Friendship: Development, Ecology, and Evolution of a Relationship

Friendship: Development, Ecology, and Evolution of a Relationship

Friendship: Development, Ecology, and Evolution of a Relationship

Friendship: Development, Ecology, and Evolution of a Relationship


Friends-they are generous and cooperative with each other in ways that appear to defy standard evolutionary expectations, frequently sacrificing for one another without concern for past behaviors or future consequences. In this fascinating multidisciplinary study, Daniel J. Hruschka synthesizes an array of cross-cultural, experimental, and ethnographic data to understand the broad meaning of friendship, how it develops, how it interfaces with kinship and romantic relationships, and how it differs from place to place. Hruschka argues that friendship is a special form of reciprocal altruism based not on tit-for-tat accounting or forward-looking rationality, but rather on mutual goodwill that is built up along the way in human relationships.


I have not as yet mentioned a circumstance which influenced my
whole career more than any other. This was my friendship with
Professor Henslow.

CHARLES DARWIN, Recollections of the
Development of My Mind and Character

In the late spring of 1876, nearly seventeen years after his first publication of On the Origin of Species and following decades of careful description of the natural world, Charles Darwin sat down to write a sketch of his life. He devoted only sixty pages to the topic, detailing his early encounters with the natural world, his compulsive beetle collecting, his lackluster attempt at earning a medical degree, and his five years of voyaging on H.M.S. Beagle. However, when Darwin described the circumstance that most influenced his intellectual career, he focused not on his encounters with books or the natural world, but rather on a friendship—his intimate bond with his Cambridge mentor and fellow naturalist John Henslow. Grounded in a shared passion for the natural world, the friendship between Darwin and Henslow developed at Cambridge over frequent walks, country expeditions, and home visits, as the two pondered questions in religion and natural science. Their friendship lasted from 1828 until Henslow’s death in 1861, and over the years, Henslow played a singular role in Darwin’s intellectual development. In addition to introducing Darwin to the scientific study of geology, botany, and zoology, Henslow arranged Darwin’s position on the H.M.S. Beagle, where the young scientist would ultimately make observations critical to his theory of natural selection.

An astute and meticulous observer of the natural world, Darwin recognized the importance of friendships everywhere in the story of his personal development. Darwin’s friends introduced him to new ideas, provided academic opportunities, and supported his theories on evolution in an atmosphere of vigorous academic debate. Rarely, however, did these friends provide the kind of material support bearing on the life-or-death struggle for existence that figured so prominently in Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection. Therefore, it is not surprising that, in con-

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