Broadcast 4/15/2016 at 17:33:14
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Darcia Narvaez is a professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, specializing in ethical development and moral education. She is executive editor of the Journal of Moral Education.
And she is Conference Chair "Sustainable Wisdom: Integrating Indigenous KnowHow for Global Flourishing ," University of Notre Dame, which I hope to attend.
Her most recent book is Neurobiology and the development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom, recipient of the 2015 American Psychological Associations William James Award (I've had two other William James Award winners on this show, Dan McAdams and Howard Gardner) Dr. Narvaez is in very lofty company as the winner of that award. Here are the criteria for the award:
a book which "best serves to further the goals of the society by providing an outstanding example of an effort to bring together diverse subfields of psychology and related disciplines. This work must provide a coherent framework that stands as a creative synthesis of theory and fact from disparate areas and demonstrates an essential underlying set of themes that serve to unify or integrate the field."
She writes, in her about page on her website:
My academic scholarship has moved from work on nonconscious moral rationality to moral character education in the schools to the neurobiology of moral development, to the study of evolved parenting practices, and the study of small-band hunter-gatherers who represent the type of society in which humans evolved . All this comes together in a moral developmental systems theory that emphasizes the ongoing epigenetic plasticity of how we develop our humanity and our morality.
My concerns are for developmental optimization and fulfilling human potential--actionable communal imagination.
All my careers aim at discovering what it means to be human, to develop and use one's talents, to give more than take from Life, and to live a virtuous life.
Very Rough Interview Notes
Rob: I have to say that this book is not just brilliant. It is profoundly brilliant. New ideas and new ways of combining knowledge fly from almost every page. This is the kind of book that can change the world. I would expect that the William James Award will be the first of many. Her thinking is the kind that could win a Nobel prize. Yes. I am a big fan. And I love the way study of aboriginal, Small Band Hunter Cultures is integrated with brain science.
Professor Narvaez, I've been eagerly anticipating this interview for weeks. Welcome to the show.
Rob: a few questions to set up our two part, two hour interview:
What's the elevator pitch for your book?
What are the goals for the book?
I call my show bottom up radio and your book is so much about bottom up, so please, frame your book from a bottom up perspective. I'm also very interested in how narcissists and sociopaths and psychopaths are created, which your book explains better than any I've ever encountered.
DN: civilization as we know is really damaging the brains of our children. We have forgotten what we need, what our nest should be like, which is more than 30 million years old. It's led us to be a weed culture destroying everyone in it's path because we've l oct our highest capacities. When you don't give babies what they need they end up becoming aberrant" missing a sense of commonality with all beings.
Depending on how badly the baby was uncared for and abused you can see the development of narcissism"
most popular post at Psychology blog, Moral Landscapes, is Dangers of Crying it out, with over 2 million views.
Rob: what would be your goals for how the book would change the world.
heal the adults, they have to get back into the present moment and loving their babies and loving their children, which we train out of children in schools.
have cultures shift towards making family life central-- starting with bonding of babies with mothers in hospitals, family leave, so parents can stay home and guide. The community has to rally around families instead of corporation welfare. That's the core of any society is how well we care for children and parents have to be supported to do that.
Children have much more freedom-- safe places for children to run around, have a self-directed kind of childhood.
Colin Turnbull describes how he was punished for expressing him self.
Mbuti in Botswana, because they were encouraged, with not punished, reach adolescence much more ready to be able to function
Indigenous perspective is that everything is alive and has agency. We have to reshape ourselves.
Rob: You say, in your article, The 99 Percent-- Development and Socialization Within an Evolutionary Context, growing Up to Become "A Good and Useful Human Being"
"In comparison to our pre-agriculture foraging cousins we are far from virtuous and might even be considered to have lost our minds if not our humanity."" that we are "in fact quite immoral, wicked and stupid if we use anthropological reports of those who live like our presumed nomadic foraging gatherer-hunter ancestors as a baseline." That's opposed to the Hobbesian view that humans are violent, selfish, aggressive, dog-eat-dog.
What it is to be human-- title of my guest the late Robert Wolff's book
Rob: I've had conversations discussing your book where people say that prehistoric people were violent, aggressive, etc.
Stephen Pinker and Douglas Fry
Small Band Hunter Gatherers-- are immediate return. They don't store any resources. They don't store food, domesticate animals or hoard food. This is 99% of our history was spent in this kind of society-- this very in the moment lifestyle.
You start to have complex hunter gather societies. Some people start to accumulate more things and you start to have hierarchy and chieftains.
Chris Baum anthropoplogist
Humans moved to be much more egalitarian than our primate cousins.
People talk about how good we are with our laws and institutions. But we have violence built into our cultures.
