Sam Harris, Covid-19 And An Emergent Unity

In his thought-provoking book A Moral Landscape, Sam Harris discusses the source of altruism.

“The economist Samuel Bowles has argued that lethal outgroup hostility and ingroup altruism are two sides of the same coin. People unite when they have an enemy to fight. His computer model suggests that altruism cannot emerge without some level of conflict between groups. If true, this is one of many places where we must transcend evolutionary pressures through reason because, barring an attack from outer space, we now lack a proper out group to inspire us to further altruism.”

While I agree with his stance that we should strive to use reason, among other great faculties we possess to transcend potentially destructive evolutionary instincts, I disagree that an alien invasion would be the only potential source of a new outgroup against which we might be motivated to rally.

This was originally written for a concept — the Superorganism — I’ll have to be share another time. A new “outgroup” — an outside, galvanizing force — has appeared.

Covid 19 began spreading at incredible speeds. And the threat is so wide and significant that it has caused a new global movement of people trying to assist the heroic efforts of medical professionals everywhere. People stepping back from each other and from the society we were operating in last week — for the good of all.

There’s a lot of trepidation, none of us knowing what we do about the whole machine having halted.

And although can feel scary, all of us stepping back, there is something comforting, encouraging and inspiring about us all doing it together. There’s a tangible sense of collectiveness.

Every great philosophy talks about the power of a strong why. What more powerful why is there than the survival, health and wellness of everyone? Out of this emergency, something new and powerful has emerged. A new spirit, a new sentiment.

While on many levels, we want things to return to normal as soon as possible, this spirit is something we should retain and foster as we move forward to whatever new horizons it might open.

Love, health and togetherness,


Martial Artist, Philosopher, Writer

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store