Natural selection and compassion

As a person who is convinced in the mechanism of evolution as being the process from which all that is came to be, I have often had a thought related to natural selection and survival of the fittest. When this topic is raised, the emphasis is always on the species that were the strongest and most adapted through mutations for survival. My thought is that the human ability to have compassion for others, to work with them and value them, is the one of the gained elements that have adapted us to survive in the world. Our communities and societies have provided fertile soil in which humans have developed and evolved, but in that progress we have needed to learn to cohabitate with others. I am sure this is not something new, and probably is something that most consider axiomatic to our evolution, looking back from this vantage point.

If that is at all correct, then how we proceed in these days of conflict and polarization are even more important. It means that some of our ideas about self-preservation that fit into the attitudes of the American society, might need to be moderated. We need to learn to work and live with others, fellow citizens and people of other nations. The attitude of “taking care of ourselves and to hell with everyone else” becomes detrimental to our survival. This happens with our attitude toward others in our own country, in our view of the rest of the world.  We have to find a way where we all (humanity and other species) win. Such an attitude will require us to sharply evaluate our attitudes and our social structures. It will require us to grow in our compassion for others, it will require some frugality in how we live and utilize the resources that are available and, probably most difficult, that we garner an attitude of humility, where we don’t consider ourselves more important than our collective presence and survival; we are not more important than others but partners with them.

Unfortunately, the attitude that I see in our country is one on the opposite of the values I have just expressed. If we are going to move forward, it can’t just be the few who have all the money or those to whom society has been kind. Those of us who find ourselves in that position, need to develop an attitude of compassion for those who haven’t got it so well. If we don’t, I fear that the lost benefits of our evolutionary lessons might just turn back on us and we will be no more.

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