Social scientist Nicholas Christakis has coined the term social suite to refer to a suite of characteristics and capacities that have evolved in humans and that support our societal life. Christakis notes that “there is no society on Earth that has an easy job of suppressing our innate tendencies to love, friendship, and cooperation.”
He maintains that there are certain archetypical structures and ways of organizing society that we are innately programmed to manifest. We can no more wake up and make a society inconsistent with those impulses than ants can wake up and make beehives.
And so, for example:
· We love the people we have sex with and form sentimental attachments to them.
· We befriend each other, forming long-term, non-reproductive unions with other members of our species to whom we are not related.
· We cooperate with each other, altruistically.
· We’re kind to strangers — genetically unrelated individuals.
· We teach each other things.
All these things that we take for granted as basic to human nature are either extremely rare or unique in the animal kingdom.
To be sure, humans can do horrible things to one another and to other species. And yet it is also true that there is this group of positive, amazing qualities that are shaped by natural selection, are encoded in our genes, and are universal in humans.
What would happen if we were to take these characteristics as seriously as we do what is dark, evil, and destructive? What would that demand of us?
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