By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Survival of the Kind

NSRW Charles Robert DarwinImage via WikipediaTo the likely surprise of many, Darwin corroborated by analogy the very religious and certainly Christian insight that we humans are hard-wired for kindness. Psychologist Paul Ekman quotes these statements by Darwin in the book Emotional Awareness (Henry Holt, 2008), p. 143 (original emphasis):

Many animals, however, certainly sympathize with each other's distress or danger. This is the case even with birds. Captain Stansberry found on a salt lake in Utah an old and completely blind pelican, which was very fat. And must have been long and well-fed by his companions.
. . . .
Mr. Blythe informs me he saw Indian crows feeding two or three of their companions, which are blind. We may, if we choose, call these actions instinctive. But such cases are much too rare for the development of any special instinct. I have, myself, seen a dog who never passed a great friend of his, a cat, without giving her a few licks with his tongue, a sure sign of kind feeling in a dog.
For with those animals which were benefited by living in close association, the individuals which took the greatest pleasure in society would best escape various dangers. Whilst those that cared least for their comrades and lived solitarily would perish in great numbers.

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The Christian belief is that our core identity as humans is mirrored in the self-sacrifice of Jesus for others on the cross. That ultimate kindness is the key to finding one's life as a human being. And certainly the Judeo-Christian wisdom tradition also taught that kindness is the way to flourish in this life.

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