Monday, 21 March 2016

Human Morality and the Unlikely Evolution of Donald Trump

In his new book A Natural History of Human Morality, Michael Tomasello explores our unlikely moral history. From the genetic separation from our primate cousins, we have accepted morality as a norm and it has allowed us to co habit in large groups.
Our sense of right and wrong seems to have gone a long way from our humble beginnings, cooperation seems to have led the way. This morality seems to extend primarily to our close group (Dunbar's number states that we cannot have close relationships with more than 150 people in our circle), which could explain moral discrepancies of the THEM and US type. And although Tomasello accepts that altruistic and selfish behaviours coexist, he marvels at the miraculous, almost impossible morality that we have adapted to. 
Moral individuals appear to reproduce more, morality seems to be good for our species. A high sense of morality seems to be a mark of evolution. One can't help but think that individuals with a slightly off moral compass should not be let in positions of power. Morality should perhaps be given a weightier place in the skills list of any presidential candidate. The risk is explained by the Lucifer Effect, studied in Philip Zimbardo's 1971 power experiment where students were given roles of prisoners and prison guards. The result: People in positions of authority can do terrible things. The influence of situations over behaviour is a powerful one and immersion in 'total situations' can induce 'good people' to behave in evil ways. By the end of the experiment, and just a few days into it, most prisoners showed depression and other mental dysfunctions, while the guards had all gone beyond the boundaries of their position and used mental and physical abuse.
Comments like 'I'd like to punch them in the face' and 'I will pay your legal fees, I promise',  as encouragement for bad behaviour from a presidential candidate is a scary and powerful testament to this and, if still in doubt, can help explain why horrible things like Nazi Germany came to happen at all.  
Let's just hope that all this is nothing more than a reality simulation in some futuristic alien multiverse and we are all just avatars, which is a real possibility given that it is as likely as the evolution of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. 

The End.