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We routinely help strangers, stick up for friends, and care for children who are not our own. None of these behaviors appear to increase our ability as individuals to survive; in fact, they seem to contradict ideas of natural selection. Or do they? Is there an evolutionary basis to human goodness? Meet esteemed primatologist Dr. Joan Silk and discover what the social behaviors of baboons and bonnet macaques have to tell us about our own altruistic tendencies, such as why we seek to foster kindness and sharing in children, and why we love our grandmothers.

A professor of biological anthropology at UCLA, Dr. Joan Silk studies how natural selection has shaped the evolution of social behavior in primates. She is interested in researching the roots of reconciliation, cooperation, friendship, paternal investment, and the origins of prosocial sentiments — such as helping and comforting one another — that play a crucial role in human societies. She is co-author of How Humans Evolved (2006), a textbook designed for use in introductory classes in human evolution and biological anthropology.

Official Website: http://www.exploratorium.edu

Added by ExplOratorium SF on December 9, 2008