Wednesday, July 11, 2018

How to be right about people

If you want to be right about people, taking biology and evolution seriously is a big help.

A few years ago, researchers started telling us how the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin make us more loving and caring toward others; that biologically, we have this kumbaya side to our nature.

I was skeptical because I know that human genes, like those of all animals, have been selected over deep history to produce people who care about themselves and their families at the expense of others. We're not put together to sacrifice for all humanity like we would for a daughter.

So I was not surprised to learn from more recent research that, yes, oxytocin and vasopressin make us more nurturing, but only towards the ingroup; you know, friends and family. Towards outsiders, the hormones cause us to feel more, shall we say, ill-disposed.

It's almost as if you have two kinds of people: 1) those who are selfish and don't care about groups, and 2) those who love and sacrifice for the ingroup, and dislike the outgroup. And the true humanitarian--the man who would lay his life down for a stranger as quickly as he would his mother--is a rare specimen, indeed.

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