George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness

THU, JUL 8, 2010 (55:48)

Historian of science Oren Harman holds a conversation about his new book, The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness.

Since the dawn of time man has contemplated the mystery of altruism, but it was Darwin who posed the question most starkly. From the selfless ant to the stinging bee to the man laying down his life for a stranger, evolution has yielded a goodness that in theory should never be.

Set against the tale of 150 years of scientific attempts to explain kindness, The Price of Altruism tells for the first time the story of the eccentric American genius George Price (1922-1975), as he strives to answer evolution's greatest riddle. From the heights of the Manhattan Project to the inspired equation that explains altruism to the depths of homelessness and despair, Price's life embodies the paradoxes of Darwin's enigma. His tragic suicide in a squatter's flat, among the vagabonds to whom he gave all his possessions, provides the ultimate contemplation on the possibility of genuine benevolence.

+ BIO: Oren Harman

Oren Harman, who has a doctorate from Oxford University, is the Chair of the Graduate Program in Science Technology and Society at Bar Ilan University and a professor of the history of science. He is the author of The Man Who Invented the Chromosome, a documentary film maker, and a frequent contributor to The New Republic. He lives in Tel Aviv and New York.

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