The Evolution of Human Nature

Biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and philosophers are increasingly looking to Darwinian explanations for the universal features of human nature and society — from art to morality, from war to politics. In this symposium, four authors examine the merits and shortcomings of these evolutionary theories. Randal R. Hendrickson reviews Steven Pinker’s latest book on the decline of violence and questions Pinker’s uncritical faith in reason. Micah Mattix looks at recent books that seek to account for art and aesthetics in evolutionary terms. Whitley Kaufman challenges E. O. Wilson’s attempts to ground ethics in evolutionary biology. And Peter Augustine Lawler argues that evolutionary psychology, rightly understood, reinforces the conservative lesson that we are not merely autonomous individuals but also social and relational beings.