“We’re all cousins”: A Conversation with Patrick Clarkin

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“We’re All Cousins”: A conversation with biological anthropologist
Patrick F. Clarkin, PhD
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Last month, I very fortunately stumbled upon the blog of Patrick F. Clarkin, PhD, a biological anthropologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston. With a blog URL name that includes “Kevishere” in honor of his brother, Kevin Clarkin, he wrote a deeply moving post entitled, “Life is Beautiful.” Reader, I cried when I read it. The essay’s strength is owed in equal parts to both excellent writing and the fact that its content roots itself in evolution and the origins of life itself. The breadth of this fine and sweeping lens is palpable beneath the text. Feeling intrepid, I decided to email Patrick Clarkin and was delighted when he wrote back. A few weeks later, I asked if he wanted to be interviewed. He agreed, and you’ll find the resulting conversation below.

Now I, based on amazing first-hand experience, can recommend that everybody go and interview a biological anthropologist—find one! Do it now! It’s very fun. Thanks, Patrick.

Topics of conversation: blogging; the internet; writing; privacy; biological anthropology; children; race; human variation; New England; epigenetics; science; teaching; metanarratives; trauma; pathology; adaptation; PTSD; obesity; plasticity; evolution; resilience; TED Talks; neuroplasticity; hope; migration; Southeast Asia; Hmong people; Laotian people; Cambodian people; France; monasteries; curiosity; fetal origins hypothesis; Bill Bryson; Richard Dawkins; optimism; innate sociality; pro-social behavior; Gaia theory; difference

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INTERVIEW
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I have a few questions that I prepared to ask you, but was thinking this would be more of a conversation. So, I’ve never talked to anybody [I “met”] from a blog before.

Oh, me, neither. It’s weird, in the world before the internet you didn’t kind of meet people in that way.

I know! But, it’s really great. I actually found the link to the piece that you wrote about your brother through a web log. So, I was really excited about that.

Oh, cool.

So, I wanted to—

You’re a good writer, too.

Thanks. Yeah, I hide my writing, but thank you.

You hide it?

I do. I’m a—, I think I’m just a very private person. And I also think that because the nature of my writing is so personal, [I struggle with how] it feels very revelatory.

Well, you’ve got a lot to say, and you have a pretty unique story. And I do see what you’re saying about hiding. At some point when I’m reading your stuff, I can feel like there’s a layer underneath it.

Hmm. Yeah. You would pick that up, because you’re a writer! But, it’s definitely a challenge, kind of like what you prefaced your piece with back in 2010, just struggling to know whether to share something or not with the wider world, or just even on the internet and posting it somewhere public [like a blog]. That’s something I struggle with, as someone who mostly writes nonfiction prose: that sense of feeling revealed, which is good. I mean, I think that’s part of writing, right? That you create something and then you put it out there and don’t have any control over how it’s interpreted or how it’s read. But, hopefully it serves for something, or that someone can be moved or even helped by it.

Yeah, there’s a lot in anthropology, or just being social animals, about showing one version of yourself and then kind of holding back some of that inner stuff in your core. And you reveal that to a few people privately.

Right. And there’s definitely a balance there. You have a little bit of a buffer, I think. I think you have a really good sense of balancing that in terms of your being a biological anthropologist, and—

Oh, it’s an excuse to write.

It’s an excuse to write? Being a biological anthropologist?

It’s an excuse, yeah, because I weave in the theoretical and the personal. And I don’t really know which one I’m more interested in.

I like hearing that. It gives me a different way of approaching writing, or that there are different ways to share what’s very personal in ways that are actually kind of spacious or universal. Or, not universal—I mean, it’s very specific, but that it’s grounded in something larger than the experience itself.

Yeah. The last blog post I wrote was about arrogance, and then I also talked about arrogance in general, through different cultures and why it might have evolved and all of that, but it’s also interesting from a personal perspective: why does this exist?

Why arrogance, specifically, exists?

Yeah, and why my arrogance.

What do you mean, your arrogance?

Oh, you know, nothing that I revealed on the blog, but just in my private life. Like, sometimes I might say something that offends somebody and I’ll just get down on myself like, “Why was I such a jerk in that moment?”

Right. Okay, so I had a question for you: why biological anthropology?

When I was a kid, I went to a school where I was one of the few white faces in the room, and it made me think about human variation. And then in college there was this class that talked about human evolution, human variation, and that kind of got me into it. Soo Na, can you hold on just a second? I’ve got a young boy who needs attention.

