What Biology Tells Us About Politics
The Dutch-born biologist Frans de Waal has chosen to study not what makes humankind vile and mean but rather what causes us to rise up in support of others, i.e. our moral potential.
What's the Latest Development?
Throughout Frans de Waal's carreer as a biologist, he has sought to explain the cooperative tendencies of the human species. His new book, The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society, is a synthesis of those efforts. He looks to animal biology, for example, to explain why we feel outraged at the recent failures of Wall Street: "If you are a cooperative animal you need to watch what you get. If you, or even a whole community, invest in something but then a few individuals receive a much larger return, it's not a good arrangement."
What's the Big Idea?
De Waal has always had a keen interest in how our animal behavior relates to the functioning of our political institutions. He has influenced the likes of Newt Gingrich and President Jimmy Carter, who each read different books of de Waal's. "If you want to design a successful human society you need to know what kind of animal we are," he says. "Are we a social animal or a selfish animal? Do we respond better when we're solitary or living in a group? Do we like to live at night or in the daytime? You should know as much as you can about the human species if you have a hand in designing human society."
- The meaning of the word 'confidence' seems obvious. But it's not the same as self-esteem.
- Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
- Join Big Think Edge today and learn how to achieve more confidence when and where it really matters.
- Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett breaks down what qualities will inspire others to believe in you.
- Here's how 300 leaders and 4,000 mid-level managers described someone with executive presence.
- Get more deep insights like these to power your career forward. Join Big Think Edge.
Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."
- Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
- Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
- Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
It marks a major shift in the government's battle against the opioid crisis.
- The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
- It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
- Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.