Saturday, April 27, 2019

Time's "The Science of Good and Evil"; physicians discuss personal "Compassionomics"

I’m getting ready to review Joshua Greene’s “Moral Tribes” on my main Wordpress blog (recommended by Harvard undergrad vlogger John Fish), but I’ll preview it with the Time special edition coffee table book “The Science of Good and Evil”, edited by Edward Feiesenthal and D. W. Pine, with a lot of leadership from Jeffrey Kluger, 96 pages.

There is an interesting chapter by Richard Jerome on whether animals have morality. Well, capcuchin monkeys and bonobo chimps do, as do dogs,  Sand tiger sharks, however, cannibalize their weaker siblings in the “womb” before they are born.

The first chapter, by Kluger et al, takes up some of the well-known moral puzzles (The Sinking Lifeboat, the Crying Baby, the Runaway Trolley and the switch problem).  Subsequent chapters look at the physiology of evil, in terms of the structure of the brain (Bundy, Holmes, etc).  There are also biographies of Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler (who was quite spoiled and incompetent in practical things as a boy, rather telling).  Yet there is evidence that even the worst can eventually develop a moral compass.

There is an important chapter (p. 34) on voluntarism by Kate Rope, “Good Deeds, Good Health, and Good Life”.  There is discussion of caregiving and compassion fatigue, but there is a general impression that relatively open (and not overly selective) volunteering is a good thing for most people.

This morning (April 27), Smerconish (CNN) interviewed author Anthony Mazarrelli who (along with Stephen Trzeciak and Cory Booker) authored “Compassionomics”, published Studer Group.  A lot of this is about whether medical practitioners care, but a lot of people will survive challenging illnesses and cancers if they know others care personally.  This is a bit of a change from how things were when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, when less could be done.

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