A feminist theory of human sociability

Human being are remarkably social and empathetic, at least for the most part.  How did this occur?  One popular theory is that we  evolved to understand each other in order to cope better with competition and conflict.  

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy in her forthcoming book, Mothers and Others, disagrees.  For her the key comes with the human infants’ extreme helplessness, which has produced selective pressures for socially connected adults and adorable babies.

The discussion of the book by Natalie Angier in today’s NY Times is worth reading, IMHO.  As she notes,

Human beings evolved as cooperative breeders, says Dr. Hrdy, a reproductive strategy in which mothers are assisted by as-if mothers, or “allomothers,” individuals of either sex who help care for and feed the young. Most biologists would concur that humans have evolved the need for shared child care, but Dr. Hrdy takes it a step further, arguing that our status as cooperative breeders, rather than our exceptionally complex brains, helps explain many aspects of our temperament. Our relative pacifism, for example, or the expectation that we can fly from New York to Los Angeles without fear of personal dismemberment. Chimpanzees are pretty smart, but were you to board an airplane filled with chimpanzees, you “would be lucky to disembark with all 10 fingers and toes still attached,” Dr. Hrdy writes.

a story we can all feel good about!

The RSPCA of Sheffield, UK, is starting up a scheme to shelter the pets of people fleeing domestic abuse.

The RSPCA is offering the PetRetreat service to pet owners who find themselves living in a hostel or another place where pets are banned. Officers at Sheffield Animal Centre say needing to care for a pet can stop people leaving difficult situations. […] “Pets can be targeted in domestic abuse situations and we know that not having a safe place for a beloved animal to go can be a barrier to leaving. RSPCA PetRetreat removes that barrier. Refuges can’t take animals for health and safety reasons, which is where we come in. This service allows people to go into refuge, in the knowledge that their pets are safe. Once they’re settled in a home of their own they can be reunited.”

This is one of those stories that makes me like the humans. What a perfectly sensible idea. Full story here.