Tell us why you wrote the book, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom.

I discovered why I wrote the book after I wrote it. My intention initially was to examine the neurobiological aspects of morality—how our brain/mind shifts into different moral orientations depending on stress. But also depending on how well our brain/mind was cultivated during the time periods of its greatest growth—early life.

Q Then what happened?

I discovered afterward that there was a larger purpose to writing the book. That larger purpose was to expand the imaginations of people in the modern world. They seem to have forgotten their true heritages and capacities.

Q What do you want people to understand?

When a society undercares for children they don’t develop wellbeing and full social and moral capacities. They become adults who create a culture of competitive detachment and continue the undercare of children. This spirals away from our true heritages of social and emotional engagement with others and communal imagination that involves all entities on the earth.

Q Where do you find our true heritages?

We can see a different way to be when we study small-band hunter gatherers, the type of society that represents 99% of human genus history. They provide what their young children evolved to need because humans are born very immature at birth and need intensive parenting like constant touch and mutual reciprocal responsiveness. As a result, the children’s neurobiological systems form well; they develop receptive intelligence which is different from the type of focused, categorical intelligence IQ tests measure.

What is particularly striking is that they not only develop deep empathy for the people in their community but for the animals and plants in the community—they actually attend to them as communicating creatures. And they keep their autonomy within the bounds of this empathy and don’t go destroying things, because nothing is a "thing". Everything is alive with spirit and deserving of respect. They live within a universe of living entities, a community of beings. Of course we do too, but it is an awareness that is suppressed and undermined by the way we raise children and how we place our attention.

Q How do we get back to our heritages?

In the book I suggest ways to get back to our heritages as individuals, to our capacities for presence and mindfulness, to our communal imaginations but not only with other humans in mind but with partnership with non-human entitities. To be a moral person is to continually practice what I call Development Ethical Ecological Practice. It is a combination of the Wisdom traditions from civilized societies with the primal wisdom found in small-band hunter-gatherer societies. First, you must learn to keep yourself calm and from mindlessly shifting into self-protectionist modes. Second, one must learn to increase social pleasure and emotional presence with others. Third, one must expand one's imagination and attachment to one's local landscape--attending to all the relationships and responsibilities for biodiverse thriving right at home.

Q What is your next book?

My next book will focus on the communal level and how to integrate the helpful skills and understandings of our time with the wisdom and practices of our hunter-gatherer and indigenous cousins.