An interesting book is out this week on the science of human altruism: A Cooperative Species by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis. It sounds like it might be a good read with Edward O. Wilson’s latest: The Social Conquest of Earth. From the book description on Barnes and Noble:
“Why do humans, uniquely among animals, cooperate in large numbers to advance projects for the common good? Contrary to the conventional wisdom in biology and economics, this generous and civic-minded behavior is widespread and cannot be explained simply by far-sighted self-interest or a desire to help close genealogical kin.
In A Cooperative Species, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis–pioneers in the new experimental and evolutionary science of human behavior–show that the central issue is not why selfish people act generously, but instead how genetic and cultural evolution has produced a species in which substantial numbers make sacrifices to uphold ethical norms and to help even total strangers.”