Nice Guys Finish First
By David Brooks, The New York Times
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. Those that do not become extinct. In this telling, we humans are like all other animals — deeply and thoroughly selfish. We spend our time trying to maximize our outcomes — competing for status, wealth and mating opportunities. Behavior that seems altruistic is really self-interest in disguise. Charity and fellowship are the cultural drapery atop the iron logic of nature.
All this is partially true, of course. Yet every day, it seems, a book crosses my desk, emphasizing a different side of the story. These are books about sympathy, empathy, cooperation and collaboration, written by scientists, evolutionary psychologists, neuroscientists and others. It seems there’s been a shift among those who study this ground, yielding a more nuanced, and often gentler picture of our nature.
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