16 March 2009


If human compassion develops only under particular rearing conditions, and if an increasing proportion of the species survives to breeding age without developing compassion, it won’t make any difference how useful this trait was among our ancestors. It will become like sight in cave-dwelling fish.

No doubt our descendants thousands of years from now (should our species survive) will still be bipedal, symbol-generating apes. Most likely they will be adept at using sophisticated technologies. But will they still be human in the way we, shaped by a long heritage of cooperative breeding, currently define ourselves?
-- Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.

How much compassion would there be on a short road to a world of one billion humans?

(For John Gray, "a high-tech Green utopia, in which a few humans live happily in balance with the rest of life, is scientifically feasible; but it is humanly unimaginable.")

Hrdy's "apes on a plane" may be surprisingly tolerant of each other, but with 1.6 billion flights a year they risk destabilising the climate on which they depend.

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