Robert Sapolsky is the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of biology, neurology and neurosurgery at Stanford University, and a research associate at the Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya. He has spent many decades studying the biology of behavior, both as a laboratory neuroscientist and as a field biologist studying wild baboons in East Africa. His latest book is Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (Scribner, 2017).
The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
Humans are a puzzle in that we are simultaneously the most violent and destructive species on earth, while also being the most cooperative, altruistic and compassionate. How do we make sense, biologically, of this paradox of human nature? Are we just another primate? Are we just a collection of neurons? In trying to understand a behavior of ours, we need to explore everything from the events that occurred in the person's brain one second before, to the selective forces of evolution that occurred millions of years before.
Why do we tell and engage with (listen, read, watch, play) stories compulsively? In our world of usually unsparing evolutionary competition, good information matters for organisms of every kind.