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Is Goodness in Your Genes? | by H. Allen Orr | The New York Review of Books

The strange story of an oddball scientist who developed a mathematical approach to understanding altruism. By the end of his life, George Price , a University of Chicago doctorate in chemistry Oren Solomon Harman. Survival of the fittest or survival of the nicest?


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

The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness

The quest to answer this riddle would plague scientists for decades to come. From the heights of the Manhattan Project to the depths of homelessness and despair in London, his life embodies the paradoxes of Darwin?


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What he found compelled him to give away all his belongings to help others, ultimately becoming one of the vagabonds he set out to save. 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 sweeping tale of years of scientific attempts to explain kindness, The Price of Altruism tells for the first time the moving story of the eccentric American genius George Price , as he strives to answer evolution's greatest riddle.

An original and penetrating picture of twentieth century thought, it is also a deeply personal journey.

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.