A conference titled “The Evolution of Morality: The Biology and Philosophy of Human Conscience” will be held in the idyllic location of Erice, Sicily, on June 17-22 2012. The speakers will be a highly interdisciplinary group of evolutionary biologists, ethologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, psychologists, philosophers, and theologians, who speak a common theoretical language in addition to their disciplinary training. David Sloan Wilson speaks with the famed primatologist Frans DeWaal, one of the organizers, about the conference and what it means to approach the topic of morality from an evolutionary perspective.

Published On: April 20, 2012

David Sloan Wilson

David Sloan Wilson

David Sloan Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University. He applies evolutionary theory to all aspects of humanity in addition to the rest of life, both in his own research and as director of EvoS, a unique campus-wide evolutionary studies program that recently received NSF funding to expand into a nationwide consortium. His books include Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives, and The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time and Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others. .

One Comment


    Some readers may know that I have suggested that our apparently innate religiosity has evolved, not simply by Darwinian Natural Selection, but via an indirect process that I call ‘Genetic Priming’. See—


    Like religiosity, moral actions probably also got started as spontaneous behaviours that turned out to be adaptive in an evolutionary sense. This would have favoured particular genetically mediated gene-variants (alleles) that supported/ encouraged such behaviours; thus starting a ‘Genetic Priming’ process similar to that explained in the article I have ‘linked’ to above.

    I may be able to participate in the ‘Evolution of Morality’ conference in Sicily in June. If so, I may have another opportunity to present ‘Genetic Priming’ for discussion: this time in the context of morality/ conscience.

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