interview, I talk with Sapolsky about the paradoxes of human nature, why we’re capable of both good and evil, whether free will exists, and why symbols have become so central to human life.

The article and interview are here.