New York Times: Humans hard wired to cooperate and help each other

This week the New York Times published an excellent column by David Brooks, summarizing the growing evidence that we are hard-wired to cooperate and that altruism essential to evolutionary success. Key points:


·       The story of evolution, we have been told, is the story of the survival of the fittest. The strong eat the weak. The creatures that adapt to the environment pass on their selfish genes.

·       We have an incentive to establish a reputation for niceness, so people will want to work with us. We have an incentive to work in teams, even against our short-term self-interest because cohesive groups thrive. Cooperation is as central to evolution as mutation and selection...

·       … at an astonishingly early age kids begin to help others, and to share information, in ways that adult chimps hardly ever do.

·       An infant of 12 months will inform others about something by pointing. Chimpanzees and other apes do not helpfully inform each other about things. Infants share food readily with strangers. Chimpanzees rarely even offer food to their own offspring. If a 14-month-old child sees an adult having difficulty — like being unable to open a door because her hands are full — the child will try to help.

·       Human beings… are “the giraffes of altruism.” Just as giraffes got long necks to help them survive, humans developed moral minds that help them and their groups succeed. Humans build moral communities out of shared norms, habits, emotions and gods, and then will fight and even sometimes die to defend their communities.


Read the full article at