Charles ? sociopathy is built into every element of getting ahead
Rob: I summarize the message of the book.
DN: The first 18 months for human babies have to be an external womb.
at full term birth the brain is at 25% of the size of the adult brain. Those first months are when the brain's systems are setting parameters.
Michael" done work with rats. If you don't have a high nurturing mother in the first days of your life you will have a stress responsive nervous system.
Rob: my take is that the best way to prevent crime, narcissism, psychopath is to help parents to be great, nurturing parents.
DN: And they need elderly, community help. First time parents aren't very
Can I go through the early nest: Social mammals emerged 30-40 million years with certain evolved fixation-- that didn't change much-- breast feeding. Predators have thick breast milk so parents can go off and hunt for hours. Humans have thin breast milk. Breast milk is linked to
Did FMRI and magnetic resonance-- comparing babies who were breast fed-- babies brain were developing better.
Rob: so based on the breast milk, humans are not predators.
Robert Sussman argues that we're scavengers
DN: I have a lot to say about hunters and gatherers.
In traditional societies the hunter has to be in the right, respectful mode in respect to the prey. There are stories that the prey will look
The hunter has to be of a good virtuous character and then the prey wil come to you.
There's the honorable harvest.
Robin Wall Kimmerer book braiding sweetgrass
also there's respectful interaction with plants.
Our planet is a web of interconnected relatedness and mutualism. The whole planet is one of cooperation.
Our bias towards all this aggression and competition is in part the result of how we raise kids.
Rob: idea of connection consciousness.. Optimal parenting produces children who
DN. parenting practices:
keeping the baby calm. Hunter gatherers carry the baby around, touch is essential. That will grow a good calm brain and personality.
colin trevarsen video
quite a different worldview, that the the earth is there to nurture us.
Keeping the baby on the skin will help the vagus nerve to grow well.
Rob: tell us about the vagus nerve
When you have damage you see lack of facial expression.
Vagus nerve connects brain, heart, gut, immune system is mostly about the gut
Smart vagus enables you to but brakes on the sympathetic nervous system stress response.
Rob: How does this tie into morality.
It's hard to be open hearted when you're anxious.
Stress systems can be be mis-set so you can be stress reactive so stress kicks in
You do things to others to feel safe again.
Your homeostasis is thrown off. A normal person would be able to rebalance, but a person with poor neurobiology will be caught
blaming, externalizing, bombing or withdrawing"
Being a bully or being a victim are seen as that's the way life is.
Rob: and this is something that happens to non optimally raised
DN continuing on parenting
self directed play, not organized sports with multiply aged playmates. We should have mixed age groups not isolated by age. That builds competition.
Kids who do not get enough play are going to look like they have ADHD
There is a lot of coercion, built into our s ystem. That's violence.
Another is multiple adult caregivers. Parents need, wise, compassionate experienced people around
Soothing births. We have the baby friendly hospital initiative
In 2011 we had 4% baby friendly. Last year it was 12%
Baby friendly, don't separate baby from mother, don't give formula.
Last thing is positive climate so that the child is wanted, is in an environment and community where they can get positive reactions.
Rob: need for a baby bill of rights.
DN: Insuring that babies get these practices
stmilk, touching and holding, play, lack of coercion and punishment. Those are the things
Rob: What would i t cost to implement your vision
cost of not breastfeeding costs $900 billion
If you're oriented to t he welfare of corporations it will cost a lot to refocus.
Less secure attachment
Rob: can you talk about attachment and what that means?
Freud suggested that nothing was only milk.
John Bowlby came up with attachment theory, linked to animal studies
Harry Harlow was raising monkeys and found that baby mothers turned into autistic, damaged without mother love.
Evolutional inheritance makes mother want to and enjoy taking care of baby.
Attachment system is an internal working model of how the world works-- your filter, framework of how you related.
Insecure attachment means you had a caregiver who was inconsistent and you learn to not trust the caregiver.
The two main insecure attachments
-child is signaling and emotions are ignored but if they do something cognitive they are attended to A lot of professors are like this
-ambivalent or anxious attachment-- you've learned to scream to get attention, so your thinking is impaired.
You can see that with Trump. Demonstrates obsessive compulsiveness and getting what he wants.
Rob: another concept you brought up is Open hearted morality.
When you have good neurobiology, when you are not afraid, angry, you are able to be receptive to the other, able to connect hear to heart. It's relate do limbic resonance. We need each other to sort of regulate ourselves.
Hunter gatherers sit shoulder to shoulder or hold hands.
Rob: limbic resonance?
other oriented system in brain, connecting to others. There's something about the mother and baby connecting this way.
Rob: Can you summarize what we've gone over so far.
We've forgotten in civilized societies, what babies need. We need to return to the human nest that support the maturational
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