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What Can Animals Teach Us About Kindness And Empathy?

Sunday August 30, 2015

What Can Animals Teach Us About Kindness And Empathy?

Studies Of Our Non-Human Friends May Show
How Genes Inspire Our Better Tendencies

While humans are capable of acts of cruelty, greed and deception, they also possess plenty of positive characteristics such as kindness, compassion, friendliness and empathy.

But why? Are those better angels of our nature something nurtured in us by our parents, or do we arrive on the planet genetically predisposed for them?

It’s something scientists have puzzled over, and many of them may be finding answers not with human research but by concentrating on animals.

“The idea that we could learn about kindness or compassion by studying animals might seem strange,” says Peter Schattner, a scientist and author of the book “Sex, Love and DNA: What Molecular Biology Teaches Us About Being Human”

“But since similar genes are often found in animals and people, what we learn from animals may well be relevant to understanding human behavior as well.”

Comparing dogs and wolves is an especially effective way to learn about kindness, devotion and other pro-social traits because dogs were genetically bred from wolves to display those traits, he says.

Schattner also talks about how studying foxes, rodents and even ants is shedding light on the biological roots of kindness and empathy, as well as the implications of these findings for our understanding of human behavior.

Special Guest

Peter Schattner


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