Survival of the kindest

Darwin’s Survival of The Kindest


I love when random occurrences or sequences of unrelated events over a short period of time lead to further open mindedness or uncovering new information. Yesterday I watched the movie, ‘The Judge,’ starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. Certainly a worthwhile watch if you’re into dramas with the standard RDJ fast-talking flare we’ve come to expect from….well….all his movies haha. Without giving too much of the storyline away, the gist of the synopsis goes as follows; Downey plays a high powered, fast-talking, successful, big-city, criminal defence attorney with seemingly questionable morals, no concept of kindness, and one raison d’etre; to win. His father (Duvall) is a Judge in their small hometown and is the antithesis to Downey’s character. Duvall is concerned with morals, justice, honesty and respect. The death of Downey’s mother (Duvall’s wife) and the unsuspecting and unusual murder charges against Duvall bring Downey back to town as they battle their own demons with one another, as well as the murder charges. The film does a reasonably solid job of illustrating the polarizing characteristics of these two types of people while drawing you into an emotional connection with one or the other (depending on your personality type).

Earlier this morning I came upon an article posted by a friend on Facebook entitled, “This Is Why Rich People Don’t Care About You.” I don’t much care for the headline as it perpetuates the unfortunate use of overly dramatic headlines to sell articles/impressions but I suppose it works because I bit and clicked the article, which features the following video about human beings biological propensity towards kindness:

After watching most of the video (I’m of the limited attention span generation so the fact that I made it most of the way through the video is a feat in and of itself) I became interested in learning more about Darwin’s theories on survival and kindness. Having grown up constantly hearing the phrase “survival of the fittest” in books, ads, songs, films, and daily conversations, etc, I had always (as many of you probably have, too) attributed it to the type of mentality Downey Jr’s character possesses in the aforementioned role/movie. An assumption which associated “fittest” with ruthlessness, suppression of emotions/feelings/empathy/compassion, and physical dominance. It never occurred to me to question these assumptions or read further into Darwin’s theory, as it seemed fairly self-explanatory. Correction; it hadn’t occurred to me until this morning.

As explained by Psychologist, Paul Ekman, Darwin spoke to the origin and importance of sympathy (which would be addressed, today, as empathy, altruism, or compassion) in the evolutionary process. Darwin wrote; “…Nevertheless many a civilized man who never before risked his life for another, but full of courage and sympathy, has disregarded the instinct of self-preservation and plunged at once into a torrent to save a drowning man, though a stranger.”

‘Darwin also described how natural selection favoured the evolution of compassion, regardless of what originally motivated such behaviour: “In however complex a manner this feeling may have originated, as it is one of high importance to all those animals which aid and defend one another, it will have been increased through natural selection; for those communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.”’ – Paul Ekman.

 To read more from Erkman’s article on Darwin and kindness, CLICK HERE

While I don’t believe resolutions, beginnings/new starts, or goals should be tied to the calendar year, with it being a new year I will say make this the year you start viewing your kindness/empathy as strength and a major factor in your own survival, as well as the survival of humankind.

Happy new year!