Reposted with permission from SuperWeed:
A new study published in Science demonstrated startling deficiencies in empathy and reasoning among even the most highly educated and otherwise proficient people. The researchers conducting this widely publicized study placed mammals in positions of frightening frustration and then dispassionately sat back and watched to see whether other mammals would come to the rescue—thereby demonstrating their own radical lack of empathy.
When the subjects of their research (who had not consented to participate and were not free to exit the study, however extremely emotionally distressful it became) did indeed set aside self-interest to aid others, the researchers pronounced themselves astonished. Their surprise suggests a significant failure in cognitive processing, given the wealth of preexisting ethological data based on naturalistic observation, not to mention their own plentiful prior opportunities to observe empathy and altruism among non-human mammals.
Whether this failure to compute is due to neurological deficits or to emotional interference remains to be determined. These researchers were highly educated adults affiliated with the departments of psychology, psychiatry, and neurobiology at a major university; this argues against the likelihood of intellectual disability. It appears more likely that the emotion of not wanting to believe that their research subjects also have emotions inhibited their perceptual and cognitive abilities significantly. However, this is not possible to assess without further research into such habitual and highly motivated cognitive lapses.
Similarly, it is not now possible to determine whether these researchers exhibit low levels of activity in the mirror neurons thought to be responsible for empathy or to what degree that deficiency may be shared by others of their species. Although fMRI scans might help to determine the neurological substrate of the radical lack of empathy they demonstrated, we still would not know whether the deficit itself was due to physiological disability—an actual inability to experience empathy—or motivated (albeit unconscious) suppression of that ability.
Further research into these questions is urgently needed, as the cognitive deficits manifested by these scientists figure in many of Homo Sapiens most pressing problems, including the infamous self-centeredness of the “one percent” (lack of empathy) and the ongoing “controversy” over climate change (refusal or inability to draw conclusions from available facts).