Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The evolution of human empathy

"You can't fight human nature" is one of the perennial excuses for inaction on the environment, social justice, or inability to curb the economic excesses of power, greed and individualism. Are human beings doomed by their genes to be selfish, competitive, and violent? Or are there "natural" and evolutionary dynamics that underpin caring, sharing and cooperation?
See Jeremy Rifkin'sYoutube carries other cartoon videos by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) in the UK. For fuller details see the RSA website with its videos, blogs and comments. In the US, UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center gathers research from psychologists, biologists and neurologists, and applies it to education and social action.

Its executive director, Dacher Keltner, is the author of the book Born To Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life (2009) and edits Greater Good magazine. See also Wikipedia on the Greater Good Science Center, its bibliography on empathy; J.D. Trout,The Empathy Gap: Building Bridges to the Good Life and the Good Society (2009); Michael Shermer's Science of Good and Evil (2004); and Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002). Barbara Oakley, in Evil Genes (2004) speculates on the origin of bad behavior, particularly by those in power.

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