Scientists Coming To San Diego To Talk About Roots Of Human Violence
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Aired 5/8/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Why are humans violent? Why is one culture more violent than another? And why are males traditionally more violent than females?
Those are some of the questions that will be discussed at a symposium next week at the Salk Institute.
Richard Wrangham, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University is a co-chair of the symposium and one of the speakers.
In an interview on BigThink.com, he said that exploring questions about the roots of human violence is one of the most interesting aspects of human evolution that isn't understood fully.
“We are an unusual species because we have such an extraordinary mix of these two aspects," Wrangham said. "We show them both to extremes; we’re amazingly more cooperative than almost any other species and we’re extraordinarily destructive compared to most other species.
"Grappling with the extent to which that is a product of culture and biology and to the extent of why we should have biological predispositions to go in both those directions remains one of the huge questions,” he said.
The group sponsoring the symposium is called CARTA, the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny. It's dedicated to the exploration of how human beings became the way they are.
He said "anthropogeny" — the study of the genesis or origins of humans and where we came from — is a very old term that they've resurrected.
Varki said to study anthropogeny you need to include neuroscience, genetics and biochemistry among other areas of research. There are centers around the world that specialize is specific aspects of anthropogeny, he said, but no one place has experts from all the fields.
He said CARTA was born out of the idea of bringing researchers from around the world together to explore topics like the roots of human violence to try to build a greater understanding.
He said sometimes this results in unexpected collaborations between scientists who might not have otherwise met.