Narvaez, D. (2020). Moral education in a time of human ecological devastation. Journal of Moral Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057240.2020.1781067
Abstract: Stories of civilization and progress tell us that humans cannot help being destructive, selfish, and aggressive, which are side effects of progress requiring sanctions and engineering. It can be argued that this approach has brought about the ecological collapse we face today. The older, more widespread view—that human personality and behavior are shaped by social support—respects the dignity of the individual and of other than humans, disallows coercion and expects high autonomy and communalism. The latter we can call the indigenous worldview and is apparent among sustainable societies. To ensure the development of human beings who live cooperatively with one another and in concert with ecological systems, moral education approaches should restore the non-civilized, ancient practices of raising good children. This paper examines what moral education should look like in light of children’s basic needs and the degraded developmental systems children often experience today.
Narvaez, D. (2020). Ecocentrism: Resetting baselines for virtue development. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 23, 391–406. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10677-020-10091-2
Abstract: From a planetary perspective, industrialized humans have become unvirtuous and holistically destructive in comparison to 99% of human genus existence. Why? This paper draws a transdisciplinary explanation. Humans are social mammals who are born particularly immature with a lengthy, decades-long maturational schedule and thus evolved an intensive nest for the young (soothing perinatal experience, responsive care, extensive breastfeeding, multiple responsive caregivers, positive social support, self-directed free play with multi-aged mates in the natural world). Neurosciences show that evolved nest components support normal development at all levels (e.g., neurobiological, social, psychological), laying the foundations for virtue. Nest components are degraded in industrialized societies. Studies and accounts of societies that provide the nest, particularly nomadic foragers, the type of society in which humanity spent 99% of its genus history, indicate a more virtuous human nature than that industrialized societies think is normal or possible. Nest-supported human nature displays Darwin’s moral sense whereas unnested individuals show dysregulation and a degraded moral sense—a species-atypical human nature. Original virtue is about flourishing—of self, human community and the more than human community—within all circles of life, based in a deep awareness of humanity’s dependence on the rest of nature to survive. The pillars of original virtue include relational attunement (engagement ethic), communal imagination, and respectful partnership with the natural world. All are apparent in human societies that provide the nest to their young, fostering connectedness throughout life. They maintain communal imagination through cultural practices that enhance ecological attachment and receptive intelligence to the natural world.
Kurth, A., Kohn, R., Bae, A., & Narvaez, D. (2020). Nature connection: A 3-week intervention increased ecological attachment, Ecopsychology, 12(2), 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1089/eco.2019.0038
Abstract: Humanity as a species has spent most of its existence moving with instead of against nature as found among Indigenous or First Nation communities traditionally. Yet most members of modern societies feel disconnected from nature, which is attributed to a lack of connection and respect toward the more than human. We developed assessment tools for ecological attachment from an Indigenous perspective, validating measures (n = 695) of ecological empathy (feeling concern for more-than-human entities), ecological mindfulness (mindful attitudes and behaviors toward living things), and green action (conservation behaviors). Then we conducted a 3-week behavioral intervention with university students (n = 47) with two conditions expected to increase ecological mindfulness: (1) Indigenous ecological attachment (e.g., acknowledge the trees you pass today) by which ecological empathy was expected to increase; (2) conservation behaviors (e.g., turning off lights) by which green action was expected to increase. In session one, participants completed key measures, read texts related to their condition (facts, a poem, and an essay), and selected condition-relevant actions to draw from and perform in the following 3 weeks (one selected per day). In session two, measures were retaken. In comparison with a control group, MANOVA revealed that hypotheses were supported: Only the ecological attachment group increased on ecological empathy, only the conservation group significantly increased on green actions, and both intervention groups increased on ecological mindfulness.
Narvaez, D., & Duckett, L. (2020). Ethics in early life care and lactation practice. Journal of Human Lactation. 36, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1177/0890334419888454
Abstract: In this editorial, we review briefly principles and concepts within health care ethics and approaches to moral decision making and behavior. We apply these principles and concepts to the realm of breastfeeding and lactation and do so with an emphasis on young children’s needs because many adults are unaware of children’s evolved needs. In addition, we point out how ethical actions at each level of the social ecological model could help adults implement what children need in 2020 and beyond.
