On Human Compassion: Encountering The Dalai Lama’s Scientific Mind : NPR

In a speech at the College of William and Mary, the Dalai Lama described the unique nature of human compassion versus that of other animals. What matters as much as his conclusions, says commentator Barbara J. King


In this way the Dalai Lama moved fluidly between what I’d call a continuum model of compassion, one in which our brand of loving kindness emerges from that of other mammals, and a dichotomy model, which stresses that our species’ compassion is like no other animal’s.


But is this accurate? Is there a sharp division such that other animals never express compassion for strangers or enemies? I’m not entirely sure. When Frans de Waal discusses empathy, he likes to tell the story of the captive bonobo Kuni who came to the aid of a wounded bird. And in the wild, elephants may try to help an ailing or dead elephant, even when that animal is a stranger.