If evolution by natural selection relentlessly favors self-interest, why do human beings live in complex societies and show so much cooperative spirit? In The Origins of Virtue, Matt Ridley, a zoologist and former American editor of the Ecomist, shows that recent research in a number of fields has suggested a resolution of the apparent contradiction between self-interest and mutual aid. Brilliantly orchestrating the new findings of geneticists, psychologists, and anthropologists, The Origins of Virtue re-examines the everyday assumptions upon which we base our actions towards others, whether we are nurturing parents, siblings, or trade partners. The Origins of Virtue searches for the roots of that capacity for trust, contrasts it with the social instincts of ants, baboons, and naked mole rats, and draws provocative conclusions for our understanding of politics. Ridley t only traces the evolution of society but shows us how breakthroughs in computer programming, microbiology, and ecomics have all played their role in providing us with a unique perspective on how and why we relate to each other.
Matt Ridley has worked as a science editor, Washington correspondent, and American editor for the Economist. A research fellow of the Institute for Economic Affairs and a Trustee of the International Centre for Life, he lives in Northumberland, England.