New Evidence That Grandmothers Were Crucial for Human Evolution By Joseph Stromberg, smithsonian.com, October 23, 2012 …grandmothering helped us to develop “a whole array of social capacities that are then the foundation for the evolution of other distinctly human traits, including pair bonding, bigger brains, learning new skills and our tendency for cooperation.”… From an evolutionary perspective, it makes more sense for older females to increase the group’s overall offspring survival rate instead of spending more energy on producing their own….the social relations that go along with grandmothering could have contributed to the larger brains and other traits that distinguish humans…“Grandmothering gave us the kind of upbringing that made us more dependent on each other socially and prone to engage each other’s attention.”...The theory is by no means definitive, but the new mathematical evidence serves as another crucial piece of support for it. This could help anthropologists better understand human evolution—and should give you another reason to go thank your grandmother.
A Matter of Life and Debt by Margaret Atwood, New York Times Op-Ed, October 22, 2008… we’re deluding ourselves if we assume that we can recover from the [economic] crisis of 2008 so quickly and easily…The wounds go deeper than that. To heal them, we must repair the broken moral balance that let this chaos loose… We are social creatures who must interact for mutual benefit, and — the negative version — who harbor grudges when we feel we’ve been treated unfairly… …Is there any bright side to this? Perhaps we’ll have some breathing room — a chance to re-evaluate our goals and to take stock of our relationship to the living planet from which we derive all our nourishment, and without which debt finally won’t matter. full text
The Moral Animal, By JONATHAN SACKS, New York Times, December 23, 2012 – …Religion in the West seems alive and well. But is it really? Or [is the] West’s newest faith, consumerism, and its secular cathedrals, shopping malls?… the United States remains the most religious country in the West, 20 percent declare themselves without religious affiliation — double the number a generation ago…in America four in five, declare allegiance to a religious faith. That, in an age of science, is what is truly surprising…Superpowers tend to last a century; the great faiths last millenniums. The question is why. [Charles] Darwin himself suggested what is almost certainly the correct answer. He was puzzled by a phenomenon that seemed to contradict his most basic thesis, that natural selection should favor the ruthless. Altruists, who risk their lives for others, should therefore usually die before passing on their genes to the next generation. Yet all societies value altruism, and something similar can be found among social animals…Neuroscientists have shown how this works. We have mirror neurons that lead us to feel pain when we see others suffering. We are hard-wired for empathy. We are moral animals…we survive as members of groups, and groups can exist only when individuals act not solely for their own advantage but for the sake of the group as a whole. Our unique advantage is that we form larger and more complex groups than any other life-form. A result is that we have two patterns of reaction in the brain…The first is immediate, instinctive and emotive. The second is reflective and rational.. We are sinners and saints, egotists and altruists, exactly as the prophets and philosophers have long maintained…religion…remains the most powerful community builder the world has known. Religion binds individuals into groups through habits of altruism, creating relationships of trust strong enough to defeat destructive emotions…Religion is the best antidote to the individualism of the consumer age. The idea that society can do without it flies in the face of history and, now, evolutionary biology…
What Country Does The Most Good For The World? This Video Has The Answer By Justin Acuff on July 17, 2014 What country does the most good for the rest of the world? Simon Anholt’s “Good Country Index” Ireland, Finland, Switzerland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, and Belgium. The United States comes in at 21st. China is ranked 107th, and the Russian Federation is 95th. In the category of international peace and security, [the United States is] ranked 114, sharply dragging down the rest of our score.
The New Economic Events Giving Lie to the Fiction That We Are All Selfish, Rational Materialists By David Bollier, AlterNet, April 14, 2014 re: Jeremy Rifkin’s new book, “The Zero Marginal Cost Society,” …the commons is not just an Internet phenomenon or a matter of economics. The commons lies at the heart of a major cultural and social shift now underway….Beneath the radar screen of mainstream politics, which remains largely clueless about such cultural trends on the edge, a new breed of commoners is building the vision of a very different kind of society, project by project. This new universe of social activity is being built on the foundation of a very different ethics and social logic than that of homo economicus — the economist’s fiction that we are all selfish, utility-maximizing, rational materialists.
