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By Jim Loehr

"A psychologist offers a new vision for humanity’s future by exploring the scientific foundations of our violent past.

While the “daily barrage of disheartening news” may seem like a 21st-century phenomenon, Loehr emphasizes its continuity within humanity’s long history of violence and hate. In this exposé of “the darker aspects of human nature,” he describes how war, genocide, prejudice, and corruption are embedded in the fundamental psychology of Homo sapiens. Claiming that the book’s exploration of the human mind will “shake the very core of your beliefs,” the author begins with the central evolutionary “flaw” of the human brain: its coded prioritization of self-preservation and the perpetuation of its progeny. While these concepts, ingrained in human DNA, have led to our dominance of the planet, they’ve also fostered hostility among humans as the species self-divided along emerging tribal and social identities. The book’s second part explores the consequences of these psychological traits, convincingly tracing them to humanity’s long history of war, genocide, and political corruption. The third part emphasizes the “Tug-of-War Between Altruism and Inhumanity,” noting humanity’s paradoxical “boundless capacity for goodness” and our simultaneous propensity toward violence. A particularly compelling chapter in this section explores the evolutionary history of morality. Loehr posits that, far from being an objective reality (as many religions claim), morality—when approached psychologically—is revealed to be a fundamentally malleable and subjective concept. As such, the brain often serves as humanity’s worst “enabler” by providing internal rationales that justify horrid acts of violence. The book’s fourth part shifts the focus from a pessimistic assessment of humans to propose ways that we can use modern neuroscience and psychology to create a “New Paradigm for Change.” Just as countless feral animal species have been domesticated in ways that reduce their natural instincts toward aggression, the author states, so too can humans “self-domesticate” and suppress their inborn tendencies. The book also includes a 20-week training program designed for individuals, teachers, coaches, and other vested parties to harness their knowledge of evolutionary biology and psychology to create a better future.

The author of 19 books (and the co-author of the 2005 national bestseller The Power of Full Engagement) and the co-founder of the Human Performance Institute, Loehr does a solid job of balancing his scientific overview with practical steps readers can take to apply the book’s content to their own lives. The main text is accompanied by a wealth of reflective questions designed for individual meditation or group discussion. The author draws upon a wealth of scholarly sources (the book features over 100 references) in crafting this well-researched, interdisciplinary work. The book’s impressive research is balanced by an engaging narrative that welcomes non-specialists with jargon-free analysis. This emphasis on accessibility is reflected in the work’s efficiency (the book comes in at just under 165 total pages) and in its inclusion of ample charts, photographs, AI-generated images, and other visual elements. While cynical readers may remain skeptical of humanity’s ability to evolve, given our tarnished history, the book nevertheless makes a poignant call for the “urgency to act and instigate change on a global scale.”

A well-researched, absorbing exploration of the darkest corners of the human mind."

~ Kirkus Book Review

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