Survival of the Most Sympathetic

One of the shockwaves from Charles Darwin’s idea that humans evolved from other animals was moral panic. If our ethics are not guided by an omnipotent and all-knowing god and, instead, life is driven by “survival of the fittest” via natural selection, how could we possibly expect humans to behave with anything other than brash self-interest?

Yet Darwin’s use of the phrase “survival of the fittest” was hardly meant to suggest that existence was a knockdown, drag-out fight—he was very clear that generosity, sympathy and all those other traits that give us warm feelings are central to human survival. In this short video, the psychologist Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley puts kindness in evolutionary context, connecting his own recent neural-imaging work on compassion with Darwin’s view that sympathy is a cornerstone of human flourishing.

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