White House announces new initiatives to help working families By Brigid Schulte, Washington Post, June 23, 2014
Dark Ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment by John Atcheson Common Dreams, June 18, 2012 We are witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world. We are de-evolving, hurtling headlong into a past that was defined by serfs and lords; by necromancy and superstition; by policies based on fiat, not facts. Much of what has made the modern world in general, and the United States in particular, a free and prosperous society comes directly from insights that arose during the Enlightenment. Too bad we’re chucking it all out and returning to the Dark Ages. …Now, we seek to operate by revealed truths, not reality. Decrees from on high – often issued by an unholy alliance of religious fundamentalists, self-interested corporations, and greedy fat cats – are offered up as reality by rightwing politicians…Second, the Enlightenment laid the groundwork for our form of government. The Social Contract is the intellectual basis of all modern democratic republics, including ours. John Locke and others argued that governments derived their authority from the governed, not from divine right. Governments could be legitimate, then, only with the consent of the governed. Jefferson acknowledged Locke’s influence on the Declaration of Independence and his ideas are evident in the Constitution. Here again, our founders used reason, empiricism and academic scholarship to cobble together one of the most enduring and influential documents in human history. For all its flaws, it has steered us steadily toward a more perfect union. Until recently…We are, indeed, at an epochal threshold. We can continue to discard the Enlightenment values which enabled both an untold increase in material wealth and a system of government which turned serfs into citizens. A system which – for all its flaws – often managed to protect the rights of the many, against the predatory power of the few. Or we can continue our abject surrender to myths, magical thinking, and self-delusion and the Medieval nation-state those forces are resurrecting. Republicans and Tea Partiers may be leading this retreat from reason, but they are unopposed by Democrats or the Press. And in the end, there is a special place in Hell for those who allow evil to prosper by doing nothing.
Us vs Them: A Simple Recipe to Prevent Strong Society from Forming By James Rohrer, AlterNet.org, July 27, 2012…We humans are by nature social creatures, even the most introverted of us, and we tend to trust and follow the thinking of the groups with which we identify…Our groups define “us” and exert powerful influence on how we think, even how we feel, and how we behave in society. By definition, of course, every group creates “Them”— they are all the ones who are not in our group…/us-vs-them-a-simple-recipe-to-prevent-strong-society-from-forming-by-james-rohrer/
The Social Animal by David Brooks, New York Times, September 12, 2008 [reference: “The Conscience of a Conservative” by Barry Goldwater] …Goldwater’s vision…celebrated a certain sort of person — the stout pioneer crossing the West, the risk-taking entrepreneur with a vision, the stalwart hero fighting the collectivist foe. The problem is, this individualist description of human nature seems to be wrong. Over the past 30 years, there has been a tide of research in many fields, all underlining one old truth — that we are intensely social creatures, deeply interconnected with one another and the idea of the lone individual rationally and willfully steering his own life course is often an illusion…What emerges is not a picture of self-creating individuals gloriously free from one another, but of autonomous creatures deeply interconnected with one another…We’re living in an age of fast-changing economic, information and social networks, but Republicans are still impeded by Goldwater’s mental guard-rails.
Scientists find visions of a benevolent future society motivate reform By Eric W. Dolan, Washington Post, March 21, 2013 — Activists, take note: People support reform if they believe the changes will enhance the future character of society…people support a future society that fosters the development of warm and moral individuals…explore Noam Chomsky’s dictum that “social action must be animated by a vision of a future society” — a proposition they said had not been investigated by social psychologists… “On climate change, we have other research showing that support for action was higher when people focused on character, but also on opportunities for economic/technological development.”…“One challenge is to work out how to design policies to actually promote warmth/morality…“The whole idea may sound a bit implausible, but if you think of it as ‘community building’ (bringing people together to promote social bonds) then it becomes more tangible for policy makers, as this is something they are able to consider in policy design.”…“If you can communicate how a policy will serve its primary function and help community-building, our research suggests you will gain broader public support.”