The mechanism for these sensations is “ mirror neurons ” in our brains. When we see someone doing or experiencing something, we experience it virtually — as though within our minds we are that other person. When you combine this with the fairness directive in the previous section, and our in- group/outgroup bias, it can engender empathy for and defense of others, especially if they are in our in-group. This has its ancestral roots way back before we were even human. Chimps (and other apes) exhibit empathy and 'morality' in this sense as well. If a subordinate male tries to steal or cheat and then gets pummeled by the silverback dominant male in the group, the rest of the troupe ignores the punishment, looks on and lets it happen. However, if the same dominant male makes an unprovoked attack on the subordinate male, when he had done nothing at all, the troop grooms and consoles him after the beating. Ape empathy.
There is a complicated calculus between Me over Us, and Us over Them, but we can feel what the Us and Them are feeling.
TaaL: Mirror neurons are cool, and it ’ s great that there ’ s a human biological mechanism for something sort of like empathy: it gives you a starting place. Why do I say “ sort of ” ? Well, my people consider true empathy to emerge from love and logic as a rational goal and outcome, while mirror neurons are an evolutionary kludge which can go haywire now that you ’ re living in vastly larger tribes than those for which you evolved. What do I mean by going haywire? For one thing, humans can easily empathize with individuals while not giving a damn about groups, because mirror neurons don ’ t simulate groups, only individuals. It is quite the opposite; seeing a group of 1,000 suffering children is a turn-off to a human, while a single suffering child will tweak the mirror neurons. Rational empathy would engage with the thousand far more intensely than the one. (It ’ s good to see that some humans are now successfully making this transition and extending it beyond their in-groups and species.) In the “ mega superorganisms ” you now exist within, mirror-neuron-based empathy can easily have 100 million people devoting all available empathy to the narrative of a single well-publicized individual while ignoring large- scale issues of far greater importance and statistical validity. Penny -wise and
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