The Groupish Gene: Hive psychology and the origins of morality and religion

10th Apr 2012; 13:00

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RSA Keynote

For nearly 50 years scientists have generally agreed that selfish genes shaped human nature to be mostly selfish, with exceptions made toward kin, partners in reciprocity, and a few other cases. Group selection was banished from respectable discourse.

But recent findings from multiple fields have re-opened the question. Jonathan Haidt visits the RSA to show that human nature appears to have been shaped by natural selection working at multiple levels, including not just intra-group competition but also inter-group competition. Haidt suggests that we have in our minds what amounts to a “hive switch” that shuts down the self and makes us feel, temporarily, that we are simply a part of a larger whole (or hive). This uniquely human ability for self-transcendence is crucial for understanding the origins of morality and religion.

Speaker: Jonathan Haidt, professor of social psychology, University of Virginia and author of 'The Happiness Hypothesis' and 'The Righteous Mind'.

Chair: Matthew Taylor, chief executive, RSA.

See what people said on Twitter: #RSAHaidt

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