Swallow Hall, a 19th Century Gothic Building,
home of the Department of Anthropology

Craig T. Palmer

Craig T. Palmer
Associate Professor
Director of Undergrad Studies
Cultural Anthropology
Office Address: 
224 Swallow Hall
Office Hours: 
T, TH 11:00-12:00 & 2-3, and by appointment

Craig T. Palmer earned his PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Arizona State University in 1988.  He research focuses on incorporating cultural traditions into evolutionary explanations of human behavior. His publications include co-authored books on religion (The Supernatural and Natural Selection), sexual aggression (The Natural History of Rape), the ecological collapse of the Canadian cod fishery (When the Fish are Gone), and altruism (Kindness, Kinship and Tradition in Newfoundland/Alberta Migration).  He has performed fieldwork in Canada since the 1980s, but is now studying the ability of stories about selfless acts of sacrifice to inspire altruistic acts in others. 


My current research examines both the general ability of traditional morally elevating stories to inspire evolutionary advantageous altruism among many generations of co-descendants, and the specific ability of stories about individuals who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust to inspire altruism in people from different religious and national backgrounds. Since 2011 I have performed content analysis of morally elevating depictions of rescuers in Holocaust Museums in Israel, Germany, Poland, Albania, Turkey, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Austria, Denmark, Canada, and the United States. This research has been funded by the Binah Yitzrit Foundation, University of Texas, Austin, TX.



Teaching Philosophy
My goal in teaching is to encourage the development of critical thinking skills.


Selected Publications: 

My recent publications:


Palmer, C. T., Begley, R. O. & Coe, K. 2015. Totemism and Long-Term Evolutionary Success. Invited paper for special issue of Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. In press.


Palmer, C. T., & R. O. Begley 2015. “Costly Signaling Theory, Sexual Selection, and the Influence of Ancestors on Religious Behavior.” In The Attraction of Religion. Pp. 93-107. Jason Sloan, ed. Bloomsbury Academic: New York.


Begley, R. O., Coe, K., & C. T. Palmer 2015. From Blood Feuds to Civility: Romeo and Juliet and the Changing Evolutionary Role of Cultural Traditions. Journal of the Association for the Study of Ethical Behavior/Evolutionary Biology in Literature 11(1):2-16.


Coe, K., & C. T. Palmer 2014. “Human Categories and Health: New Findings Regarding the Power of the Concept of Ethnicity.” In Fundamentals of Cancer Prevention, Third Edition. David S. Alberts & Lisa M. Hess, eds. Pp. 195-220. Springer: New York.


Palmer, C. T. 2014. “Why We Still Can’t All Just Get Along” Invited book review of The Evolution of Violence, edited by Todd Shackelford and Randy Hansen. Springer: NY. Evolutionary Psychology 12(1): 115-119.


Palmer, C. T., Begley, R. O. & Coe, K. 2013. "Saintly Sacrifice: The Traditional Transmission of Moral Elevation" Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 48(1): 107-127.


Palmer, C. T. Begley, R. O., Coe, K. & L. B. Steadman 2013. "Moral Elevation and Traditions: Ancestral Encouragement of Altruism through Ritual and Myth." Journal of Ritual Studies 27(2): 83-96.


Coe, K. & C. T. Palmer 2013. “Mothers, Traditions and the Human Strategy to Leave Descendants.” In Evolution’s Empress: How Females Shape Human Adaptation. M. Fisher, J. R. Garcia, R. S. Chang & S. L. Strout, eds. Pp. 115-132. Oxford University Press: New York.


Coe, K. & Palmer, C. T. 2013. “Cross-Cultural Variation in Altruism: Traditional Parental Manipulation and Ancestor-Descendant Conflict.” In Altruism in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Pp. 31-44. D. Vakoch, ed. Springer: New York.


Coe, K., Palmer, C. T. & el Shabazz, K. 2013. “The Resolution of Conflict: Traditional African Rituals of Forgiveness.” African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review Vol. 3, No. 2, Special Issue on Peace Education, Memory, and Reconciliation in Africa (Fall 2013), pp. 110-128.


Palmer, C. T. 2013. “The Right Person, in the Right Place, at the Right Time” Invited book review of Noble Savages: My Life in Two Dangerous Tribes, The Yanomamӧ and Anthropologists. By Napoleon Chagnon. Evolutionary Psychology 11(1): 126-131.


Palmer C. T., Groom, E. K. & J. H. Brandon 2012. Kindness, Kinship, and Tradition in Newfoundland/Alberta Migration. Institute of Social and Economic Research: St. John’s, NL.


Palmer, C. T., Coe, K. & R. O. Begley 2012. “In Defense of Differentiating Pilgrimage from Tourism.” International Journal of Tourism Anthropology 2 (1):71-85.


Palmer, C. T., Goldberg, R. & L. B. Steadman 2012. “A New Conceptual Approach to Religion, Initiation, and Social Identity: A Comparison of Traditional Jewish and Ndembu Rituals.” In Science and the World’s Religions, vol. 2. Pp. 157-182. Patrick McNamara & Wesley Wildman, eds. Praeger Press: New York.


Coe, K., VanPool, C. S. & C. T. Palmer 2012. “Figurines, Religion, and Tradition in Human Evolution.” In Science and the World’s Religions.vol. 1. Pp. 91 -116.  Patrick McNamara & Wesley Wildman, eds. Praeger Press: New York.


Palmer, C. T., Begley, R. O., Coe, K., Ellsworth, R. M. & L. B. Steadman 2012. “Do Beliefs Really Have Societal Effects?  Implications for Theories of Religion.” In Religion: Beliefs, Theories and Societal Effects. Pp. 55-72. Pierre Bellamy and Guarin Montpetit, eds. Nova Science Publishers, Inc.: Hauppauge, New York.