Gleason, T., & Narvaez, D. (2019). Beyond resilience to thriving: Optimizing child wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 9(4), 60-79. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5502/ijw.v9i4.987
Abstract: Research in child wellbeing often assesses the effects of particular disadvantages or focuses on children’s resilience in adverse circumstances. In contrast, considering developmental optimization in early childhood, and what is necessary to foster it, informs the study of child wellbeing in the socioemotional domain. In the program of research reviewed here, we consider the kinds of early experiences that promote wellbeing, defined as optimal physiological and emotional regulation that enables a flexible sociomoral orientation to others. This work suggests that practices consistent with the evolved developmental niche (EDN), or the developmental system that likely characterized human caregiving over the course of evolution, facilitate development of the physiological and psychological systems of regulation that enable optimal wellbeing in the domain of sociomoral functioning. Aspects of EDN-consistent care provide a cohesive environmental context for development, but different facets of such care correspond to different outcomes related to socioemotional development. Overall, parental positive attitudes toward and provision of EDN-consistent care are associated with an orientation toward others that is prosocial, flexible, and engaged. These findings have emerged in samples in the US, Europe, and China, and suggest that the EDN might provide a useful framework for conceptualizing developmental optimization, for consideration of the important facets of early childhood care and education, and for fostering child wellbeing.
Tarsha, M., & Narvaez, D. (2019). The Evolved Nest: A partnership system that fosters child wellbeing. International Journal of Partnership Studies, 6(3). Open access: doi.org/10.24926/ijps.v6i3.2244
Abstract: Although most people want children to thrive, many adults in industrialized nations have forgotten what that means and how to foster thriving. We review the nature and effects of the evolved developmental system for human offspring, a partnership system that fosters every kind of wellbeing. The environment and the type of care received, particularly in early life, shape neurobiological process that give rise to social and moral capacities. A deep view of history sheds light on converging evidence from the fields of neuroscience, developmental psychology, epigenetics, and ethnographic research that depicts how sociomoral capacities are not hardwired but are biosocially constructed. The Evolved Nest is the ecological system of care that potentiates both physical and psychological thriving, the foundations of cooperative and egalitarian societies. Deprivation of the evolved nest thwarts human development, resulting in sub-optimal, species-atypical outcomes of illbeing, high stress reactivity, dysregulation, and limited sociomoral capabilities. Utilizing a wider lens that incorporates humanity’s deep ancestral history, it becomes clear that deprivation of the evolved nest cuts against the development of human nature and humanity’s cultural heritage. Returning to providing the evolved nest to families and communities holds the potential to revise contemporary understandings of wellbeing and human nature. It can expand current metrics of wellness, beyond resilience to optimization.
Narvaez, D., Wang, L., Cheng, A., Gleason, T., Woodbury, R., Kurth, A., & Lefever, J.B. (2019). The importance of early life touch for psychosocial and moral development. Psicologia: Reflexão e Crítica, 32:16 (open access). doi.org/10.1186/s41155-019-0129-0
Abstract: One of the primary means of communicating with a baby is through touch. Nurturing physical touch promotes healthy physiological development in social mammals, including humans. Physiology influences wellbeing and psychosocial functioning. The purpose of this paper is to explore the connections among early life positive and negative touch and wellbeing and sociomoral development. In study 1, mothers of preschoolers (n = 156) reported their attitudes toward positive/negative touch and on their children’s wellbeing and sociomoral outcomes, illustrating moderate to strong positive correlations between positive touch attitudes and children’s sociomoral capacities and orientations and negative correlations with psychopathology. In study 2, we used an existing longitudinal dataset, with at-risk mothers (n = 682) and their children to test touch effects on moral capacities and social behaviors in early life. Results demonstrated moderate to strong relationships between positive/negative touch and concurrent child behavioral regulation and positive correlations between low corporal punishment and child sociomoral outcomes. In a third study with adults (n = 607), we found significant mediation processes connecting retrospective reports of childhood touch to adult moral orientation through attachment security, mental health, and moral capacities. In general across studies, more affectionate touch and less punishing touch were positively associated with wellbeing and development of moral capacities and engaged moral orientation.
Tarsha, M., & Narvaez, D. (2019). Early life experience and aggression. Peace Studies Review, 32)1), 14-23.https://doi.org/10.1080/10402659.2019.1613591
Abstract: Is the human species hard-wired for violence? It is often assumed to be the case, accompanied by the assumption that external controls are needed to mitigate aggressive tendencies. But there are several empirically based counterarguments to this pessimist view, many of which underscore that the pessimistic view reflects shifted baselines—from child-raising practices, to what is considered normal human development and nature. We examine briefly views from ethological, historical, developmental, anthropological, and biological research.
