The Story of Us: Sources

Influences and related reading

Part 1

Chapter 2

A great video on emergence by Kurzgesagt

Jonathan Haidt: The Righteous Mind

Jonathan Haidt and Craig Joseph: The moral mind: How five sets of innate intuitions guide the development of many culture-specific virtues, and perhaps even modules

David Sloan Wilson:1 A Theory of Group Selection

Robert Axelrod: The Evolution of Cooperation

Smithsonian: What does it mean to be human?

A good Wikipedia article on kin selection. Another good one on inclusive fitness

W.D. Hamilton: The genetical evolution of social behaviour

Elainie A. Madsen, et al: Kinship and altruism: A cross-cultural experimental study

Wladimir J. Alonso and Cynthia Schuck-Paim: Sex-ratio conflicts, kin selection, and the evolution of altruism

Martin A. Nowak, Corina E. Tarnita, Edward O. Wilson: The evolution of eusociality (Nature)

There are also a lot of group selection skeptics. Like:

Steven Pinker: The False Allure of Group Selection

Richard Dawkins: Replicators and Vehicles

Eliezer Yudkowsky: The Tragedy of Group Selectionism

Jerry A. Coyne: Can Darwinism Improve Binghamton?

Chapter 3

Yuval Noah Harari: Sapiens. Chapter 2 especially helped inform and crystalize some of the ideas in this post. Fascinating read for anyone who found this post interesting.

I don’t remember where I first heard Bret Weinstein talk about metaphorical truth, but here he is explaining it.

In researching the psychology of sacredness, and how it can be a lever for tribalism, I kept coming across the work of French sociologist Émile Durkheim. You can read about some of his major theories here.

Regarding the tension between strength and stability as human groups grow in size, you’ll often hear about Dunbar’s Number, which in pop culture has been simplified to the idea that 150 people is a kind of ceiling human groups run up against before losing the ability for intimate relationships to glue the group together. There has been a lot written about Dunbar’s Number—one I found interesting is a series written by Christopher Allen on his blog Life With Alacrity.

Part 2

Chapter 6

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty. The old classic.

I cited author and activist Jonathan Rauch a few times in this post. He’s one of the best at articulating why free speech matters. The long quote I included in this post is part of this excerpt from Rauch’s excellent book Kindly Inquisitors.

Economist Max Roser’s incredibly useful site Our World in Data. Specifically, the page on democracy.

It’s an ongoing debate just how much a country like the U.S. is led by the citizen body vs. by politicians vs. by other components like the media. One interesting take that contradicts the idea that the people lead and politicians follow can be found in John Medearis’s book Joseph Schumpeter’s Two Theories of Democracy. He argues that democracy is more a mechanism that fosters competition among leaders, merely held in check by the electoral process.


  1. Fun Wilson quote: “Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups.”

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