The big evolutionary idea that I think is going to transform our thinking in the social sciences in the next 10 years is group selection. What this means is that we actually have all kinds of mental equipment for suppressing self-interest, for working for the common good, but only when we are basically at war with another team. We can be unselfish, we can be cooperative, but that is activated by intergroup conflict.Quoting Jonathan Haidt, from a recent discussion with Michael Bergeisen, posted at the Greater Good website. Haidt is best known for his 2006 book The Happiness Hypothesis. "His [forthcoming] book focuses on the psychological foundations of our moral and political views, exploring how recent discoveries in moral psychology might help us get past the culture wars and create more civil forms of politics."
If we are attacked by space aliens, I think we humans will unite pretty well. But until then, it’s just very, very difficult for us to solve any sort of dilemma that requires people to sacrifice for the greater good—unless it’s the greater good of their team versus another’s.
So it’s really a shame that global warming has become so politicized. We are capable of solving some things, like taking lead out of gasoline. There are some regulatory changes that have been made that weren’t so politicized. But once it becomes politicized, it’s very difficult to achieve global cooperation.