Human Nature Redux, Redux

By Jason Marsh | February 21, 2007 | 0 comments

Following up on Jeremy Smith's post (below) about David Brooks's recent column in The New York Times, he and I, along with Greater Good co-editor Dacher Keltner, sent this letter to the Times:

To the Editor:

In his Feb. 18 column, "Human Nature Redux," David Brooks would have us believe that there's no such thing as "natural human goodness"–that human genes condemn us to lives of evil and nastiness. Yet cutting edge research supports the opposite conclusion: that we are wired to be good.

Consider these empirical findings: When people perform altruistic acts, the same regions of their brain light up as when they receive rewards or experience pleasure; humans are equipped with specialized "mirror neurons" that enable us to empathize with others; we produce the hormone oxytocin, which promotes social bonding, trust, and generosity; and activation of our vagus nerve, a bundle of nerves near the spinal cord, increases compassion and cooperation.

Indeed, contrary to Mr. Brooks's ill-informed column, these scientific findings reveal the deep biological roots of human goodness—which promote the kindness and cooperation vital to human survival and progress.

Dacher Keltner, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology, UC Berkeley;
Co-editor, Greater Good magazine

Jason Marsh
Co-editor, Greater Good magazine

Jeremy Adam Smith
Managing Editor, Greater Good magazine

Tracker Pixel for Entry
About The Author

Jason Marsh is the editor in chief of Greater Good.


Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

blog comments powered by Disqus



Greater Good Events

Mindfulness and Well-Being at Work
Friday: Zellerbach Playhouse, UC Berkeley Saturday: DoubleTree by Hilton Berkeley Marina
November 13-14, 2015

Mindfulness and Well-Being at Work

Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!


Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.


Greater Good Resources


Book of the Week

Self-Compassion By Kristin Neff Learn to be kind to yourself. A society obsessed with competition doesn't always make that an easy thing to do, but seeking after self-compassion, not self-esteem, is our ticket to happiness.

Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement