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Primal Pathways

“George Halvorson’s new and impressive body of work brings his considerable intellect and experience to bear on the big questions of our age: war and peace; social and economic division, tribalism and separatism, compassion and cruelty. Drawing on a deep understanding of contemporary research in the social and behavioral sciences, Halvorson weaves together the patterns that explain why our tribalism is deeply rooted in human psychology and group dynamics. He connects the dots at the individual, group, tribe, and societal level to explain so much of what we are witnessing in our politics, economic, and world affairs. Beyond diagnosis he advocates for treatment, by understanding the root cause of our individual and collective behaviors and confronting the evil with the good that is within us. It is a prescription for peace and harmony, over conflict and division. We should learn and apply his teachings as a society and as individuals.” —

Ian Morrison — Author, "The Second Curve: Managing the Velocity of Change"


“In this highly informative and thought provoking book, the author has tackled one of the most challenging subjects in medical, behavioral and social science - the nature and role of human instincts. His approach to the topic is refreshing, as it does not dwell on complex neurobiology or ethereal psychoanalytic style speculation. Instead, Halvorson applies his characteristic plain language design to each chapter. Following a very useful overview of the role of instincts in our lives, he addresses a broad range of characteristics of human instincts including, among others, the propensity for instinct-driven division of our world into "Us" versus "Them" groups. While such categorization might appear obvious to some, the author's dissection of the subject and reliance on clear and compelling examples is persuasive - it makes clear beyond a reasonable doubt that misdirection of human instinctual behavior can have devastating consequences.

Halvorson presents each face of the topic with equal balance and objectivity - the positive, constructive aspect of human instincts and the negative, destructive aspect. This 'non-partisan' treatment is perhaps the most powerful quality of the book as it inspires a broader and more honest consideration of the implications, merits and flaws of human instincts rather than simply favoring one or another group of traits. 

One of the most interesting chapters (Chapter 9) addresses our instincts to decorate and create art forms and how such instincts impact intergroup relations. The message that the author conveys is simple but powerful - that the expression of aesthetic instincts can enhance peace instead of having the alternative effect of divisively demarcating properties and possessions between and among multiple groups.

Chapter 12 provides a fascinating discussion of human instincts and the creation of modern America. The author explains how instinctive behavior affected the landscape of America and specifically describes the powerful impact of instinct- influenced tribalism. He notes that, "As we look at our history, we can see the clear and constant footprints of our full package of instincts extending back in every direction. Instincts have very clearly shaped major aspects of our history and our nation." This correlation of instincts and prominent historical footprints offers an intriguing and unique look at American history. Primal Pathways has much to offer any reader wishing to understand the nature of human instincts and their dramatic effects on our history and contemporary daily life.” —

Randolph Steer — M.D., Ph.D., writer, business leader, health care executive, and fellow of the American College of Clinical Pharmacology