Narvaez, D., Woodbury, R., Gleason, T., Kurth, A., Cheng, A., Wang, L., Deng, L., Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger, E., Christen, M., & Näpflin, C. (2019). Evolved Development Niche provision: Moral socialization, social maladaptation and social thriving in three countries. Sage Open, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244019840123
Abstract: Evolutionary systems theory identifies niches as key developmental inheritances for animals. The human evolved developmental niche (EDN) is characterized by positive touch, responsiveness, play, and social togetherness and provides the responsive, relational dynamism that optimizes development. Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of the human EDN have demonstrated correlations between degree of EDN consistency in early childhood and positive sociomoral development and avoidance of ill-being and misbehavior. We created a brief report of children’s recent EDN experience and examined its relation to child well-being and sociomoral development. Using samples from three cultures (United States, N=574; Switzerland, N=96; China, N=382), EDN provision in the past week was related to multiple child outcomes even after controlling for parental age, education, income, responsivity, and child gender. Factor analyses indicated three sets of latent factors in each sample: Moral Socialization, Social Maladaptation, and Social Thriving. Structural equation models indicated that EDN provision significantly predicted Social Thriving in all samples beyond control variables. EDN provision may be particularly helpful in predicting optimal social development.
Narvaez, D. (2019). Humility in four forms: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, community, and ecological. In J. Wright (Ed.), Humility (pp. 117-145). In book series, Multidisciplinary perspectives on virtues (N. Snow & D. Narvaez, series eds.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Abstract: Relational humility is not simply an intellectual thing, but embodied, “all the way down” to neurobiological systems. Humility is a developmental process, shaped and expressed within social systems from the beginning of life. Humility emerges naturally from “beingness” co-constructed by family and community. When parents and caregivers are humble before the needs of children, providing the evolved nest or developmental system for raising the young, a cascade of long-term effects ensues. When a baby is not treated with respect and empathy, with needs met promptly, neurobiology develops in the direction of self-protection with a cacostatic (too much or too little) orientation (dominance or submission) toward others, undermining capacities for humility. The cascade of effects shape cultural practices from the ground up, as individuals form and shape community cultures that carry across generations. Relational humility is defined as multi-layered, including intrapersonal, interpersonal, community and ecological humility—relational attunement with others and with the web of life. (155 words)
Narvaez, D. (2019). Evolution and the parenting ecology of moral development. In D. Laible, L. Padilla-Walker & G. Carlo (Eds.), Oxford handbook of parenting and moral development (pp. 91-106). New York: Oxford University Press.
Abstract: Evolutionary theory can enrich developmental theory but not just any evolutionary theory will do. Evolutionary systems theory is a developmentally friendly evolutionary theory unlike selfish gene theory because it identifies multiple inheritances beyond genes and takes into account the complex dynamism of development. One inheritance is the species-typical evolved nest, or evolved developmental niche, a set of community provisions that evolved to match up with the maturational schedule of the child. Ethogenesis describes the development of ethics across the life span. We can identify two primary moral inheritances that are fostered by the evolved nest. The first is engagement, or flexible relational attunement, which includes capacities for resonance, reciprocity, mutuality, sympathy, and egalitarian relations with face-to-face others. The second emerges with the development abstracting capabilities that build on engagement capacities into an inclusive communal imagination. A species-typical nest provides what babies and young children need to develop a full human nature.
Narvaez, D. (2019). Moral development and moral values: Evolutionary and neurobiological influences. In D. P. McAdams, R. L. Shiner, & J. L. Tackett (Eds.), Handbook of personality (pp. 345-363). New York, NY: Guilford.
Abstract: Research on moral development historically has focused on reasoning and judgment, with the assumption that they represent moral values and guide action. But, as in many areas of psychology, there is a gap between what people say or think should be done and their actual actions. Little prior work in psychological science has examined moral development from a developmental lifespan perspective to identify factors that result in adult prosocial behavior. Here moral value development is examined from an evolutionary relational developmental systems perspective. In this chapter several basic principles are foundational that are garnered from neurobiological sciences, anthropology, ethology and other observational sciences attending to the social ecology of human development. Moral development starts early, with initial life experiences within the developmental nest, shaping the neurobiology of personality and morality.
