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The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution

April 2,7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

18th Annual Paul D. Bartlett, Sr. Lecture

The lecture

We Homo sapiens can be the nicest of species and also the nastiest. What occurred during human evolution to account for this paradox? What are the two kinds of aggression that primates are prone to, and why did each evolve separately? How does the intensity of violence among humans compare with the aggressive behavior of other primates? How did humans domesticate themselves? And how were the acquisition of language and the practice of capital punishment determining factors in the rise of culture and civilization?

Biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham offers a startlingly original theory of how, in the last 250 million years, humankind became an increasingly peaceful species in daily interactions even as its capacity for coolly planned and devastating violence remains undiminished. In tracing the evolutionary histories of reactive and proactive aggression, he argues for the necessity of social tolerance and the control of savage divisiveness still haunting us today.

The speaker

Richard Wrangham is Ruth B. Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University and founded the Kibale Chimpanzee Project in 1987. He has conducted extensive research on primate ecology, nutrition, and social behavior. He is best known for his work on the evolution of human warfare, described in the book, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence, and on the role of cooking in human evolution, described in the book, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. His latest book, The Goodness Paradox, was published in 2019. He earned a BA from Oxford University and a PhD in zoology from Cambridge University.

Admission tickets

The event is free and open to the public; however, e-tickets are required. Registration will open March 12, 2020, for a limited number of seats.

Book signing

A book signing courtesy of Rainy Day Books will follow the lecture. Copies of The Goodness Paradox will be available for purchase at the event.

About the Bartlett Lecture

The annual Paul D. Bartlett, Sr. Lecture was established in 2003 to bring the finest university professors to speak on subjects related to the Linda Hall Library´s collections. Paul D. Bartlett, Sr. was the first chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Linda Hall Library. Under his leadership the Halls’ bequest for the creation of a public library in Kansas City was used to establish this library devoted to science, engineering and technology. Mr. Bartlett served on the Board until his death in 1964. The lectures are presented by the Linda Hall Library in association with the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Kansas City, the Princeton Alumni Association of Greater Kansas City, and the Yale Club of Kansas City.


Parking is free in Library parking lots and along the west side of Holmes Street between 51st and 52nd streets. The main entrance to the Library grounds is on Cherry Street. The Linda Hall Library is not affiliated with the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Parking in all UMKC lots is by permit or meter.


Eric Ward


Linda Hall Library
5109 Cherry
Kansas City, MO 64110 United States
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For reservation questions, please email events@lindahall.org or call 816.926.8772 to leave a message.

Contact Eric Ward at 816.926.8753 for more information on these events.