No problem.

Okay. Oh, yeah, okay. I’ve gotta get something to eat.

Do you need me to call you back?

No, no. I have two sons and they have a friend over.

That sounds fun.

And the friend is not shy. He told me he’s hungry. All taken care of. They’ve got some chips.

How old are your sons: you have a five-year old son and a three-year old son?

Well, now they’re older. The older one is just about to turn nine—

Oh, wow.

Yeah. And the younger one is five.

Are those fun ages?

…They’re different. Yeah. But, they’re all fun. And trying, too. There’s a lot of work, a lot of work that goes into being a parent, but it’s a mix of reward and work.

So, you were talking about biological anthropology and just being interested in human variation. Where did you grow up? Did you grow up in Boston?

Yeah, I’m from the New England area, from Providence, RI, actually. As a kid, I thought, “Why do people look different? Where does this come from?” And in the class, it was called Human Origins, they talked about things like the evolution of skin color and why that could be adaptive under different circumstances, and I was just kind of floored that people had answers to this. But, it never trickled down before college. We never learned about this in grade school or high school. And I thought it was really important. So, they kind of hooked me.

Was it a pretty straightforward path for you, in terms of following that thread of inquiry?

Yeah, I mean I was interested in biological anthropology from that first class, and then I did probably another three years focusing on that as an undergraduate, then went right to grad school. And, yeah, I was pretty lucky to go all the way through, and even find a job at the end, too.

That’s great.

It’s pretty tricky out there. There’s a lot of really good people who are looking for jobs.

Yes, definitely. So, do you feel comfortable calling yourself a lifelong scientist now, in terms of having studied biological anthropology and now teaching it? Is that something you identify with, being a scientist?

I don’t know. The thing about anthropology is that it has its fingers in so many different areas that I wouldn’t call myself a scientist. I mean I do science, definitely. I go into evolution, things like that. But, I don’t know, just the word scientist to me has a different connotation! I just imagine somebody in the lab, and it’s not really so much what I do.

Okay. And would you say that writing is, in a way, what brought you to anthropology? What’s the relationship between writing and your research interests?

Well, to be honest before I had a blog I never really wrote in that way before. Academic writing is very dry and it can really almost strip the fun away from writing. And I think blog writing offers a different way. I think I blog in the way that I teach, which is to say, “Here are some very interesting facts, and here’s roughly why I think this is meaningful.” It’s not just science for its own sake, or study for its own sake. These things are important, I think.

Yeah. One of the things that I liked, one of the things that is interesting to me also, is neuroscientific approaches to thinking about things that are complex and confounding, like emotions, and difficult emotions, strong emotions. Do you think that anthropology can give a different language to talk about emotions? What do you think about people being able to understand complex emotional states through the language or lens of biological anthropology?

That’s a really good question. We think that, we look at human beings as sort of these dual creatures: we’re evolved animals, we’re very intelligent animals, we have a biological history. But, we can also think and we also grow up in different cultures, and my take on it is that all people on the planet, more or less, without individual variation, are pretty much the same at birth. And then they grow up in these cultures and their cultures tell them how to make sense of their powerful emotions. There are some studies that say something like, say, powerful as romantic love, right? In some cultures, it’s the best thing that there is. In other cultures, it’s actually madness. And so they can see the same basic biological thing in very different ways: one is great, and the other is something to be avoided or controlled. So, I’m not sure if that answers your question perfectly, but the basic idea is that different cultures can interpret the same thing in very different ways.

It kind of makes me think of this idea of epigenetics, when you were talking about everybody is born the same, and then—depending on context—different potentialities arise and different ways of conceptualizing emotions or just feeling states are inculcated. Maybe that’s too strong of a word, but how people interpret their sensory experience of those emotions, that interpretive language that they use is context-specific. And, epigenetics, have you thought a lot about that, or is that something that’s interesting to you in terms of…for example, epigenetics, my understanding of it is when people have multiple gene potentials and then depending on what kinds of experiences they have within their environment, those gene potentials are either activated or dormant. Is that something that you’ve come across in your research interests?

Yeah, and I—by the way, the way that you’re speaking about this is very sophisticated. What is your background?

Um, documentary filmmaker, writer, and poli sci [political science]. [Laugh] And that was a long time ago.

Poli sci?

I just read a lot.

Okay. Okay, and you did send me that article about child trauma.

