Q: What is sociobiology?
A: Its the study of social behavior, with particular attention to the role of evolution. Sociobiology involves examining what living things do – including complex actions such as courtship, parenting, altruism and its “flip-side,” conflict and competition – with an eye to how they reflect evolutionary, genetic strategies.

Q: What is the difference between sociobiology and evolutionary psychology?
A: Not much. Evolutionary psychology is a more recent term that has come to mean the use of sociobiological (evolutionary) thinking in trying to understand human behavior.

Q: What is Peace Studies?
A: It, too, is a comparatively new approach, concerned with matters of peace and war. Peace Studies differs from traditional academic fields such as International Relations in two particular ways. For one, it is clear about having a “value orientation”: in favor of peace and against war. And for another, Peace Studies gives equal attention to the matter of “positive peace,” the question of what type of world we want, and not just what are we against (namely, war).

Q: Are you a psychologist or a biologist?
A: Good question! My formal training makes me a biologist, as does my research in animal behavior and sociobiology, not to mention my basic way of looking at the world. At the same time, my involvement in evolutionary psychology and Peace Studies (as well as having been in a university psychology department for nearly 30 years!), makes me something of a psychologist too.

Q: What is it like to write books with your wife?
A: As Charles Dickens put it in The Tale of Two Cities, it is the worst of times and the best of times. Mostly, the best! Although we sometimes wonder if we would be happier having more separation between our personal and professional lives, the truth is that we stimulate each other in many productive and provocative ways … some of them scholarly!

Q: Together, you and your wife wrote a book titled The Myth of Monogamy? Are you in favor of adultery, or free love?
A: Not at all. We feel strongly that people need to understand the roots of their own behavior, specifically how biology whispers within all of us. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean that it is good. In fact, we argue that in many ways people are being most human when they decide to act contrary to their inclinations. Whether to do so or not is an individual, ethical decision. Our hope is that by helping shed some light on these inclinations, we can help people make their own decisions.

Q: Do you believe that human behavior is determined by our evolution and our genes?
A: No. It seems clear that human beings are the most flexible and adaptable creatures on earth, capable of choosing their own destiny. At the same time, it is also clear that there is a definite genetic influence on many aspects of our behavior, especially when it comes to sex, violence, parenting, even tendencies for altruism and selfishness. The more we understand that influence, the more free we are to chart our own course.

Q: Are you available for public lectures?
A: Yes. Email me at dpbarash@u.washington.edu