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Evolution of Conscience

March 3, 2009

Hunting and gathering in pre-historic times may have led to the evolution of the conscience.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
The evolution of the conscience….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Has your conscience ever stopped you from cheating on someone? Telling a lie? Keeping money for yourself? If so, you can thank evolution. This according
cultural anthropologist Chris Boehm of the University of Southern California. He thinks having a conscience helped ancient humans survive by hunting together.

CHRIS BOEHM (University of Southern California):
Large game obliges one to divide the meat out in a fairly equalitarian manner. That is, hunters of large game cannot simply keep the kill for themselves because they would starve to death. As a result, human groups were obliged to impose rules about sharing and to reinforce them with strict punishment.

HIRSHON:
He says those who co-operated the most survived, while cheaters were shunned and therefore less likely to pass on their genes. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.