Moral Origins The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame5stars



Do the Right Thing

By Christopher Boehm
Basic Books, $28.99, 418 pages

Moral Origins is a refreshing take on the complicated issue of moral reasoning and behavior. It is hard to determine exactly where the concept of morality began, yet Boehm makes a thoughtful analysis between the actions of our ancestors and the factors that have led to our current beliefs system of right and wrong. Boehm does an incredible job of looking at history and current scientific studies to find commonalities to explain how our human traits have evolved. This intelligent work looks at areas of society and behavior such as gossiping, bullying, and overall societal conflict. He tackles the tough topics regarding anti-social behavior, free loaders, and the altruism paradox. Boehm looked at natural selection to analyze how the selfish behaviors of humans has not only threatened our survival, but also led to people helping one another to benefit their community in order to ensure their individual survival. Is morality an innate quality or a learned environmental behavior? Boehm looks at morality across cultures and societies and analyzes how learning has been shaped by shame and punishment. If we understand how the concept of morality began, then we can use those lessons to help guide our future behaviors, policies, laws, and areas of scientific study. People, who are fascinated by the evolution of societies, the psychology of humans, and the behaviors of our great ape relatives, will love reading this book. Moral Origins will capture the interest of scientists and thoughtful non-scholars alike. Moral Origins is a must read!

Reviewed by Crystal Schneider

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