Compassion and Evolutionary Psychology

Almost certainly without intending to do so, yet more so than any intentional or unintentional guru in history, Charles Darwin set the stage for humanity to attain a level of self-understanding that truly could be pan-culturally transformative. To come to this point took a little over 100 years of digestion of Darwinism, aided by key theoretical advances from several other exceptional Darwinians who together, beginning in the 1960’s, significantly extended Darwin’s original theory (e.g., Bill Hamilton, George Williams, Richard Alexander, Robert Trivers, George Price, Maynard Smith).

But now, perhaps in the very nick of time, we have a sufficient body of impartial, scientifically grounded insights into human intrapsychic design that may, if truly learned by members of a growing human community, may serve to alter our mental functioning enough to bring about the level of revolution in human capacities for compassion needed to make Homo sapiens a sustainable species. Really a new, hyper-auto-domesticated, Hominin species.

Practices and even teachings from many of the world’s ancient wisdom traditions may help with this vital intrapsychic transformation. They my even be necessary – I leave that question open. But, I believe, and I think everyone feeling interested in nurturing significant advances of compassion (activist prosociality and biophilia) should conspire to seriously set forth the proposition that modern evolutionary psychology and neuroscience, modern evolutionary behavioral ecology in general, must become the main basis for self-understanding in the modern age, superseding all former sources of self-understanding as an informing, objectifying influence*, if the human experiment is to continue much longer, and indeed perhaps the whole unspeakably astonishing experiment of life on Earth is to flourish.

“Unless we all live our lives in the torment of contradictions, we are not human.”  Anonymous

Real self-knowledge exposes our conscious minds to normally cryptic patterns of thought and behavior that are troubling, sometime very troubling, for anyone with an intact conscience. Can humankind culturally evolve to use the evolutionarily novel and burgeoning “insight-power” of modern Darwinism as an unprecedented basis for establishing and expanding communities seriously capable of living in this way — communities thus capable of collaborating to lead our species into a viable, worthwhile future?

Dr. Paul J. Watson – 16 April 2017

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