Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Are Humans Genetically Programmed To Care About Long-term Future And Climate Change?

Date:
May 27, 2009
Source:
University of Warwick
Summary:
Humans may be programmed by evolution to care about the long-term future, suggests new research. A study finds that individuals may have an innate tendency to care about the long-term future of their communities, over timescales much longer than an individual’s lifespan. This in turn may help to explain people’s wish to take action over long-term environmental problems.

Humans may be programmed by evolution to care about the future of the environment, suggests new research.

Dr Peter Sozou suggests that individuals may have an innate tendency to care about the long-term future of their communities, over timescales much longer than an individual’s lifespan. This in turn may help to explain people’s wish to take action over long-term environmental problems.

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, in a paper entitled "Individual and social discounting in a viscous population."

Dr Sozou, of the University of Warwick’s Medical School and the London School of Economics and Political Science, uses a mathematical model of a population of individuals living in communities with limited migration between them.

The study examines what weight individuals should attach to future benefits. It is shown that the answer depends on whether the future benefits are social benefits for their community or private benefits for themselves. Individuals should be expected to take a long-term view of benefits for their community, but a more short-term view of private benefits to themselves. Humans, like all creatures, generally value a reward today more highly than a reward tomorrow – in other words they discount future benefits. But the model shows that the discount rate is lower for social, rather than individual, benefits.

Dr Sozou said: "This analysis shows that the social discount rate is generally lower than the private discount rate. An individual’s valuation of a future benefit to herself is governed by the probability that she will still be alive in future. But she may value future benefits to her community over a timescale considerably longer than her own lifespan.

"Evolution is driven by competition. Caring about the future of your community makes evolutionary sense to the extent that future members of your community are likely to be your relatives."

However this evolutionary logic does not apply, at first glance, in the case of a global threat such as climate change where the ‘community’, the planet, is not in competition with other communities. "In the absence of this competition," says Dr Sozou, "there is no direct basis for evolution to select behaviours which benefit the planet as a whole, and therefore no evolutionary basis for directly determining a social discount rate for global welfare."

In which case why do we care at all about the long-term future of humanity? The answer, Dr Sozou suggests, is that we have evolved to value social benefits because in our ancestral environment they tended to deliver local benefits – helping our kin to survive. However in the modern age, it is this biological preference for social good which gives us an interest in the future of the planet: "In the modern, global environment, such preferences may cause people to care about global problems such as climate change.

"This issue is particularly important for economics as it has a bearing on decisions about public investments and environmental protection measures - actions which typically involve paying a cost today in order to produce a public benefit tomorrow."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Warwick. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Warwick. "Are Humans Genetically Programmed To Care About Long-term Future And Climate Change?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090527105711.htm>.
University of Warwick. (2009, May 27). Are Humans Genetically Programmed To Care About Long-term Future And Climate Change?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090527105711.htm
University of Warwick. "Are Humans Genetically Programmed To Care About Long-term Future And Climate Change?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090527105711.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

AP (Aug. 29, 2014) Several communities were evacuated and some international flights were diverted on Friday after one of the most active volcanos in the region erupts. (Aug. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) The mystery of the moving rocks in Death Valley, California, has finally been solved. Scientists are pointing to a combo of water, ice and wind. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

AP (Aug. 27, 2014) Thundering surf spawned by Hurricane Marie pounded the Southern California coast Wednesday, causing minor flooding in a low-lying beach town. High surf warnings were posted for Los Angeles County south through Orange County. (Aug. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins