* The Altruistic Brain by Donald Pfaff


The Altruistic Brain: How We Are Naturally Good naturally wants to convince us that there is scientific proof that human beings are wired to be altruistic. And indeed the author lays out the neurological basis for how we can anticipate others’ actions, identify with others (this is surely the crucial step), and swing into action ourselves.

So far so good. But there is a mysterious combativeness of tone against the colleagues who find it “safer to get grants for topics where they can show results” (rather than the obviously grander and more difficult endeavor that he has chosen to pursue). That’s annoying: we lay readers don’t really care about political infighting between researches. And as generally ignorant as we non-specialists may be, we would like to read a good argument of how this lovely altruistic brain fails to work sometimes (often?), but all we get is some strange explanation of how corruption actually works with the same mechanism as altruism. So are killers and torturers also being altruistic, somehow? I am confused. But I see on page 209 that psychopaths are insecurely attached. Blame it on mothers, yet again…

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