Dear Dr. Fox: Thank you for adding to my lexicon the term “empathy deficit disorder” (EDD)! This line in your recent column was spot-on: “Where is the feeling and responsibility for harmful consequences beyond profit margins and investor satisfaction?”
Unfortunately, that train left the station before trains were invented! Profit is always the motive for commerce. However, personal responsibility to fellow man is the dream of philosophy.
A friend once told me he had an obligation, due to his wealth, to helping the less fortunate. He put his efforts and resources where he could. He was one of those unseen and unheard-of corporate captains who did not behave with EDD. Therefore, my question is: Is EDD learned or is it genetic?
— P.D.C., Asbury Park, Pennsylvania
Dear P.D.C: I appreciate your thoughtful question and comments. In my opinion, the EDD is epigenetic, determined by the interactions of genes and environment, the latter being cultural-parental-educational, the former still part of our gene pool. Natural selection for competitiveness and exceptionalism through eons of wars and insurrections may have assured continuance of such genetic propensities which most of us possess.
The collective human desire to live in peace and harmony will never be realized so long as some cannot even abide in peace and harmony with a few wolves, coyotes and other wildlife where they live. They evidently enjoy killing them, even turning the slaughter, which state wildlife managers refer to as sustainable “harvesting,” into a recreational and competitive sport.
To kill to live, as per the wolf and native hunter, is the ethical antithesis of living to kill, as per the sporting trophy hunter. There is no moral equivalence in Nature to justifying killing for sport, recreation or pleasure. The only justification can come from an anthropocentric and increasingly harmful, depraved existence, culturally inherited and even religiously sanctioned.
So we can and must train ourselves to control those impulses that may harm others and ourselves. See the book “Programming the Human Biocomputer” by fellow ethologist and dolphin researcher Dr. John C. Lilly. We can change our minds, but first we must see to our hearts.
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