Ellis, L., Widmayer, A., & C. T. Palmer 2011. “Rapists Continuing to have Sex with Victims Following the Initial Assault: Evidence for Evolved Strategies.” In Introduction to Criminology: A Text/Reader, Second Edition. Pp, 389-396. SAGE Publications, Inc.: Thousand Oaks, CA.


Palmer, C. T., C. Cassidy, & A. L. Palmer 2011. “The Pink, White and Green of the Newfoundland Cultural Landscape: Variations in the Display and Meaning of the ‘Republic of Newfoundland’ Flag.” Material Culture: Journal of the Pioneer Society of America 43(1):40-60.


Coe, K. & C. T. Palmer 2011. “‘Low Sex’ Cultures, Religious Moral Traditions, and Evolutionary Theory: Cultural Mechanisms for Influencing Male Sexual Behavior.” Journal of Anthropological Research 6(4): 557-572.


Pomianek, C., Palmer, C. T. Wadley, R. L. & K. Coe 2011. “Cultural Traditions and the Treatment of Freeriders.” Journal of Global and International Studies 3(1):1-20.


Ellsworth, R., & C. T. Palmer 2011. “The Search for Human Rape and Anti-Rape Adaptations: Ten Years After A Natural History of Rape.” In The Ashgate Research Companion to Biosocial Theories of Crime. Pp. 349-368. Kevin Beaver & Anthony Walsh, eds. Ashgate Press: Burlington, VT.


Coe, K., Palmer, C. T. & C. Pomianek 2011. “ET Phone Darwin: What Can an Evolutionary Understanding of Animal Communication and Art Contribute to Our Understanding of Methods For Extraterrestrial Communication?” In Culture in the Cosmos: Extraterrestrial Life and Society. Pp. 214-225. Douglas A. Vakoch & Albert A. Harrison, eds. Berghahn Books: New York.


Coe, K., Barker, G. & C. T. Palmer 2011. “Social Interaction and Technology: Cultural Competency and the Universality of Good Manners.” In Companion to Medical Anthropology. Pp. 443-458. Merrill Singer & Pamela Erickson, eds. Wiley-Blackwell: West Sussex.


Coe, K. & C. T. Palmer 2011. “Forgiveness and Justice.” A New Science of Virtues Project. University of Chicago.  http://scienceofvirtues.org/forums/t/597.aspx#


Coe, K., Palmer, A. L., Palmer, C.T. & C. L. DeVito 2010. “Culture, Altruism, and Conflict Between Ancestors and Descendants” Structure and Dynamics, 4(3).


Palmer, C. T. & K. Coe 2010. “Parenting, Courtship, Disneyland and the Human Brain.” International Journal of Tourism Anthropology 1(1):1-14.


Palmer, C. T. 2010. “License Plates, Flags and Social Support Networks: The Symbolic Cultural Landscape of the Newfoundland Diaspora in Ft. McMurray, Alberta.” Material Culture: Journal of the Pioneer Society of America 42(1):1-24.


Palmer, C. T., Steadman, L. B., Cassidy, C., & K. Coe 2010. “The Importance of Magic to Social Relationships.” Zygon: Journal of Science and Religion 45(2): 317-337.


Steadman, L. B. & C. T. Palmer 2010. “Myths as Instructions from Ancestors: The Example of Oedipus.” In The International Library of Essays on Evolutionary Thought series, vol. 4. Neil Levy ed., John S. Wilkins Series ed. Ashgate Publishing Group: Farnham, England.


Palmer, C. T. & K, Coe 2010. “From Morality to Law: The role of Kinship, Tradition and Politics.” Culture and Politics (1).


Palmer, C. T. & R. L. Wadley 2010. “Does Environmental Talk Equal Environmental Knowledge? An Example from Newfoundland.” In Case Studies in Human Ecology, second edition. Pp. 89-100. Dan Bates & Judith Tucker, eds. Springer Academic: New York.


Palmer, C. T., Newsome, A., Proud, K. & K. Coe 2010. “Facebook or Lonesome No More.” The Evolutionary Review: Art, Science, and Culture 1(1):24-29.


Palmer, C. T. 2010. “Cultural Traditions and the Evolutionary Advantages of Non-Innovation.” In Innovation in Cultural Systems: Contributions from Evolutionary Anthropology. Pp. 161-174. Mike O’Brien & Stephen Shennan, eds.  MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.


Steadman, L. B., Palmer, C. T., & C. F. Tilley 2010. “The Universality of Ancestor Worship.” In The Anthropology of Religion, vol. 2. Pp. 138-153. Phil Stevens, ed. Routledge: New York.


Steadman, L. B., Palmer, C. T., & C. F. Tilley 2010. “The Universality of Ancestor Worship.” In Ritual and Belief: Readings in the Anthropology of Religion, third edition. Pp. 61-73. David Hicks, ed. Altamira: Lantham, MD.


Palmer, C. T., Steadman, L. B., Cassidy, C., & K. Coe 2010. “The Importance of Magic to Social Relationships.” Zygon: Journal of Science and Religion 45(2): 317-337. Abstract published in Research Review published by the Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion (IBCSR), June.


Palmer, C. T. 2010. “Foreword” in History of the Kansas Orphans’ Home, 1887-1962: The Professionalization of Charity. By Catherine Anne Chmidling. Pp. i-iv. The Edwin Mellon Press: Lewiston, NY.


Palmer, C. T. 2010. Invited Book Review of Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans: An Evolutionary Perspective on Male Aggression against Females. Ed. by Martin N. Muller & Richard W. Wrangham. Harvard University Press: Cambridge. Journal of Anthropological Research 66 (2):235-237.