Ethogenetic theory (Narvaez, in press) integrates findings from multiple disciplines to explain the different courses of moral development that can occur based on the nature of the early nest and the experiences of the individual. To make judgments about normality, ethogenesis emphasizes appropriate baselines for human nature and optimality, using as gauges the Evolved Developmental Niche and the social structures and personality of humanity’s 99% history. ET can help explain the development of dispositional tendencies towards self-protective or open-hearted moralities based on whether the evolutionary design for support is followed or not. It explains how and why the “moral sense” identified in human evolution by Darwin may be diminishing.
Narvaez, D. (2019). In search of baselines: Why psychology needs cognitive archaeology. In T. Henley, M. Rossano & E. Kardas (Eds.), Handbook of cognitive archaeology: A psychological framework (pp. 104-119). London: Routledge.
Abstract: The societies where psychology has its deepest roots are those that have promoted the devastation of biocultural diversity around the world and led us to the brink of planetary disaster (Amel, Manning, Scott & Koger, 2017; Steffens et al., 2018; Trout, Stockman, Rubinstein & Maiorana, 2019; Turner, 1994). Yet, the institutions of contemporary psychology do not systematically critique these societies or their institutions; rather, they instead help citizens to “adjust” to a life-destroying culture (Kidner, 2001). The inability to critique one’s own fishbowl is not a surprise but psychology may play a significant role in perpetuating the systems that destroy life around the world, based on a web of myths in which they swim. Now that we have reached a critical point on the planet, it is imperative to rethink the assumptions, emphases and orientation of psychology. Cognitive archeology is poised to offer critical corrections and insights.
Narvaez, D. (2019). Evolution, childhood and the moral self. In R. Gipps & M. Lacewing (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of philosophy and psychoanalysis (pp. 637-659). London: Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198789703.013.39
Abstract: Humans inherit many things beyond genes (Oyama, 2000). One critical inheritance is the evolved developmental niche, the set of caregiving practices that match up with the maturational schedule of the child. These practices characterize social mammals, who emerged more than 30 million years ago, but are more intense and lengthy for humans (Konner, 2005, 2010). In essence, these are what babies and young children evolved to need to develop a human nature. The human “evolved developmental niche” (EDN) is evident among small band hunter gatherers (SBHG) who represent the 99% of human genus history. The EDN includes: soothing birth experience (no pain inducement, no separation of mom and baby); responsiveness to needs (preventing distress); extensive positive touch (nearly constant in first year); infant initiated breastfeeding for several years; multiple, responsive adult caregivers and community support; social climate that promotes positive emotions; free play in nature with multiple-aged play mates (through childhood). Among SBHG, broader social practices include radical individual autonomy and radical connection to and understanding of the natural environs (e.g., Ingold, 1999; his other stuff).
It makes sense to use small band hunter gatherers (SBHG) as a baseline for human development and human nature. Cultures that adults build and perpetuate are founded on the human dispositions brought about by early experience. The EDN builds a common human nature and a different moral self. SBHG around the world, who provide the EDN, are generous, egalitarian, agreeable, and peaceful. Neurobiological, clinical and developmental sciences are beginning to show the mechanisms for these developments. When early life “violates” the EDN, the physiology underlying health, wellbeing, social capacities, and receptive intelligence is misdeveloped; Primitive survival systems (anger, fear, panic) are enhanced and systems that otherwise control them are underdeveloped. Growth is toward larger I-ego, us-against-them mentality, and self-protective moralities.
Undermining evolved human development leads to destructive tendencies towards self and others, including non-humans. These tendencies get institutionalized in cultures and embedded in social practices over generations. Suboptimal development leads to cultures that are destructive in terms of human optimization, human relations, and living with the rest of the natural world.
Narvaez, D., Four Arrows, Halton, E., Collier, B., Enderle, G., & Nozick, R. (2019). People and planet in need of sustainable wisdom. In Narvaez, D., Four Arrows, Halton, E., Collier, B., Enderle, G. (Eds.), Indigenous sustainable wisdom: First Nation knowhow for global flourishing (pp. 1-24). New York: Peter Lang.
