We are social animals. Cooperative behavior is the norm. Compassion is in our DNA. At least it is for most of us. Three new books recently reviewed in Scientific American offer fresh understanding of human nature and the role altruism has played in the advance of civilization. The books are… The Altruistic Brain: How We Are Good by neuroscientist Donald Pfaff Does Altruism Exist?: Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others by evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson The Moral Arch: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom by Scientific American columnist, Michael Shermer Here is the link to the book reviews… http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/3-new-books-explain-the-roots-of-altruism/?WT.mc_id=SA_SP_20150720
To these three books reviewed in Scientific American, we would add The Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin.
The essence of these books is that humans are more good and decent by nature than not. Perhaps that is why, civilization has always advanced, despite many setbacks along the way. But, if we are good and caring by nature, why does society go astray so often as we move forward? Perhaps it’s because there has always been a small but significant number of sociopaths and psychopaths in human society, who can be characterized by their indifference or even hostility to what is good and decent. Such people have an advantage, when it comes to personal ambition. Because of their conscience deficit, they are willing to lie, cheat, and steal, do whatever it takes to gain personal advantage. Too often sociopaths and psychopaths are able to leverage their lack of compassion into positions of wealth and political power. Thus far, history reflects an overall pattern of advancement because, as these books demonstrate, the goodness in our nature, more often than not, prevails over the dark side.