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."
These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.
We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.
Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.
For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.
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