The Goodness Paradox

The Strange Relationship Between Peace and Violence in Human Evolution
Narrated by: Michael Page
Length: 11 hrs and 44 mins
4.7 out of 5 stars (51 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Throughout history, even as daily life has exhibited calm and tolerance, war has never been far away, and even within societies, violence can be a threat. The Goodness Paradox gives a new and powerful argument for how and why this uncanny combination of peacefulness and violence crystallized after our ancestors acquired language in Africa a quarter of a million years ago. 

Words allowed the sharing of intentions that enabled men effectively to coordinate their actions. Verbal conspiracies paved the way for planned conflicts and, most importantly, for the uniquely human act of capital punishment. The victims of capital punishment tended to be aggressive men, and as their genes waned, our ancestors became tamer. This ancient form of systemic violence was critical not only encouraging cooperation in peace and war and in culture but also for making us who we are: Homo sapiens.

©2019 Richard Wrangham (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

What listeners say about The Goodness Paradox

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    4 out of 5 stars

Great book but maybe less suited to an audiobook

As a student of human evolution, I found this book fascinating. The basic premise is that humans have domesticated themselves over the last 300,000 years or so, reducing our reactive aggression (losing one's temper), while increasing our proactive aggression (planning a raid), something which was greatly enhanced by the advent of language. He makes a stark comparison between humans and chimpanzees - if you put 300 chimps in a plane, you'd have many dead at the end of their journey, while humans are capable of sitting calmly next to strangers for hours. The subject is complex and the points are well argued. I don't think it was quite as easy a read as his earlier book Catching Fire, or Demonic Males, but equally intriguing. Even just reading about the process of domestication in other species, like foxes, was interesting. It creates unintended side effects such as white patches on one's extremities (white socks on horses, cows etc) and floppy ears (many dogs, rabbits). I found myself disappointed that if we humans are indeed (self) domesticated, then why don't we humans have either? Having listened to the audiobook I found myself wishing I'd bought the paper version. Either the narrator was too fast, or the topic is too dense to just listen to once and fully grasp. I kept wanting to rewind.

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A deep exploration into the origins of us

Richard Wrangham digs deep and far back into human prehistory and history, and puts forward an extremely interesting explanation of why humans and human societies are the way they are.

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Important! Fascinating. Narrated wonderfully.

Wrangham does not disappoint. He leads us to creatively face the possibility that we, humanity, could disappoint, could cause our own extinction; but we need not. Evolved human nature, evolved biology, evolved psychology, are not necessarily destiny. Ideally read alongside Jerod Diamond's 2019 book, Upheaval.