Does Science Really Say That Hot Guys Are Jerks?

There have been many recent media stories—with titles like "Science Says: Hot Guys Are A-Holes"—about a new study on attractiveness and behavior. I was lead author on this study, and I'll clarify here what our study really showed.

How Evolutionary Science Can Make Us Morally Better

Because morality is so important, we ought to make sure that we're doing it right. Evolutionary science can help us with that.

Sugar, Salt, and Multiple Wives

In the human evolutionary past, certain resources (such as sugar, fat, and multiple mates) would have been great for survival and reproduction but difficult to acquire. How has the past elusiveness of these resources shaped human appetites for them?

Can Darwin Reveal the Meaning of Life?

What's the meaning of life? An evolutionary approach suggests three possible answers.

The Surprising Source of Our Sexual Morals

Why is promiscuity often regarded as morally wrong? A new study suggests an evolutionary explanation.

Did Leaders Evolve To Be Good Or Evil?

Did the human leader-follower relationship evolve as a kind of mutually-beneficial exchange interaction? And if so, why are we so often plagued by leaders who focus more on exploiting their followers than on benefiting them? A new paper provides answers.

Can Morality Be Based on Reason? My Response to Sam Harris

'New Atheist' Sam Harris recently offered $20,000 to anybody who could convince him, in a 1,000-word essay, to change his mind about how morality can be based on scientific reasoning. Here's the essay I submitted.

What Should the Function of Morality Be?

What is morality supposed to accomplish, and for whom? Too often we're expected to behave morally, without having any understanding of morality's purpose.

Morality Should Manage Human Competitiveness, Not Ignore It

Many evolution-minded moral philosophers have implored us to maximize the happiness of others, and to suppress our own competitiveness. But is this approach to morality really the best way forward?

How Evolution Enables Morality: A Talk With Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt, one of the world's best-known psychologists and public intellectuals, wants to know how evolution enables human morality. I interviewed him to find out more about his approach to evolutionary moral psychology.

Is Equality Boring?

Income inequality apparently leads to diverse social problems, from obesity to murder. So why don't Americans prioritize it as an economic problem? Maybe they just think equality sounds boring.

Why Does Morality Focus So Much on Sex?

People often question why so much of morality is focused on sex. Evolutionary science provides an excellent answer.

Human Herding: How People are Like Guppies

Like guppies and many other species, humans herd in order to obtain resources and evade threats. But while herding seems like a safe and prudent strategy to the individuals doing it, it can create massive risks for societies that depend on market economies.

The Simplest Way to Fix Banking: End Bonuses

EU countries are currently considering placing strict limitations on the size of banker bonuses. Is this a good idea? If you value the survival of (Western?) civilization, then the answer in yes.

Punish the Shirkers! Especially the Low-status Ones

When politicians speak of punishing freeloaders, they portray it as a matter of fairness. But their moralizing is too often undermined by a status-based selectivity that isn’t fair at all: low-status people don't freeload more than high-status people, but they're more likely to get punished for it. Why does this bias exist?

Why Cheaters Win

Human nature is adapted for cheating, but it's also adapted for fair play. How can we create environments in which our adaptations for fairness are allowed to prevail?

Does "Group Selection" Explain Behavior in Investment Banks?

The relevance of group selection to human affairs is one of the most contentious issues in behavioral science. How well does group selection explain behavior in organizations like investment banks? Either pretty well or pretty terribly, depending on what you mean by "group selection".

Resolving the Debate about Group Selection in Humans

Is "group selection" necessary for explaining human cooperation? This question can be answered only via appeals to the evidence, and the evidence suggests that individuals are exquisitely designed both to harvest the benefits of cooperation in groups, and also to minimize the costs of being exploited by free riders.

Morality: What is it Good For?

People are passionate about morality, but morality is too important to leave to passion alone. In order to be more rational about morality, we need to consider the origins, nature, and usefulness of morality, and doing so requires an evolutionary perspective.

Self-Interest as God’s Interest

In order to persuade others to join their cause, people often portray their own interests as the interests of some higher-level entity such as society, humanity, or God. Why is this such a common rhetorical strategy, and why does it frequently backfire?

What's Your Social Status? Depends Who You Ask

In complex societies such as our own, it’s possible to be high status in one segment of society while being low status in another. When diverse status communities co-exist in this way, is it good or bad for society? And why do such different definitions of “high status” emerge in the first place?

The Dark Side of Altruism

The mobster Jimmy Burke was renowned both for his spectacular generosity and his terrifying cruelty. How could two traits that seem so different co-exist in the same person? The answer to this question has important implications for our understanding of human altruism.

Why Evolutionary Psychology Is Unlikely to Be Wrong

Are evolutionary psychology's core assumptions radical and extraordinary? Many people still think so. From a biological perspective, however, it would actually be far more extraordinary if these assumptions were wrong than if they were right.

Is Sexual Promiscuity More Natural than Commitment?

The basic argument of the popular book Sex at Dawn is that human sexual nature is essentially promiscuous. This book is provocative, fun to read, and deeply flawed. Here are a few key things it gets wrong.

Why Banks (and Regular People) Take Stupid Risks

Risk-taking is seen as a bad thing in many contexts (e.g. banking), but over human evolutionary history, risky behavior has on balance paid off. If evolution "wants" us to take risks, why does our risky behavior so often lead to disaster?

Was Monogamy Established for the Benefit of Women?

By 1,000 years ago, monogamy had replaced polygamy as the accepted marriage system in most of Europe. Did this change benefit one sex more than the other? Although people often think of polygamy as a system that advantages all men over all women, the reality is not so simple.

Why We Think Monogamy Is Normal

For most of human existence, men and women have regarded polygamy as a normal and often advantageous marriage arrangement. In modern Western societies, however, monogamy is seen as normal and polygamy as an "exotic exception". How and why did this transition occur?