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Book and Conversation: Revenge and Forgiveness


If the law is about anything, it is about revenge and forgiveness. It is, of course, about more than that, but underneath much of the law’s most intractable problems (not uncommonly found in areas of immigration, criminal law, and torts, to name only 3) you will usually find these two instincts, which may be more primal than you once thought:

Speaking of Faith guest Michael McCullough, author of “Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct” with host Krista Tippett, in their Sunday, March 28th, 2010, interview:

Michael McCullough describes science that helps us comprehend how revenge came to have a purpose in human life. At the same time, he stresses, science is also revealing that human beings are more instinctively equipped for forgiveness than we’ve perhaps given ourselves credit for. Knowing this suggests ways to calm the revenge instinct in ourselves and others and embolden the forgiveness intuition.” (Link to full website.)

If you don’t listen to Speaking of Faith, you are missing some wonderful radio. The host has conversations with scientists, doctors, science fiction writers (among other book authors), spiritual leaders from Buddhists to Yogis, parents of special children (in the broadest possible sense), and dozens and dozens of others. The interviews are enlightening, funny, provocative, and most certainly beautiful. It has crossed my mind that Speaking of Faith host, Krista Tippett, as different as her style is, would be a worthy successor to Bill Moyers. But right now, we have both of them, intellectual riches indeed.

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