You know, a lot of my entry point to this kind of, to the kind of questions that I’m asking is very much based on personal experience. And, not to—I think one of the things that I struggle with, like how I was saying earlier that I’m very private about my writing, part of it is that the way that I try to make sense of my experience is reading 13,000-participant studies like the ACE Study, and reading those results. Or, reading about epigenetics, for example. Or reading Robert Sapolsky and his stress studies on cortisol responses in primates. Those things help me understand myself, and it also helps put [things into] context. When I was studying history and political science, political history and social science as an undergrad, it gave me a language, number one, and it also gave me context that wasn’t specific to the specificity of my experience, which is important and relevant, and it really…I mean, it’s not so simplistic as, “It’s not just me, it’s everybody. Everybody has these experiences.” It’s not that kind of a dichotomy, but it’s definitely, there’s some larger kind of metanarrative happening that’s not…I think a lot of things get pathologized. And, this is very abstract and perhaps obtuse in the way that I’m talking about it, but a lot of human experience becomes pathologized and very de-contextualized, and I think there’s a violence in that. I think there’s a violence in not seeing the larger historical trajectories of why things happen, and how things happen in the way that they do, and the ways in which people historically relate with each other, whether it’s how society conceptualizes and relates with childrearing and children, or how it relates to women and women’s bodies. And so the reason why I’m interested in your work, and also in your personal essays as well, is that they’re all connected, and that there isn’t a discrete boundary or border between those things.

Well, I think I should be interviewing you.

No, I’m interviewing you right now!

That was very well put, and I really like that. And, I agree with everything you just said. Yeah, and the search for pathology is, I think in some ways, a search for a name. Like, we like to put names on things and label things, and so we come up with terms like, whatever, PTSD, or even obesity becomes a pathology.

Right.

And then they give it a number, right? Like, if your body mass index is over a certain threshold, then all the sudden, boom! You’re overweight. Or, boom! You’re obese. And if you’re a decimal point below that number, you’re fine, you’re healthy. And it really pulls the context away of all the reasons why people are biologically, or psychologically, the way that they are, and just focuses on the thing that you’ve given a name. But. Sorry, we got off track, but you were asking about epigenetics.

Yes! That’s okay.

And the way that you put it, which I thought was very eloquent, about potentialities, and you have multiple ways that you could go, and I really like that. In one of my classes I actually teach the students about a guy named Matt Ridley, who said, “Plasticity, to be plastic, is actually evolution’s master stroke.” Right? Which is the idea that if a gene is going to do something, it’s even better for that gene to be able to do multiple somethings. So, it can read its environment and say, “It’s not looking so good under these conditions. Let’s go in a different way.” And so, to be flexible and plastic actually gives you a lot more environments that you could possibly live in. So, when it comes to the idea of pathology versus adaptation, right, asking, “Is this gene’s direction going in the right or wrong direction?” is probably not the best way to look at it. But, more like, “Under these conditions, what kind of chances does this give you?” So, I kind of like that way of thinking about it, just being pliable and able to go into multiple and different environments, even with the same genes that we’ve inherited from our parents.

I really like the juxtaposition between adaptation versus pathology, because I think a lot of people just get stuck in the pathology part.

Yeah, like something you wrote about resilience. At one point, in one of your posts—you have so many! I signed up by email [to follow your blog], and it’s like, here’s another one, and here’s another one! But, in one of them you were talking about resilience.

Yeah, that’s really important to me, this concept of resilience, and plasticity along with it, grounded in this idea of epigenetic potential for people. That there is—and this has probably been said before, I think there’s even a TED Talk about the danger of a single story, or a single narrative—in terms of resilience, part of what trauma does to people, specific to trauma, is that it’s like having blinders on. Or, just having a very narrow point of focus, and that it feels like a trap. And it is constraining, and trauma is constraining. Trauma is about constriction, in some ways, in terms of like the bodily experience of it, or just how it seems to shape or distort a person’s life. And I think in terms of resilience, that’s sort of fresh air sweeping into something. I get this image of snow on high mountains thawing and defrosting, and it’s running downstream at a very rapid pace, flushing out all of the old, stagnant stuff. And so this idea of resilience and plasticity to me is that sort of momentum and that freshness kind of being able to reveal that there are actually other options, and other stories, and other possibilities. And I think that’s what—you know, you write a lot about hope, and these possibilities for reconciliation. In your post about forgiveness and reconciliation, you end with hope. And I think that’s what neuroplasticity offers. And I think that’s what this idea of resilience offers: that we do have the ability to transform our experiences into something that actually serves us, and strengthens us, and gives us new ways to move forward. And I think that’s what I’m interested in in my life, or just in general, but specific to my life, too, that there are, that the world is not a single vision, and it’s not a reified, stuck thing. And if you think that, it’s probably because of trauma. Or it’s because of something somebody told you, that sort of story, and it’s not, it’s not true. That’s my sense.