Abstract: However one measures inclusive wellbeing, the human species as we know it could be headed for extinction as it continues to behave suicidally in lifestyle decisions and actions. The warning signs of a planet in distress brought out the Cogi People of Colombia, who lived in seclusion for centuries. They contacted the BBC in 1990 to convey a message to the “younger brother,” those of Western civilization, to stop destroying the earth. They could discern from their mountain-top living that the natural world was in peril. Their ethics come from the land itself: “The Great Mother taught us right and wrong. Now they are digging up the Mother’s heart, and her eyes and ears. Stop digging and dinging. Do not cut down trees—they hurt, like cutting off your own leg.” (Eliare, 1990) (quoted on p. 98, Cooper). “If crops aren’t properly blessed, they dry up…that’s how it is” (Eliare, 1990). “If we act well, the earth will survive. If we do not, it will not” (Callicott, 1989, p. 90). More recently, such indigenous wisdom has also found form in the emerging scientific concept of the “Anthropocene” since 2000, of significant human-influenced impacts on global ecosystems, and a potential sixth major period of major extinctions already underway.
In order to change course, several key aspects of living must change. Indigenous wisdom provides a grounding for insights into living in sustainable, peaceful and respectful ways with earth biodiversity. This book will discuss many of these insights. However, the modern world has advanced human technology, theory and practice in unprecedented ways, some of which may be useful in rethinking ways to life respectfully and sustainably. And some which have not. This book attempts to offer indigenous wisdom and reflection about better understanding what we should take with us and what we should leave behind. This book also aims to examine ways to integrate modern and first ways.
Narvaez, D. (2019). Original practices for becoming and being human. In Narvaez, D., Four Arrows, Halton, E., Collier, B., Enderle, G. (Eds.), Indigenous sustainable wisdom: First Nation knowhow for global flourishing (pp. 90-110). New York: Peter Lang.
Abstract: Chapter five by Darcia Narvaez addresses the Original Practices for Becoming and Being Human. She explores the source of the two worldviews (the original indigenous and the modern) and focuses in on their emergence from child raising practices. Humans are more malleable than any other animal, born like fetuses, requiring intensive, communal and lengthy care. She describes the shifted baseline for nurturing in early life that governs childhoods in industrialized nations. Instead of provided the humanity’s evolved nest (soothing perinatal experiences, extensive on request breastfeeding, extensive affection and responsive care, multiple adult caregivers, self-directed play through childhood, positive social support), the industrialized world provides minimal care to babies and young children which leads to suboptimal development of neurobiological systems that govern personality and capacities for life. The dysregulation that results explains in part the soulessness of European invaders that shocked native peoples and the competitive detachment that characterizes industrialized culture.
Narvaez, D., & Witherington, D. (2018). Getting to baselines for human nature, development and wellbeing.. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 6 (1), 205-213. DOI: 10.1037/arc0000053
Abstract: To make judgments about research findings, one must have a baseline against which to compare the results. One of the baselines the field of psychology should use is what is normal or typical for humanity as a species. Humanity emerged from the social mammalian line with many similar basic needs. Human infants are born highly immature and require an intensive “nest” to grow properly. However, modern industrialized societies often do not provide humanity’s evolved nest, thereby undermining optimal normal development in their citizens. Yet, scientific psychologists, who assess citizens in these societies, assume they are studying typical members of the human species. But human beings are extensively shaped by postnatal experience, expected experience that the evolved nest provides. Humanity’s evolved nest has been a characteristic of virtually all societies until recently. Industrialized nations typically do not provide the evolved nest, leading to underdevelopment of human species characteristics which include cooperative sociality and nature connection, contributing to the current destructiveness of modern humans toward one another and the planet. We make several suggestions for how to realign psychological science to include the multi-disciplinary knowledge needed to understand humanity and the development of human nature. We recommend that psychology take seriously the evolved nest and assist parents and policymakers in its provision. Our future may depend on it.
Witherington, D., Overton, W., Lickliter, R., Marshall, P., & Narvaez, D. (2018). Metatheories and conceptual confusions in developmental science. Human Development, 61,181–198 (DOI:10.1159/000490160)
Abstract: The practice of science entails more than just repeated cycles of theory construction, hypothesis generation, and empirical investigation. Broader, metatheoretical levels of conceptualization necessarily condition all aspects of the research process, establishing the very meaning and sensibility of science’s empirical and theoretical activities. When debate arises at these metatheoretical levels, it is the subject of conceptual analysis, not empirical investigation. In this article, we examine the overarching metatheoretical divide that lies at the heart of many key theoretical debates in science: the divide between a Cartesian-Split-Mechanistic research paradigm and a Process-Relational research paradigm. We instantiate this divide in terms of three prominent domains of inquiry within developmental science: the study of epigenesis (including epigenetics); the study of embodiment, specifically embodied cognition; and the study of baselines for human nature and development. We reveal how core issues and theoretical debates within these domains derive from metatheoretical, not theoretical, points of contention.
