Earlier this week the legendary biologist Robert Trivers gave a talk, “Why We Lie (even to ourselves),” to a packed auditorium at my school, Stevens Institute of Technology. If you haven’t heard of Trivers, you should have. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker calls him “an underappreciated genius” and “one of the great thinkers in the history of western thought.” In the 1970s, when he was a graduate student at Harvard, Trivers wrote a handful of papers that now rank among the most important in the history of biology.

One addressed this question: Why are we kind to each other? And not just to people who share our genes–parents, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters–but to total strangers? Like the Good Samaritan, who helps a man who has been robbed and beaten and left to die in the road. Like a woman who sends her hard-earned money to a charity for starving children. Or a man who jumps in a pond to save someone from drowning.

Read more at Scientific American.

Published On: October 1, 2012

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