I like that. There are a lot of pessimists out there. And, I think that my writing, my blog, I have a bit of pessimism in me as well. But, I don’t think that’s, I think it’s a smaller fraction of myself, and I think the blog is there to kind of, well [to talk about] the science, but also to latch onto the things that I find hopeful out there in science.

So, what do you find hopeful out there in science?

Oh, a lot of stuff! I do, I do. Some people, like my father for example, he will say, “There’s always been war, there’s always going to be war, and that’s just the way it is, that’s how we’re built.” But, I think what you said about pathology, that that’s sort of you’ve got blinders on, you’re missing out on all the other stuff. But, the very fact that—you’re in Northern California, right? So, you’re in a city with tens of thousands of other people, and they’ve chosen to live together. I mean, why did they do that? There must be something almost inherently beneficial about that, rather than just having a bunch of hermits living in a cave somewhere, just in total fear of other human beings. There’s something innately social, I think, about our species. And that’s a good thing. But, the bad part is that we usually find our groups to be more important than other people’s groups, right? So then we break down into ethnicities, or classes, or cultures, or nation states, and things like this. But, even those are not permanent boundaries. We can overcome those. So, I think that’s hopeful, and I think that it’s a really ancient thing, where we’re primates, and primates have been social for tens of millions of years. So, I think it’s really deeply embedded within us. And I latch onto that.

What do you think about people who are hermits?

Well, nobody on the planet is completely self-sufficient, right? Even Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, I don’t know if you know him?

I don’t know him personally, but I’ve heard of him.

Okay, yeah, I’m glad you don’t know him personally. But even he had to get his bomb materials from somewhere. He had to get his clothing from somewhere, and his food from somewhere. So, maybe he didn’t want all that social contact, but even he was not able to manage everything completely on his own, and nobody has been for, I don’t know, probably even before our species came along.

What do you see as, when people migrate, for example, sometimes those social connections are ruptured and obviously people build new ones where they go, but do you ever—I mean, you must, I think—but do you, what do you think of those ruptures? What are ways that people heal those ruptures? What are the responses you have seen to people who have been displaced, or have had those sorts of social ruptures and how have people dealt with that?

Yeah. Well, I would say now I’m kind of wandering out of the areas where I feel comfortable, but I did some research with Southeast Asian refugees, mostly Hmong, Laotian, and Cambodian, and I didn’t specifically ask them those questions. I was mostly focused on physical growth and development, and the way that the war impacted their health. But, you know, these people have been displaced by war, and they’ve had all of those social connections ruptured, but they do forge new ones. So, when the Hmong came to the U.S., the government strategy was actually to spread them across the country so that they wouldn’t quote unquote “overburden any area.” They don’t want to dump 200,000 people in Omaha, NE, so they’d spread them out in different cities. But, they would find each other, through telephone, through resilience, by letters. And then they would re-cluster together to be with their family, or friends, or just somebody who was kind of like them in sharing a similar experience, and I don’t know…we’re pulled towards that. Somebody who’s kind of like me, who can understand me. So, maybe that’s a way to find new social connections. When two Hmong people meet each other, one of the first questions is, “What clan are you from?” And then they talk about relatives, so they can find somebody in common, roughly. And then they feel like they’ve got some kind of a link there. And it’s interesting, that maybe we require that: something in common, some kind of connection with another person. It’s hard to be completely self-sufficient. But, we do it with friends, spouses, you know, whatever, anybody.

I mean, this is kind of a more pessimistic part of me that feels sad when I consider that maybe shared sympathy between people is just a result of having similar prejudices in common.

That means the groups that you don’t like, or something?

No, I mean that’s a very, yeah, that’s a very cynical way of putting it. But, I just wonder. For example, when I was in the monastery in France, I really liked the bewilderment that everyone experienced there, linguistically, because at some point you would meet someone who did not speak your language, or the language that you’re fluent in, or that you understood, and everybody felt a little bit ill at ease. And we all shared that. And it was a way to sort of break down this sense of the assumptions that we had when we approached each other, and when we spoke with each other. When I say shared sympathy between people is about having similar prejudices, what I mean is I think sometimes people can—one thing that I really value is when people’s curiosity outweighs their assumptions. And I think that’s where that’s coming from.

