Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts
A psychologist probes how altruism, Darwinism and neurobiology mean that we can succeed by not being cutthroat.
KELTNER: “I have always felt that our science is only as good as the truthful rendition of reality that it provides and the good that it brings to our species. In summarizing the new science of emotion in Born To Be Good, I was struck by how useful this science is. The ancient approaches to ethics and virtue–for example, found in Aristotle or Confucius–privileged things such as compassion, gratitude and reverence. A new science of virtue and morality is suggesting that our capacities for virtue and cooperation and our moral sense are old in evolutionary terms, and found in emotions that I write about in Born To Be Good.
And a new science of happiness is finding that these emotions can be readily cultivated in familiar ways, bringing out the good in others and in oneself. Here are some recent empirical examples:
Meditating on a compassionate approach to others shifts resting brain activation to the left hemisphere, a region associated with happiness, and boosts immune functions.
Talking about areas of gratitude, in classrooms, at the dinner table or in the diary, boosts happiness and social well-being and health.
Experiences of reverence in nature or around morally inspiring others improves people’s sense of connection to others and sense of purpose.
Laughing and playing in the face of trauma gives the person perspective upon life’s inevitable difficulties, and improves resilience and adjustment.
Devoting resources to others, rather than indulging a materialist desire, brings about lasting well being.
This kind of science gives me many hopes for the future. At the broadest level, I hope that our culture shifts from a consumption-based, materialist culture to one that privileges the social joys (play, caring, touch, mirth) that are our older (in the evolutionary sense) sources of the good life. In more specific terms, I see this new science informing practices in almost every realm of life. Here again are some well-founded examples. Medical doctors are now receiving training in the tools of compassion–empathetic listening, warm touch–that almost certainly improve basic health outcomes. Teachers now regularly teach the tools of empathy and respect. Executives are learning the wisdom around the country of emotional intelligence–respect, building trust–that there is more to a company’s thriving than profit or the bottom line. In prisons and juvenile detention centers, meditation is being taught.”
Do all things in goodness! (TY Datig!)