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Are Humans Naturally Good or Bad?

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Are Humans Naturally Good or Bad?

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, November 5, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0041
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
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For centuries, philosophers have attempted to answer the question of whether humans are naturally good or evil. Despite the publication of thousands of works on the subject, no satisfactory answer seems to have been found. If philosophy hasn’t found the clue, what do other disciplines say about humanity’s propensity for good or malice?

Evolutionary biologist Rui Diogo, surveys what empirical research actually says about this age-old question. Drawing from the sciences, anthropology, history, sociology, and other fields, Diogo looks at what empirical data says about our basic nature, and which societies’ members are more likely to do each other good or harm.

In answers that might surprise you, he cites figures such as those charting homicide rates, life expectancies, suicide rates, types of foods consumed, levels of egalitarianism, frequency of sexual relationships, and stress levels around the world. You might not leave as a better person, but you’ll have a better idea of why you—and perhaps all of us—behave as we do.

Diogo is an associate professor of anatomy at Howard University's College of Medicine and a resource faculty member at George Washington University's Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology.

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