Oh, I see what you’re saying. Yeah, okay. The sort of getting rid of fear, in a way.

Yeah, I think so.

That curiosity is actually, there is sort of a fear with people who are different, whatever it is: a fear of them, or fears of you looking foolish. You know, if I go out on a limb and try to talk to somebody else who might not have anything in common with me, am I going to somehow be shot down, or something like that.

What was most surprising for you when you were first studying biological anthropology as a grad student? What things really solidified that as a long-term interest for you?

I have to go back a ways. I started grad school in ’96. It’s hard to think like that now, in 1996 terms, but, I don’t know, I think it was solidifying what I learned as an undergraduate. So, surprises? I don’t know. I actually had an office mate, she was a good friend of mine, and we were both feeling pretty burnt out, you know, reading this stuff over and over again, and wondering what the future was going to be like. And she turned me onto this idea—well it was kind of like epigenetics, actually—called the fetal origins hypothesis. It says that your prenatal environment really influences your later biology. And when I was first encountering this stuff, I was thinking about it in terms of pathology. So, if your mother is actually starved or she smokes or all these different things, that they have long-term impacts that can lead to diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, all this other stuff. And that was my first entrée into the subject. But, later, you know some of the stuff that we’ve been talking about today, you and I, about maybe it’s not just pathology. Maybe it’s about flexibility, and that the fetus is actually kind of trying to read the mom’s environment, so it’s going, “Which way should I go at this point?” That was a big idea, and I’m grateful that she actually turned me onto that.

Thanks for sharing that. That’s really interesting.

That idea at the time was kind of touch and go, and now it’s very solid. There are so many books on it.

Okay, a question about blogging: how do you make the decision to share more personal things on your blog? What’s that process like?

Well, the first one about my brother, where I was very hesitant, I thought, “Oh, I’m supposed to be a professor and I’m supposed to keep this very much on the straight and narrow.” And I just said, “To hell with it!” [Laugh] Why should other people tell me how I should be? There’s some freedom that comes with writing. And it was pretty tough to talk about, but it helped. You know, some of it is like therapy.

Yeah. Do you ever, have you ever regretted sharing something on your blog?

No. I mean, I’ll read the [older posts] sometimes and maybe get a little bit disappointed in the quality of the writing, and go, “You rushed that off.” But, not really because it revealed anything too private. I mean, I’m not going to reveal everything. It’s not Oprah.

No.

I mean I guess there are probably circles of privacy, right? Like, your really close inner circle, things you’ll do, and you can’t share everything with everybody in the world.

No.

Right, because not everybody would interpret it in a benevolent way.

What is the function of art in biological anthropology? Or creativity?

Ideally, science and art they overlap somewhere. The idea that [you’re not] just repeating other people’s experiments, [but] gaining new knowledge or new exploration, so I think there’s a quality of creativity in science.

Okay, so I know that you said you couldn’t back it up, or you were worried that you wouldn’t be able to back it up or something, but I was really moved by this one line that you wrote in an email to me, after I first wrote to you, because I was really touched by your post about your brother, Kevin. And in your email response you wrote, “Nature went overboard with grief.” The way that my intellectual inquiry moves is that some of it is based on experience, and maybe that’s how everybody approaches it, I don’t know. It’s different, I guess, for everyone. But one of the things that I think about a lot is complex grief. And when you wrote that—about nature going overboard with certain emotions, or with grief—I agreed because I think part of why I enjoy science or even neuroscience, or talking about neuroanatomy and where emotion, where in the brain activity lights up when people are experiencing certain affective states is that it gives us, like you said, a language to talk about it and a way to understand it in a way different from that immersive feeling state itself. Grief is one of those things. You know, I had a friend who once said, “I’m not mourning all the time,” regarding his adoption, nor am I, but I think that it is something that is etched into my experience. And for some reason, I just really liked how you were able to pull in Bill Bryson, and I think at some point you also quoted Richard Dawkins, when you were talking about in some ways grief, that it lent this sense of an anchor or this groundedness and a spaciousness that I think is so refreshing and so necessary to those sorts of conversations. You know, and I do consider grief to be adaptive versus pathological. I think that it allows us to connect with people better, and I even see it having made possible this internet blog connection with somebody who wrote about grief, because I’m processing my grief, in many ways. And so that was something that really meant a lot, and also something that I was also really curious about. So, I just want to know if you had anything to say about what you wrote to me. I mean, it’s not like a dissertation, but how did you come to that idea, that nature went overboard with grief?

