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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.


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.

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.