George Price and the Quest for the Origins of Altruism – Maria Popova

mickyates ideas, Inspiration, Psychology, Values Leave a Comment

Price of AltruismLike many others, I love Maria Popova‘s Brain Pickings, for its eclectic mix of thought-generating content and skillful curating. And I really enjoyed this recent post.

From Darwin to Skinner, or what vampire bats have to do with amoebas and random acts of kindness.

Where does true altruism come from? Does it really exist? These are the questions that occupied the brilliant and troubled mind of population geneticist and author George Price, who developed what’s still regarded as the most accurate mathematical, biological and evolutionary model for altruism before taking his own life at the age of 52. In The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of KindnessOren Harman tells the fascinating story of Price’s life and his tireless quest, intersecting it with the seminal work of iconic psychiatrist B. F. Skinner, renowned Darwinist Bill Hamilton, and father of population geneticsJ. B. S. Haldene.

“[I]f the search for the natural origins of goodness has woven a historical tapestry of unusual complexity and color, of strikingly original science and dramatic personalities and events, one important thread has so far been missing. It is the thread of the unique life and tragic death of the forgotten American genius George Price, atheist-chemist and drifter turned religious evolutionary — mathematician and derelict, the man who rests in an unmarked grave in Saint Pancras Cemetery to this very day.”

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