Does Spite Advance Survival of a Species? | Connecticut Public Radio

Does Spite Advance Survival of a Species?

Apr 8, 2014

Credit Fibonacci Blue / Flickr Creative Commons

Spite is everywhere. It's as fresh as today's sports headlines as UConn readies to play Notre Dame for the women's basketball championship. Fighting Irish coach Muffet McGraw has acknowledged that there is hate between the two teams.

We see spite in the Arts and Letters, ranging from the  terrible feud between Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy, to the tremendous emphasis in rap on so-called beefs between artists who act out their spite in the music they produce. 

It's tough to find even a religious tradition completely cleansed of spite. Even Jesus cursed a fig tree and denounced lawyers and scribes and Pharisees for their wickedness. 

And, in the animal kingdom, all you need to know is that elephants defecate into watering holes so that rival packs of elephants won't be able to use them. Now, that's spite.


  • David Marcus is a professor of psychology at Washington State University
  • Rory Smead is an assistant professor of philosophy of biology at Northeastern University
  • Alan Abramowitz is the Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science at Emory University, and author of several books, including Senate Elections and The Disappearing Center