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Speaker Robert Kurzban

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[Applause and music] Dr. Robert Kurzban. Psychologist. Today we know more than ever what it means to be human. There is a human nature, but it is not one that leaves us fixed and immutable in our thoughts. More than any other species, humans have the capacity to learn, to change. We learn a language, we learn about life we even learn about learning. Far from being empty vessels to be filled by our experiences we are active participants in the construction of our world views. Even children, in some ways especially children choose from the ideas around them making decisions about what to believe what to doubt, and what to reject. An important part of this is learning about the people in the world around us. No one is born into the world loving some and hating others. Instead, we are born with the capacity to love the capacity to hate, along with other capacities like fear and hope. Who we love, what we fear, and what we dare to hope are choices that we make. We also have the capacity, indeed the tendency to separate us from them. People will use even the smallest of differences to form this divide and, once established, people are more tolerant respectful, and kind to those who they see as "Us" rather than "Them". Furthermore, the conventional wisdom has traditionally been that once learned, the boundaries between "Us" and "Them" are nearly impervious to revision. My research however, began by questioning this somewhat pessimistic outlook. We now know that how people perceive "Us" and "Them" is nearly limitless in its flexibility. Recent laboratory work has even shown that seemingly obvious features, like the color of others' skin is sometimes completely ignored. When people observe others cooperating with one another they notice not what sets them apart but rather what connects them. The social world is complex and dynamic. Yesterday's foes become today's friends as the causes which unite us become more important than the matters which seemed to divide us. Every day research in biology and genetics is showing that beneath superficial differences lie deep similarities. Our very essence makes us deeply, indelibly united in our common humanity. So my message today is this: There's nothing that stops anyone from changing who they see as "Them" and who they see as "Us". Each moment, each of us decide how we will see others and these decisions are important today as they never have been before. We, as members of the same species share the same planet, share the same problems. Today, science reveals that may be no limit to who we see as "Us". It is within our human nature to see that there is an "Us" to work for "Us", and together to make "Us" better off. Eventually, some day, there might not be any more "Thems". [Applause]

Video Details

Duration: 2 minutes and 49 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
License: Public Domain
Genre: None
Views: 410
Posted by: pangea on May 14, 2008

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