Why Do People Do Bad (and Good) Things? That’s the fall focus of the Sinai and Synapses Discussion Forum. Each week, we’ll gather some of the most interesting articles on the topic from across the online world. We hope they make you think—and share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Can Violence Be Virtuous?

What do police-involved shootings have in common with gang violence, rape, warfare, and even football? According to the anthropologist Alan Page Fiske of UCLA—best known for studying how people relate, socially—they are all examples of “virtuous violence,” violence that seems, to its perpetrators, to be morally defensible and even righteous. (Dana Goldstein, Justice Lab, The Marshall Project)

The Evolution of Altruism

Oren Harman: Evolutionary theorists, brain scientists, animal behaviorists, child psychologists—all are alight after the Holy Grail: to put to rest millenniums of debate concerning the nature of man, good or bad. Christianity may have it that Original Sin is redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice, but biology probes the evolutionary paths and, increasingly, the neurons and hormones that render good will and giving part and parcel of who we are, whether free thinkers or believers. What have the scientists learned? (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Worried Well

Charlie Kurth: Since ancient times philosophy has tried to cure us of anxiety. But worry is an important part of being a moral person. (Aeon)

 A Nurse’s Case for Secular Morality

With Living the Secular Life (Penguin Press, 2014) Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies, offers a thoughtful exploration of secular culture and how one lives a moral, connected and meaningful life without religion. The following excerpt from chapter one takes a look at how a nurse who has abandoned his Catholic upbringing makes finds moral direction. (Utne Reader)

The Good Side of Prejudice & the Secular Side of Morality, with Dr. Paul Bloom

In this episode, Bo Bennett interviews Yale professor Dr. Paul Bloom on the upside of prejudice and the secular side of morality. (The Humanist Hour)

The Epidemic of Facelessness

Online trolling is a serious problem. The neurological research demonstrates that empathy, far from being an artificial construct of civilization, is integral to our biology. And when biological intersubjectivity disappears, when the face is removed from life, empathy and compassion can no longer be taken for granted. (New York Times)