SALT LAKE CITY As scientists celebrate 2009 as the bicentennial of Charles Darwin's birth, experts in anthropology, biology, psychology and other fields will gather at the University of Utah Feb. 25-27 to debate how evolution has shaped human aggression and violence, from war to domestic abuse and homicide.
"What evolutionary forces underlie human violence, and how can we use this knowledge to promote a more peaceful society?" asks Elizabeth Cashdan, a conference organizer and professor and chair of anthropology at the University of Utah.
The conference titled "The Evolution of Human Aggression: Lessons for Today's Conflicts" is presented by the university's Barbara L. and Norman C. Tanner Center for Nonviolent Human Rights Advocacy.
It will be held at various locations mostly at Fort Douglas on the University of Utah campus from Wednesday evening, Feb. 25 through Friday afternoon, Feb. 27.
The public and news media are invited to attend the free conference.
Conference highlights include keynote lectures on the evolution of peacemaking among primates and the relationship between homicide and economic competition; panel discussions on conflict and reconciliation among great apes, violence and warfare, hormones and human aggression, and domestic violence; a scientific poster session; and a community forum on violence.
"This conference helps to bring science fully into the conversation about violence, conflict management and peacemaking," says communication Professor George Cheney, director of the Tanner Center for Nonviolent Human Rights Advocacy. "This gathering, which is the third in our annual series, will include provocative presentations, lively debate and a roundtable discussion of how current research might be used to reduce violence in our own and other communities."
200 Years after Darwin's Birth, Evolution has Lessons for Modern Conflicts
"Curbing human violence is one of the great challenges humanity faces in the 21st century," says David Carrier, a conference organizer and professor of biology at the University of Utah. "Many aspects of human aggression will be addressed at this conference: warfare, homicide, child abuse and domestic violence. We encourage public attendance because an increased understanding of the evolutionary basis of human aggression may help individuals prevent violence in their own lives and the lives of their friends and family members."
"Every adult on the planet has experienced anger," says Stephen Downes, a University of Utah philosophy professor and a conference organizer. "Some of us have committed violent acts against others out of anger. Why we feel this way and why some of us act in the way we do is a question that has consumed students of human nature for thousands of years."
"Evolutionary theory gives some of the most revealing insights into this issue," he adds. "Bringing together a group of the world's leading experts on evolution and aggression is an appropriate tribute to Darwin in this 'Darwin year'" the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and 150th anniversary of his "On the Origin of Species."
While the modern view has grown more complex, Cashdan says that for decades, "there has been a lot of unproductive debate between people who argue that 'humans are naturally aggressive' and others who contend that 'humans are naturally peaceful.' There is plenty of evidence to support both claims: violence, reconciliation and cooperation are all part of human nature."
Cashdan adds: "We begin with the working assumption that natural selection has shaped human nature to be both violent and peaceful, and ask how evolutionary arguments can help us to understand the factors that lead to both violent and peaceful outcomes. This can help show which policy changes are likely to be successful, and where we can most usefully intervene to allow the better angels of our nature to prevail."
Abbreviated Conference Schedule:
The Barbara L. and Norman C. Tanner Center for Nonviolent Human Rights Advocacy promotes the understanding of human rights and encourages nonviolent conflict resolution and peacemaking. Founded in January 2006, the center is based in the university's College of Social and Behavioral Science. The center's previous annual conferences addressed migration, rights and identities, and the cultural and ethical values that drive terrorism.
|Contact: Lee Siegel|
University of Utah