The meek will inherit the earth

Posted by Nigel Constantine

A study has poured cold water on the idea that humans are selfish and survival is dependant on whoever is the nastiest.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, say that they have a growing body of evidence to show we are evolving to become more compassionate and collaborative.

While Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection has been interpreted to mean “every human for themselves”, Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychologist and author of "Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life," is starting to think that humans are successful as a species precisely because of our nurturing, altruistic and compassionate traits.

He has dubbed it “survival of the kindest" and claims it is because we have vulnerable offspring.
Keltner said that the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others.

Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate, he said.

Currently Keltner's team is looking under the cranium to see how the capacity to care and cooperate is wired into particular regions of the brain and nervous system.

Apparently one study claims that many are genetically predisposed to be empathetic.

Being nice apparently does not mean that you are a door mat. UC Berkeley social psychologist and sociologist Robb Willer is that the more generous we are, the more respect and influence in society we wield.

Willer said that given that there is much is to be gained through generosity, social scientists increasingly wonder less why people are ever generous and more why they are ever selfish.