Survival of the Nicest: How Altruism Made Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Alongby Stefan Klein, David Dollenmayer
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014This revelatory tour de force by an acclaimed and internationally bestselling science writer upends our understanding of “survival of the fittest”—and invites us all to think and act more altruistically The phrase “survival of the fittest” conjures an image/b>/b>/i>
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014This revelatory tour de force by an acclaimed and internationally bestselling science writer upends our understanding of “survival of the fittest”—and invites us all to think and act more altruistically The phrase “survival of the fittest” conjures an image of the most cutthroat individuals rising to the top. But Stefan Klein, author of the #1 international bestseller The Science of Happiness, makes the startling assertion that altruism is the key to lasting personal and societal success. In fact, altruism defines us: Natural selection favored those early humans who cooperated in groups, and with survival more assured, our altruistic ancestors were free to devote brainpower to developing intelligence, language, and culture—our very humanity. Klein’s groundbreaking findings lead him to a vexing question: If we’re really hard-wired to act for one another’s benefit, why aren’t we all getting along? He believes we’ve learned to mistrust our instincts because success is so often attributed to selfish ambition, and with an extraordinary array of material—current research on genetics and the brain, economics, social psychology, behavioral and anthropological experiments, history, and modern culture—he makes the case that generosity for its own sake remains the best way to thrive.
Klein (The Secret Pulse of Time: Making Sense of Life's Scarcest Commodity) transforms Darwinian interpretation of evolution and resets the conversation about how we relate to each other as individuals and communities in this mind-bending book. Klein's inquiry fuses the work of neuropsychologists, neuroeconomists, geneticists, philosophers, anthropologists, a chemist, and a lion expert, with myriads of studies conducted in cultures around the world. He distinguishes, then connects dots, between abstract concepts, using the growing body of fMRI experiments to illustrate biological activations of sharing, empathy, sympathy, selflessness and his main subject, altruism. He then he applies familiar behavioral models, including the Prisoner's Dilemma, in constructing new arguments. His main point—that over time evolution has favored cooperation—is simple but profound and so astutely argued that if there is a science to winning readers over, Klein has surely mastered it. Far from pedantic or sententious, the wealth of knowledge here is astounding. His conviction history, empirical facts and ongoing discoveries about human characteristics and societies serve as a roadmap for a better world. (Jan.)
A middling look at some of the better angels of our nature by German science writer Klein (Leonardo's Legacy: How Da Vinci Reimagined the World, 2010, etc.). We owe to scientist W.D. Hamilton the philosophically rich observation that altruism might have arisen as a function of natural selection by widening our sense of who is kin to us to include people beyond our immediate gene pool--i.e., we help do our bit to ensure the survival of the species. Klein takes a little of the biological edge off Hamilton's aperçu by writing of "the impulses that lead us to seek our own happiness in the happiness of others," impulses that would sometimes seem to contradict our rotten record at being chimps with guns. Some of Klein's statements verge on hyperbolic: Do most of us really make "selfless choices dozens of times every day"? Perhaps so, if we include holding the door open for someone or leaving a tip for the wait staff. Happily, Klein brings the often overlooked work of Pyotr Kropotkin into the discussion; the Russian anarchist prince argued against the sometimes-Hobbesian view of Darwin by asserting that members of species committed acts of mutual aid as much as they competed with each other, Ayn Rand and her lot notwithstanding. Granted that some of Klein's characters are contrarians--John von Neumann, founder of game theory and model for Doctor Strangelove, famously insisted that there was nothing wrong with America's bombing the Soviet Union before the Russians could bomb us--he does a good job of bringing current science into view, from psychology and biology to economics. Even so, the argument seems a little diffuse and soft and would have benefited from more rigor in place of bromides such as "selflessness makes us happy and transforms the world." Tougher-minded readers will prefer Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011) and even Prince Kropotkin himself.
- Experiment, The
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Meet the Author
Stefan Klein, PhD, recipient of the prestigious Georg von Holtzbrink Prize for Scientific Journalism, is one of Europe’s premier science writers, as well as a trained physicist himself. His many books include the #1 international bestseller The Science of Happiness and have been translated into 25 languages. Ross Benjamin is a translator and a writer. He has received the prestigious Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize as well as a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
&hearts <p> &starf
Miss.nice yoi rock on the in and out
I think the nicest person would either be Haddi or Miss Nice