Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Naturally Altruistic



Oh man, it warms the cockles of my heart. What's a 'cockle'? - Never mind, it doesn't matter, what matters is that they've decided (they being research scientists) human beings, one of my very favorite species, is at its core, a helpful, altruistic animal.

When I read this I said out loud (to no one in particular) Who said it first? I'm always, constantly defending my fellow homo sapiens, always to other homo sapiens who believe, somehow, that we are "bad" or at least "not good enough."

Indeed if we are built to be helpful, then there's always more to be done, hence our innate self loathing makes sense as the flip side of our noble altruism. Now hold your horses, people, I'm not saying everything we do is OK, that being cruel, greedy, wasteful, brutal or thoughtless is fine by me, oh no! All I'm saying is that, like everything animal, mineral or vegetable, we are NOT perfect. Expectations of perfection are a symptom of hubris, another one of our species-wide problems.

The unfortunate truth of having not only an overdeveloped cerebral cortex but also an opposable thumb has made us perhaps too successful and therefore also spectacularly destructive in many ways. But we try so hard to be good, to be helpful, we really do. We are so adorable!

Science backs me up - again! I love science.


Logan Circle, one foot of the Masonic pyramid. (Dupont Circle is the other foot, the White House is the top of the pyramid.)

9 comments:

Steve said...

I haven't read this article, but I'm still skeptical. :)

Elizabeth said...

I do tend to think that most people, if treated right, will want to be good.
It has worked for me anyway.
However, it seems to me that the amount of good and evil stays pretty constant all the time.
Same for people.
It just get distributed differently at different times.
Love you for your open mindedness!
So when are you coming to NY
SOLSTICE?

ellen abbott said...

'The unfortunate truth of having not only an overdeveloped cerebral cortex but also an opposable thumb has made us perhaps too successful and therefore also spectacularly destructive in many ways.'

I have been working on a post about us humans. Have you been looking over my shoulder?

Angela said...

I also believe in the good in everybody. Even some real evil looking people can surprise you!
Once a greasy-haired, heavily tattooed fellow, dressed in black leather and scary-looking, he wretsled my car keys out of my hands when I carried a carton full of groceries and could not open my car. And what did he do? Open my car for me!
Even his mother who was watching from afar could not help but whistle. "I`ve never seen him do anything like that before," she said. "What did you do?"
I think I had smiled at him.

Reya Mellicker said...

Angela your encounters with people are always so incredible! You could write a book.

And Ellen, can't wait to read your post. I didn't mean to look over your shoulder

Steve you and so many others ...

steven said...

i believe in the inherent goodness of people. i always have. i also believe that there's a skin of monkey business overlaid over most people that's to protect and hide the gentleness, the intuition, the creativity, the sensitivity, the raw connection to allness that kids know so clearly until it's rubbed raw by experiences dealing with the monkey business layer. i've known so much true goodness in the most unlikely people. steven

Barry said...

I believe in the innate decency of people as well. It takes a village to screw us up.

Or is that cynical?

By the way the phrase "warm the cockles of my heart" may refer to the similarity in shape of the heart valves to the cockle mollusk.

Ronda Laveen said...

I could probably write on this one for a bit but, yes, I think that at the core of our essence, we are good, want to be good, and want others to see us as such.

Sometimes, things get twisted and confused. When I encounter someone who is being a weenie, I just keep trying to see that part of them.

Crackin' up at Steve's comment.

Pauline said...

I read the article and find I am more in agreement with this statement by Elizabeth Spelke, a developmental psychologist at Harvard. "I think the jury is out on the innateness question."

That being said, good or you for looking for the best parts of us. And that first photo? its puddle arrow is really neat!