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The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness Hardcover – June 7, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Ever since Charles Darwin had published his theory of evolution in 1859, scientists had wondered whether it can explain the existence of altruism. Price wanted to describe mathematically how a genetic disposition to altruism could evolve. As Mr. Harman so vividly describes, Price ultimately became one of the vagabonds he set out to save. (The Economist)
Fascinating.... Important... full of complex and deeply interesting ideas. (Sam Leith - The Spectator)
An intriguing history for serious students of the history of science. (Kirkus Reviews)
Brilliant... A great story. (Brian Appleyard - Literary Review)
[A] rich and vigorous survey of the controversy over altruism and its evolutionary role, stretching from the 19th century to now. (Sunday Times [UK])
I stayed up a good part of the night reading... fascinating! ... Harman proves that the lives of some modern scientists are as ecstatic, tormented and filled with strange visions as those of medieval saints. (Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind)
This book is a stunning tour de force. The puzzle of altruism is revealed as it would be in a thriller, with twists and turns and surprises almost until the end. (Noah Feldman, Bemis Professor of Law, Harvard University)
Uncommonly brilliant and deeply stimulating... almost cinematically satisfying. Harman has a rare gift for bringing ideas and thinkers to life. (Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic)
A terrific book, at once scholarly and impossible to put down. (Peter Godfrey-Smith, professor of philosophy at Harvard University)
A brilliant biography of a brilliant man. A powerful page-turner that vividly renders the obsessive absorption with the poles of cooperation and competition in nature. (Daniel Kevles, Stanley Woodward Professor of History at Yale University)
In this remarkable book, Oren Harman tracks George Price, an awkward, disturbed, and profoundly, almost saintly scientist.... It is an astonishing story at every level, from the destitute wanderings and genial interventions of Price to a revealing account of how modern evolutionary biology took its contemporary form. (Peter Galison, Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and Physics, Harvard University)
Top Customer Reviews
Darwin, in his revolutionary ...Read more ›
The Price of Altrisum is not simply a biography of a genius, but also a fascinating tale that charts the quest to answer one of the biggest hurdles evolution had to overcome - why would an animal act kindly to another unrelated animal in a world of 'survival of the fittest?'
The biggest appeal for me in the book was that Harman was able not only to tell how masterminds all over the world pondered the problem of kindness (and what they discovered!) but at the same time explains their science and showcases their personality.
I recommended the book to all my friends this year.
this. Where does altruism come from? And can there ever really be pure altruism
apart from disguised self-interest? The life of George Price, the unforgettable
protagonist of The Price of Altruism, is an amazing dramatization of these two
questions, culminating in a heart-wrenching, and brain-rattling ending.
But if this book is a rarity, so is it's author. At once in powerful control of
the science he describes, the lives and psychologies of the scientists he portrays,
and the wider historical and philosophical meanings of mankind's search for the origins
on kidness, Harman is the kind of writer you want to meet after you've read his book,
and hug. I think of The Price of Altruism as a kind of special gift, because it allowed
me to bring different parts of my brain together - the scientific, the historical, the
dramatic, as well as my heart - to bear on a question that I didn't even know meant so
much to me, and to all of us as humans. Harman writes like a poet, and thinks like a
Nobel laureate in science and first class historian all at once. He guides us with a
steady hand all the way from Darwin through the attempts of economists and ecologists,
mathematicians and psychologists, geneticists and brain scientists, to crack the
riddle of altruism - a journey of true majesty and infinite beauty and passion.
Rarely does a topic of such interest find an author of such talents. This is a book I will
cherish and re-read, and it is a book that I will tell all my friends to run to read. A true
work of a master writer on a subject that couldn't be dearer to all of our hearts.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
an amazing story of an amazing man. a brillant mind that added a great deal to secular writings and then to religious affairs. his end came too soon.Published 28 days ago by david gabriel
For this reader Harman’s portrayal of this odd scientist started off on the wrong foot. He reminded us of the quote usually attributed (initially) to Tennyson when he embedded... Read morePublished 5 months ago by C. M. Stahl
The author exposes very well the wide and intricate semantic network of ideas and intellectuals related to all the activites of George Price and especially to his works on natural... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Robert Goldschlager
I heard about George Price though a Radio lab podcast which so disturbed me that I needed to hear the entire story about what happened to him. Read morePublished 24 months ago by T. D. Case
George Price, why? You were brilliant and had the big picture of how mankind evolved. But you neglected your own family. You figured out why the family evolved, yet left your own. Read morePublished 24 months ago by J. C.
The project of Price is one that is doomed from the beginning. Price simply attempts to follow a positivist understanding of human behavior for describing our altruism. Read morePublished on July 13, 2014 by John Bowen