Narvaez, D. (2018). The neurobiological bases of human moralities: Civilization’s misguided moral development. In C. Harding (Ed.), Dissecting the Superego: Moralities Under the Psychoanalytic Microscope (pp. 60-75). London: Routledge.
Abstract: Humans, like all animals, inherit an evolved nest for their young that optimizes normal development. Humanity spent 99% of its existence in societies that provided the nest, which nourishes practical wisdom that guides sociality and morality, and fosters flourishing. A species-atypical nest, common in civilized nations, is toxically stressful. It undermines neurobiological structures that undergird self and sociality, leading to a persecutorial superego with a focus on self-preservation. Morality becomes self-protectionism-- forms of self-preservation that are compulsively externalizing, internalizing or dissociative—and ecologically-destructive. Sociopathy becomes widespread and intergenerational. But cultures can change. Restoring the evolved nest can revive humanity’s potential.
Kurth, A., & Narvaez, D. (2018). The evolved developmental niche and children’s developing morality. In J. Delafield-Butt, A-W. Dunlop & C. Trevarthen (Eds.), The Child’s Curriculum: Working with the natural values of young children (pp. 104-125). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Abstract: Children evolved to be good. But this outcome requires a supportive early “nest” that fosters socioemotional intelligence, self-regulation and empathy. Within a supportive environment, children naturally develop orientations that facilitate prosocial behaviors within the community. We use small-band hunter-gatherers, the type of society that represents 99% of human genus history, as a baseline for early caregiving. In these societies, children grow into cooperative, agile moral actors. We provide advice to early caregivers on how to provide what children evolved to need in the modern world.
Narvaez, D. (2018). The developmental niche for peace. In P. Verbeek & B. Peters (Eds.), Peace ethology, behavioral processes and systems of peace (pp. 95-112). Oxford, England: Wiley-Blackwell.
Abstract: To find a baseline for human functioning including optimal morality, it is reasonable to turn to what most consider the type of society in which the human genus spent 99% of its history: small-band hunter-gatherer societies (SBHG;). If we examine the common culture and childrearing practices of SBHG, received views about human nature—that humans are violent and selfish—fall apart. Common characteristics include generosity and sharing, egalitarianism and lack of coercion. This chapter examines societal and personality characteristics and then reviews the set of evolved childrearing practices, the evolved developmental niche, that appears to bring about both. For young children, the EDN includes lengthy infant-initiated breastfeeding, prompt response to needs, positive touch, multiple adult caregivers, play with multi-aged mates, positive social climate, along with soothing perinatal experiences.These common early experiences that initiate basic similarities in moral foundations of thought and feeling, a “cultural commons,” forming the grounding for mental and moral agility and for a common humanity, fostering a similar, peaceful personality across cultures. Because SBHG provide the EDN for children, they offer a window into evolved human nature.
Narvaez, D. (2018). Ethogenesis: Evolution, early experience and moral becoming. In J. Graham & K. Gray (Eds.), The Atlas of Moral Psychology (pp. 451-464). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Abstract: Ethogenesis is the study of moral development from an evolutionary developmental systems standpoint which includes multiple ecological levels and extra-genetic inheritances (e.g., developmental niche, self-organization) that, when aligned with evolved basic needs, support optimal human moral development: relational attunement and communal imagination. Moral orientations emerge from the neurobiological development of the brain/mind biosocially constructed in early life through the evolved developmental niche, uniformly experienced until the last 1% of human existence, which introduced toxic stress, altering humanity’s capacities and moral sense.
Christen, M., Narvaez, D., & Gutzwiller, E. (2017). Comparing and integrating biological and cultural moral progress.Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 20: 55. doi:10.1007/s10677-016-9773-y
Abstract: Moral progress may be a matter of time scale. If intuitive measures of moral progress like the degree of physical violence within a society are taken as empirical markers, then most human societies have experienced moral progress in the last few centuries. However, if the development of the human species is taken as relevant time scale, there is evidence that humanity has experienced a global moral decline compared to a small-band hunter-gatherer (SBHG) baseline that represents a lifestyle presumed to largely account for 99% of human history. A counter-argument to such a diagnosis of moral decline is the fact that the living conditions of the modern world that emerged since sedentariness and the beginning of agriculture are completely different compared to those of SBHG due to cultural and technological developments. We therefore suggest that two notions of moral progress should be distinguished: a “biological notion” referring to the inherited capacities typical of the evolutionary niche of mammals and that unfold in a specific way in the human species; and a “cultural notion” that relates moral progress to dealing with an increasing diversity of temptations and possible wrongdoings in a human social world whose complexity accumulates in time. In our contribution, we describe these two different notions of moral progress, we discuss how they interact, how this interaction impacts the standards by which we measure moral progress, and we provide suggestions and justifications for re-aligning biological and cultural moral progress.
