In Search of Human Nature

In Search of Human Nature

In Search of Human Nature

In Search of Human Nature

Synopsis

Human Nature offers a wide-ranging and holistic view of human nature from all perspectives: scientific, historical, and sociological. Mary Clark takes the most recent data from a dozen or more fields, and works it together with clarifying anecdotes and thought-provoking images to challenge conventional Western beliefs with hopeful new insights. Balancing the theories of cutting-edge neuroscience with the insights of primitive mythologies, Mary Clark provides down-to-earth suggestions for peacefully resolving global problems. Human Nature builds up a coherent, and above all positive, picture of who we really are.

Excerpt

This book came to be written because my students, along with many others, were searching for answers to the seemingly overwhelming problems that we human beings have created on our planet. The psychological exhaustion they experienced at the enormity of these problems was followed by despair at their seeming inevitability. Students enrolled in a course called Our Global Future at San Diego State, which dealt in depth with those problems, regularly would say at the end, "Well, you've shown us all the problems, but none of the solutions." My quip in reply was usually, "Now you know the problems, you've become part of the solution." It was a lame answer, a cop-out, and I knew it.

Another frequent comment that expressed their feelings of hopelessness was, "You just can't change human nature." They really believed human history was being inexorably driven by a set of biologically grounded, rather nasty behavioral traits. Their belief was grounded in the whole Western world view that most had been immersed in since birth. History focussed on powerful men constantly engaged in violent struggles with each other. It never mentioned peaceful societies, nor the lives of women. Economics painted a world of perpetual scarcity where competition was inevitable - and was also the only route to more efficient utilization of resources. It never explored successful societies that had managed their resources in common, without undue competition.

In science, Darwin's innocuous phrase "survival of the fittest" was turned into a biological war of all-against-all, an idea made concrete by the invention of the concept of the "selfish gene." Psychology and political science, both obedient to Enlightenment philosophy, mistook emotions as unfortunate leftover animal traits in need of being tightly controlled by a stern, paternalistic Reason. And the whole of science, for 200 years or more, has been grounded in a linear view of causes-and-effects analogous to those found in machines. All entities, even human nature, and all events, from the evolution of the universe to the behavior of modern societies, could ultimately be understood by dissecting them into smaller and smaller pieces.

Though the cracks in all these assumptions are now evident and growing wider daily, the institutions based on them - especially their view of an individualistic, self-centered, naturally aggressive and competitive human nature - reinforce these beliefs in people's everyday lives. Western society begins its xvi

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