Daily Archives: July 30, 2017

Human self-domestication or human extinction?

The final segment in today’s episode of Radio Lab (New Normal?) on NPR Radio was a fascinating report on domestication of wild animals, specifically foxes. By selective breeding of the few foxes who did not exhibit avoidance behavior (fear) when approached by humans, a Russian scientist was able, in ten generations, to produce docile domesticated foxes.

This naturally raises the question about the possibility of domesticating human to be less aggressive and more empathetic. In fact, the anthropological evidence suggests that since we began living in settled groups, the human species has long been undergoing a process of self-domestication, this perhaps as a necessary adaptation for living together in harmony. That idea, together with Steven Pinker’s argument that humans are becoming less violent (The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined), gives me cause for hope that humanity will not extinguish itself from planet Earth.

On the other hand, the fact that power is today so concentrated in the hands of a global elite who, by their threatening behavior and objectives of domination, seem not to have sufficiently evolved in that way, is cause for worry. That raises other questions: how can they be prevented from acting irrationally or how can the levers of power that they control be disabled or overridden?–t.h.g.