Tobacco and the Regulation of Capitalism

This is the first in a series of essays on the regulation of capitalism. With them I hope to convince you that we can move toward a system of capitalism that maximizes human wellbeing, while minimizing regulations that restrain its many benefits. In this essay I start with the example of the tobacco industry. In subsequent essays I will demonstrate how the principles that underlie the problem of the harm that the tobacco industry does are just as applicable to the marketing of alcohol to young people, fossil fuel consumption, the pharmaceutical industry, the arms industry, and the financial system.…

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Choosing Goals for Intentional Cultural Evolution

I wholeheartedly endorse Peter Richerson’s call for scientists to become advocates.  As he suggests, the traditional image of the “objective” scientist, above the fray, was never accurate.  And we have come to a point in the evolution of societies where the human sciences must play a pivotal role.  I say this in the context of the growing evidence that climate change risks catastrophic outcomes for humans and thousands of other species 1. In our paper in Brain and Behavior Sciences, we argued that evolutionary theory provides a framework for intentionally influencing cultural evolution. In the spirit of this view, Dennis…

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Why Sustainability Needs Prevention Science

Timothy Waring and Ethan Tremblay’s theoretical analysis of an evolutionary approach to sustainability science is useful for clarifying the contextual influences on sustainable practices.  In that regard, it may be helpful to connect this theoretical analysis to some specific problems of sustainability that must be addressed if catastrophic climate change is to be prevented.  The beauty of an evolutionary analysis is that it can pinpoint malleable contextual variables that affect the behaviors of individuals and the actions of groups or organizations (Biglan & Hayes, 2016).  This is not to say that one must pursue such an agenda—one can analyze contexts affecting…

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Prevention Science, Climate Change, and the Evolution of a Social Movement

I am excited to see the formation of the Social Evolution Forum. We are building a network of scientific disciplines around an evolutionary perspective, including an evolutionary approach to cultural evolution. It has the potential to bring science and practice together around the goal of evolving far more nurturing societies. We have people in economics, biology, psychology, sociology, psychiatry, and anthropology. In an earlier essay, I described how a large, wealthy, and sophisticated coalition of business interests has outcompeted the sectors of society concerned about human wellbeing and how the Evolution Institute and a host of other organizations have the…

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Rant Less Organize More!

I have held back in stating my worst fears about what could happen in a Trump presidency. But his actions in the first few days of his administration make it indelibly clear that he will do all of the things he threatened to do during the campaign. Today he is turning to immigrants in just the way he said he would. I have been a student of American history my whole life. When I was in high school I read an obscure book by Sinclair Lewis called It Can’t Happen Here. Written in the 1930s, the novel gave a plausible…

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The Case for Prevention Science – in the Huff Post

Co-authors are Neil Wollman, PhD, Senior Fellow, Bentley Service-Learning Center at Bentley University in Waltham, MA and Diana H. Fishbein, PhD, C. Eugene Bennett Chair in Prevention Research, Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, PA. They are the Co-Directors of the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives, which is working with Congressional offices across the aisle and with state governments. While candidates at the national, state, and local levels for the presidency and other offices hone their policy agendas, we implore them to be guided by prevention science. In areas as…

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Where Terrorism Research Goes Wrong

TERRORISM is increasing. According to the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, groups connected with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State committed close to 200 attacks per year between 2007 and 2010, a number that grew by more than 200 percent, to about 600 attacks, in 2013. Since 9/11, the study of terrorism has also increased. Now, you might think that more study would lead to more effective antiterrorism policies and thus to less terrorism. But on the face of it, this does not seem to be happening. What has gone wrong? The answer is that we have…

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Nurture vs. Nature? As a Practical Matter, It’s Nurture

The once ubiquitous debates about nature vs. nurture have become much less common. Instead, it has become apparent that both our genetic nature and our environments affect our behavior. So, the answer is not one or the other: it is both. But if the issue underlying this controversy is whether we can and should build a society that does more to nurture wellbeing, then please come down on the side of nurturance. There is no question that humans vary in their genetic capacities to learn, to be pro or antisocial, and to be healthy. But as a practical matter, if…

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Ten Things You Can Do to See Your Children Thrive

The start of a new year marks a time of change, resolution, and celebration. As you look to the New Year, you may be thinking about what you can do to see your children grow to their fullest potential. Children grow to become caring and productive adults through their day-to-day experience in nurturing environments. Outlined in The Nurture Effect are the top 10 ways for parents to nurture their children: Be generous with praise and reward your children by listening to them and spending time with them. Minimize your use of punishment. When you have to give a negative consequence make…

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A Nurture Challenge for the New Year

“Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.” — David Mallett We can build nurturing communities by taking a series of large and small steps. As you begin the New Year, you may be thinking about what you can do in your community to make it more safe, positive, and nurturing. The Nurture Effect outlines the top six ways citizens can foster nurturing communities: Show courtesy and respect for those who disagree with you. Identify, advocate for, and enact policies that reduce family poverty. See: http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports2/2015/12/aei-brookings-poverty-and-opportunity. Implement a policy requiring every proposed law or regulation to include an…

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