Reprinted from www.psychologytoday.com
The dearth of virtue in (tested Western) populations has been lamented and assumed to be part of the human condition (Doris, 2002; Miller, 2013) but a natural history indicates otherwise. From a planetary perspective, industrialized humans have become highly destructive in comparison to 99% of human genus existence.
Humanity faces what has been called the four horsemen of the environmental apocalypse (Wilson, 1991), brought about in a matter of centuries: (1) massive toxification of water, air, soil, and food chains (e. g., Diaz et al., 2019); (2) degradation of the atmosphere, such as ozone depletion; (3) global warming(e.g., IPCC, 2014); and (4) the "death of birth"-the extinction of millions of species (Eisner, 1991; Kolbert, 2014). We are entering an unpredictable "hothouse earth" (Steffen et al., 2018).
Why have we reached these crises? One has to take an interdisciplinary approach to figure out the answers. I recently wrote and published
We must understand who humans are, how they become human, and what can go wrong.
First, from ethology, anthropology, biology, and neuroscience, we understand that humans are social mammals who are born particularly immature with a lengthy, decades-long maturational schedule. Early life experience shapes brain function in multiple ways, many of which we hardly understand. But we do know that we are more plastic and epigenetically shaped than our cousins, the chimpanzees (Gómez-Robles et al., 2015), with early life experience influencing emotional development (Meaney, 2001), stress response (Lupien et al., 2009), and much more.
Second, as one of many inheritances beyond genes, humans
Third, neurosciences show that evolved nest components support normal development at all levels (e.g., neurobiological, social, psychological), laying the foundations for virtue, which depends on well-functioning systems (Narvaez, 2014).
Fourth, nest components are degraded in industrialized societies. Young children are often denied what they evolved to expect (the evolved nest components), which can undermine species-typical development.
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