Monday, November 02, 2009

Charter for Compassion

source: highlights comments

Robert Wright is the Secular & Scientific voice of compassion - 'The Evolution of Compassion'.

Its not as warm and fuzzy as the average compassion talk! Compassion and the Golden Rule is built into human nature. Even before Homo Sapiens, feelings of love, compassion and sympathy were in the gene pool. The biological explanation of the origin of these feelings is Kin Selection (wiki). 

At 2'06" Robert Wright defines Kin Selection:- 
'the basic idea of kin selection is that if an animal feels compassion towards a close relative and this compassion leads to help the relative, then in the end the compassion actually ends up in helping the genes underlying the compassion itself. So from a biologists point of view, compassion is actually the genes way of helping itself.'
Kin Selection only operates on relatives. Reciprocal Altruism is the idea (3'15") that:- 

'compassion leads you to do good things for people who will then return the favour.'
You end up extending compassion to friends and allies; but giving less compassion to people you don't know or who are in the news. Reciprocal Altruism gives an appreciation of The Golden Rule.

Hunter gatherer societies, that have not been exposed to any religion or ethical philosophies, still believe that 'one good turn deserves another' and that 'bad deeds should be punished'.

Prisoners get excluded from The Golden Rule. Exclusions to Golden Rule eg Palestinian conflict (economic blockades and missiles) (7'11") cause some of the worlds problems. The fact that The Golden Rule is somehow built into us does not mean that this will bring us Universal Love or save the world from our problems.

Game Theory (7'52"), zero sum and non zero sum games. Zero sum are games such as tennis where the points of the winners and losses add up to zero. In doubles tennis you and your partner are playing a non zero sum game so when you win or lose points the sum of points does NOT add up to zero. Other examples of non zero sum games: trading between buyers and sellers, fighting a war with allies. With non zero sum games, the Golden Rule and compassion work best and this has been the case since the Stone Age.

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