Narvaez, D. (2017). Getting back on track to being human. Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies, 4(1), March 2, 2017. Online free: DOI: https://doi.org/10.24926/ijps.v4i1.151
Abstract: Cooperation and compassion are forms of intelligence. Their lack is an indication of ongoing stress or toxic stress during development that undermined the usual growth of compassion capacities. Though it is hard to face at first awareness, humans in the dominant culture tend to be pretty unintelligent compared to those from societies that existed sustainably for thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of years. Whereas in sustainable societies everyone must learn to cooperate with earth’s systems to survive and thrive, in the dominant culture this is no longer the case. Now due to technological advances that do not take into account the long-term welfare of earth systems, humans have become “free riders” until these systems collapse from abuse or misuse. The dominant human culture, a “weed species,” has come to devastate planetary ecosystems in a matter of centuries. What do we do to return ourselves to living as earth creatures, as one species among many in community? Humanity needs to restore lost capacities—relational attunement and communal imagination—whose loss occurs primarily in cultures dominated by child-raising practices and ways of thinking that undermine cooperative companionship and a sense of partnership that otherwise develops from the beginning of life. To plant the seeds of cooperation, democracy, and partnership, we need to provide the evolved nest to children, and facilitate the development of ecological attachment to their landscape. This will take efforts at the individual, policy, and institutional levels.
Narvaez, D. (2017). Are we losing it? Darwin’s moral sense and the importance of early experience. In. R. Joyce (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Evolution and Philosophy (pp. 322-332). London: Routledge.
Abstract: Darwin proposed that humans have a “moral sense” that contributes to their evolution. He described several component characteristics inherited through the tree of life (social pleasure, empathy, social concern, habit control). Although he considered these components innate, the contrast between descriptions of small-band hunter-gatherer societies and the USA suggests that the attributes of Darwin’s moral sense may be more epigenetic and require post-natal support. We now know why: neurobiological research indicates that humans are dynamic biosocial systems whose early experience sets trajectories for subsequent life. The evolved developmental niche (EDN) represents the inherited, extra-genetic developmental system that corresponds to the maturational schedule of human development. The EDN for young children includes extensive breastfeeding, constant physical proximity, responsiveness to needs, free play, natural birth, multiple adult caregivers and positive social support. These practices foster healthy physiological and psychosocial development but also relational attunement and communal imagination. EDN-consistent care correlates with greater compassionate morality whereas EDN-inconsistent care is associated with self-protective morality. EDN-inconsistent childhoods may result in adults and cultures that do not display Darwin’s moral sense but one that is self-centered and destructive.
Narvaez, D. (2017). Evolution, childrearing and compassionate morality. In Paul Gilbert (Ed.), Compassion: Conceptualisations, Research and Use in Psychotherapy (pp. 78-186). London: Routledge.
Abstract: Like all animals, humans evolved an early nest that matches up with the maturational schedule of their offspring. Humans, especially immature at birth, require even more intensive parenting in early life when brain systems are under development, setting their parameters and thresholds. Converging evidence shows that characteristics of the human nest are related to the development of a compassionate moral sense. These characteristics include soothing perinatal experience, extensive breastfeeding, nearly constant touch, responsiveness to prevent distress, free play with multi-aged playmates in nature, multiple adult caregivers and positive social support. When the nest is less than optimal, children’s neurobiological development is not optimal, undermining capacities for compassionate morality that includes the natural world.
Narvaez, D., Wang, L, & Cheng, A. (2016). Evolved Developmental Niche History: Relation to adult psychopathology and morality. Applied Developmental Science, 20(4), 294-309. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2015.1128835
Abstract: Following prior work linking childhood experience to adult outcomes, we used an evolutionary framework to examine effects of childhood experience on adult psychopathology and morality. Every animal provides an early life developmental system, developmental manifold or “niche” for its young, a set of inherited extra-genetic characteristics that match up with the maturational schedule of the offspring to optimize development. Humans inherit a niche first shaped over 30 million years ago with the emergence of social mammals and modified through human evolution. The human “evolved developmental niche” (EDN) has been related to positive outcomes in young children. Using an adult sample (n = 606), we examined adult retrospective recollection of childhood EDN and its relation to attachment, psychopathology, sociomoral capacities, and ethical orientations. Significant direct and indirect effects were found through mediation models, with EDN predicting Social Engagement orientation through perspective taking, Social Opposition orientation through lack of perspective taking and Social Withdrawal orientation through personal distress.
