He Gave Away $30 Million Because It Felt Good

Is it normal for a human being to commit a generous act that helps others and not himself? Or is his selfless act merely an act of veiled self-interest? Anthropologists and evolutionary biologists have been wrestling with these questions for decades. Recent research suggests it’s more complicated than that — that evolution has pushed us toward a trait that binds communities and helps them prosper, and that altruistic acts promote individual well-being in biologically measurable ways. These are precisely the kinds of issues and questions that motivated James Doty to form — with a seed donation of $150,000 from the Dalai Lama, whom Doty had met in a chance encounter — the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, or CCARE, part of Stanford’s School of Medicine. In the past 11 years, CCARE has distinguished itself from other research centers because it’s determinedly multidisciplinary. Its affiliated scientists have conducted studies in areas from neuroscience and psychology to economics and “contemplative traditions” like Buddhism. But CCARE is distinguished in another way: Many of its core findings mirror Doty’s own life.

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