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Elizabeth Cashdan asks a profound question: “What evolutionary forces underlie human violence, and how can we use this knowledge to promote a more peaceful society?” According to a news story last Saturday in the Salt Lake Tribune, the University of Utah is hosting a conference this week which addresses those issues. Entitled “The Evolution of Human Aggression: Lessons for Today’s Conflicts,” the conference started yesterday and ends tomorrow.

Organized by the Barbara L. and Norman C. Tanner Center for Nonviolent Human Rights at the university, the conference is being held at various locations on campus. It is free and open to the public. Cashdan, chair of the Anthropology Department at the university, is one of the conference organizers.

The conference focuses on how evolution has promoted conflict, as well as cooperation, in our society today. One of the aims of the conference organizers is to foster a better understanding of human violence and the forces that advance it. Another aim is to look at practical implications of research in the field for understanding specific issues such as domestic violence and warfare.

Well-known authors such as Frans De Waal will participate in sessions that explore themes such as conflict and conflict resolution in great apes, coalitionary violence and warfare, hormones and human aggression, and domestic violence. Another feature of the conference, according to its website, is that conference participants will join policy experts and prominent community members in discussing the implications of evolutionary research for social policy about violence.