Well, I wouldn’t say that I came up with that idea.

Okay.

I don’t know where I heard it. Where I originally heard it, it wasn’t dealing with grief, it was just dealing with emotions in general. They were talking about this idea that if what you wanted to feel was at this conscious level, then you could kind of choose to not feel it. So, instead, the idea is that nature built those emotions in there to make you commit to them to where you can’t really turn them off exactly when you want to. You need to maybe turn on another emotion to knock the first one out, right? Because we tend to think of ourselves as very rational beings, but we’re really not. I mean we have a really ancient part of our brain that sometimes controls us, and grief is probably one of those, people might say like love, early-stage love is very powerful…but not really so much like joy. [Laugh]

[Laugh]

I mean, there aren’t people just, like, elated all the time, and that kind of sucks. And I heard one idea out there, which is that maybe nature wants you to be a little bit uneasy, because if you’re totally satisfied with your station in life, then there’s nothing else to do and you get lazy and complacent, and that’s not a very good thing to do. So, maybe, whatever, like anxiety, worrying about your crops, or your exams that you have to [take], the worry helps. But, I think that the really intense grief, I don’t know, I wonder how adaptive it is. Maybe, like you said, it’s to make connections with other people. People can say, “Are you okay?” I don’t really have a definitive answer; I don’t know where I fall on that. It’s really powerful. But, I think it’s so that nature makes it so that it’s not an option: you don’t get to just pick and choose.

Yeah. Okay, those are all of the questions I prepared for you, but I wonder if there is anything else you want to mention about things that we’ve talked about today?

I mean, maybe not everybody feels this way, but I’m a long-term optimist for human beings.

What do you mean by “long-term optimist”?

Yeah, I’m a long-term optimist. Earlier, you asked me if I regretted anything on my blog. One thing that I maybe do is I wonder if I’m sacrificing objectivity—I’m supposed to be an objective scientist—for kind of “new age” stuff.

How do you define “new age”?

I’m just using that as a throwaway term.

Okay, a placeholder—

But, when you write about personal stuff, some people don’t see how that belongs on a biological anthropology blog. But, I am an optimist, though. And I think a lot of scientists are. If you listen to Carl Sagan quotes, there’s a lot in there that’s good. I think he said something like, “For all of our fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness.” We just have to point out where those fallibilities are, and then learn how to manage, like you said, to get a vocabulary around these things, our weak spots.

What exactly makes you an optimist, a long-term optimist?

Well, I think we’ve got a few things: we’ve got the social thing, the fact that we all live together, and we choose that. We also have science so we can escape our cognitive biases to try to figure out why we’re so screwed up, and then what to do about it. [Laugh]

[Laugh] So, sentience, self-awareness.

Hopefully that helps.

I hope so.

And there are other things. Like, and this isn’t really science, but social trends. Now you can have interracial marriages, and acceptance of gay marriage has gone way up in the past couple of decades, even. These are fairly rapid trends, which I think are hopeful. But, about difference, right, to be more understanding of people who are not exactly like you.

Yeah. I think biological anthropology really allows people to talk about difference in a way that’s not so loaded, and I think that’s one of the gifts of anthropology, in fact, that it actually strips us down to our core needs and that, as you said, that we are really social. And that’s how our brains develop, and how our emotions develop, interactively, and I just like that language of difference that anthropology offers to people that’s not—I mean, there’s value and there’s intention and meaning in everything, and I think biological anthropology can give people a different way to approach it that’s not so steeped in assumptions, for lack of a better way to say it.

No, I agree. And I think an evolutionary perspective is pretty hopeful, too. Basically, the idea that everything on this planet is related, which is kind of new age-y.

Like the Gaia theory.

But, we’re all cousins.

I like that. I’m going to end it with, “We’re all cousins.” Thank you so much for talking with me.

You’re very welcome. I’m flattered to be asked. It’s great to talk to you, because when you approached me by email, I could see right away that your brain is thinking at a pretty high level, so thank you.

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Related: T-Rex Trying To Do A Trust Fall, (c) Hugh Murphy.

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