Narvaez, D. (2016). Kohlberg Memorial Lecture 2015: Revitalizing human virtue by restoring organic morality. Journal of Moral Education, 45(3), 223-238. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03057240.2016.1167029
Abstract: Most of human history and prehistory was lived in economic poverty but with social and ecological wealth, both of which are diminishing as commodification takes over most everything. Human moral wealth has also deteriorated. Because humans are biosocially, dynamically, and epigenetically shaped, early experience is key for developing one’s moral capital. When early experience is species-atypical, meaning that it falls outside the evolved developmental niche (EDN), which is often the case in modern societies, biopsychosocial moral development is undermined, shifting one’s nature and worldview to self-protectionism. Individuals develop into self-regarding shadows of their potential selves, exhibiting threat-reactive moral mindsets that promote unjust treatment of other humans and nonhumans. Humanity’s moral wealth can be re-cultivated by taking up what indigenous people all over the world know: that a good life, a virtuous life, is a one that is led by a well-cultivated heart, embodied in action that includes partnership with nonhumans. Moral educators can help students to revamp their capacities with self-calming skills, the development of social pleasure and communal ecological imagination.
Narvaez, D. (2016). Reply: Returning to humanity’s moral heritages. Journal of Moral Education, 45(3), 256-260. http://dx.doi.org.proxy.library.nd.edu/10.1080/03057240.2016.1167030
Abstract: The main arguments of my lecture were how humans are failing themselves and devastating earth’s biosphere, at least in part, because they became uncooperative with two key ecological inheritances: raising the young within the human evolved developmental niche and, as part of this, facilitating the development of a deep attachment to, knowledge of and respect for their local landscape of other-than-human entities. Without humanity’s return to these cooperative evolutionary roots, the species will be doomed, along with many other-than-human beings. The now-widespread mental illness of ‘human supremacism’ that results from these missing pieces has spread around the planet and is destroying ecological integrity. The ‘Sacred Money and Markets’ story (SMM) that David Korten criticizes and I briefly discuss is a symptom of these missing pieces of human inheritance. We must return to a Sacred Life and Living Earth story with lifestyles to match.
Narvaez, D. (2016). Goodness, survival and flourishing. Philosophical News, 12, 56-64.
Abstract: The Western world is still trying to come to grips with a history that extends past the 6000 years originally assumed by the Christian world into millions of years and integration with the evolving tree of life. The last 1% of human genus existence (around 10,000 years in mostly sedentary communities) represents an aberration in the history of humanity. Philosophical and practical approaches to living abandoned following natural laws and shifted against living cooperatively with the biodiverse community. Children in sedentary societies are raised in species-atypical ways and do not reach their human potential. As a result, adults have only a partial human nature and often feel distant from and superior to the rest of nature, leading to a detached destruction of the earth. Restoring goodness and flourishing requires returning to the laws of nature in child raising and living affectionately with the biocommunity.
Narvaez, D. (2016). Baselines for virtue. In J. Annas, D. Narvaez, & N. Snow (Eds.), Developing the virtues: Integrating perspectives (pp. 14-33). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Abstract: Like all animals, humans evolved a nest for the young that matches up with maturational needs. The nest is one of many inheritances beyond genes (Oyama, Griffiths & Gray, 2001). The evolved nest, whose components emerged over 30 million years ago with social mammals, includes soothing birth, extensive breastfeeding, responsive care, plenty of affection, self-directed free play in the natural world with multi-aged mates, and positive social support. When communities do not provide the nest, the continuum of normal-optimal development is broken and we should not be surprised that psychopathology results. The cultural commons of the evolved nest shapes the neurobiology and body/brain/mind functioning, bringing about a self-regulated, cooperative personality, apparent in societies that provide the nest. A degraded nest creates all sorts of disorders that have lifelong effects and are carried into subsequent generations through epigenetic inheritance (e.g., Meaney, 2001). In early life, nest components actually mold the very plastic but immature neurobiology humans arrive with at birth...
Darcia Narvaez, PhD
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