It seems to be a simple enough question, short and straight forward. Are we inherently Good or Evil? Are we born with evil (bad) tendencies or good ones? Or perhaps, an early born mixture of both? What about nature vs nurture? Are we good or bad depending on the genetic genes our parents pass on to us? Or is it how we’re raised or in what environment? Is Humankind — Good or Evil?
By far the dominant species on this planet, our evolution from club dragging, cave dwelling, prehistoric mammals to collective rulers over all other lifeforms on this planet is truly remarkable! Not only do we rule over all the other species, but over the very planet itself.
As if this is not yet enough, we’ve learned how to escape our Earthly bonds to explore space and other planets in our solar system. As a species we have come a long way in a very short time and have accomplished many great things. Working together, Humankind has show flashes of being a progressive and intelligent species.
Yet it has not been an easy road! Filled with greed and violence and hate! A dark history of wars and racism, tyrants and murderers, genocide and enslavement. Yet we also see co-operation in ending disease, starvation and aiding our fellow-man in times of need. Our history tells us we can be both: greedy and giving, hurtful and caring. At times insanely mad! And at other times, deeply compassionate!
Are we Inherently GOOD? or EVIL?
So is Good and Evil part of our genome? Do we inherit these traits through our ancestral lineage? In other words are some of us born Bad and some of us born Good because our parents and their parents held either of these traits in their generic makeup? Perhaps there is no real choice. It’s individually predetermined at birth!
Or have we always been like this right from the very start? As far back as our ancient hunter-gatherer days or even before then? Has evolution programmed us to be self-centered, self-sensitive and self-protective to the extent of dominant violent behavioral genes in all of us? Were these traits infused in us long ago to enable the survival of our species? Perhaps a must, in a long-ago and dangerous world?
“What Darwin was too polite to say my friends, is that we came to rule the earth not because we were the smartest, or even the meanest, but because we have always been the craziest, most murderous motherfuckers in the jungle.” — STEPHEN KING
Dennis Prager of Prager University PragerU – Wikipedia agrees that Mankind is NOT essentially Good! And articulates his reasoning in this very interesting and short video (5:12) below. He makes a very good “pro-evil” argument. “A Must See Video” in our quest to answer the good/bad question posted today.
BORN TO BE BAD
“There is no such thing as bad children – only bad parents.” has long been the opinion of child experts. The firm belief being that an individual is shaped by “nurture” and not preordained by nature.
After all, studies have shown that violent and abusive offspring often turn out to be highly troubled adults themselves! But what if a child is born into a loving caring home and still turns out bad? And what if the child’s siblings, who’ve been raised in that same loving household, turn out perfectly fine?
We’ve all had the experience in coming across a child who cannot be categorized as anything other than Bad! Perhaps with brothers and/or sisters who are not? And with parents who seem perfectly capable? So is this one child who’s been reared in the same environment, same household and by the same nurturing parents as his/her well behaved siblings — simply a bad child? Born this way? C’est la vie?
If even good parents can produce bad children? Is this then proof enough, that some of us are born to be bad?
NURTURE NOT NATURE?
The nature versus nurture debate: whether human behavior is determined by their environment — or by their inherited genes.
Nature — refers to all of the genes and hereditary factors that influence who we are—from our physical appearance to our personality characteristics.
Nurture — refers to all the environmental variables that impact who we are, including our early childhood experiences, how we were raised, our social relationships, and our surrounding culture.
Nativists take the position that all or most behaviors and characteristics are the results of inheritance. Advocates of this point of view believe that all of our characteristics and behaviors are the result of evolution. Genetic traits handed down from parents influence the individual differences that make each person unique.
Tabula Rasa which suggests that the mind begins as a “Blank Slate.” According to this notion, everything that we are and all of our knowledge is determined by our experience.
Empiricists take the position that most behaviors and characteristics, result from learning. Behaviorism is a good example. The behaviorist believe that all actions and behaviors are the results of conditioning and that people could be trained to do and become anything, regardless of their genetic background.
And what about environmental influences? Can a persons behavior be linked to influences such as parenting styles and observed experiences? According to some theories, children learn by observing the behavior of others. If they are constantly being exposed to self-serving, aggressive and/or violent behavior, this reinforces the acceptability of these actions as societal norms.
On the other hand, a child might learn through observation and reinforcement to say “please” and “thank you.” If exposed predominately throughout childhood to acts of caring, kindness and self-sacrifice? This too reinforces these acts as acceptable even socially preferred.
So what influences the making of a bad child? Some counselors and school authorities blame bad parenting! They say the children who show delinquent behavior come from families who could not give them a firm foundation. So is it bad parenting that produces a bad child?
Exposure to constant violence in mass media and its influence on young minds is also a cause for concern, experts say, “Children are impressed by the violence showed as heroism in our films and in video games today. “
Children are visual learners and we are creating wrong role models by exposing them to violence. They will adopt whatever they see if not continuously corrected by one of their parents or immediate care givers.
“An extraterrestrial being, newly arrived on Earth – scrutinizing what we mainly present to our children in television, radio, movies, newspapers, magazines, the comics, and many books – might easily conclude that we are intent on teaching them murder, rape, cruelty, superstition, credulity, and consumerism. We keep at it, and through constant repetition many of them finally get it.” — Carl Sagan
Yet, there is no reason to go on about parenting and child rearing and/or good and bad children in general. Any Mother can tell you or has an opinion on this subject I’m sure. So if you want more (related info.) — just ask Mom! She’s been through it all already! Most likely more than once.
Perhaps a question of interest may be asked of her as well? Can children (babies) be Born Bad? In other words be “Bad Babies” then “bad children” then ” bad teens and adults?” Even after being raised in loving and caring environments? — So Mom’s? — What do you think?
Babies are born both naturally selfish, and compassionate! The rest is nurture.
Both compassion and fear are genetically hardwired to ensure the survival of the baby and it’s “in-group” (parents, siblings and those with frequent interactions.) Beyond this, humans learn by nurture, not nature, how to extend their compassion to those outside their group, or likewise how to extend their “hate” to strangers outside their group.
Okay, so science says that we are born caring and with empathy (goodness) towards our immediate “In-Group” (parents, siblings, known visitors.) But most react negatively and/or with fear towards people they don’t know or their “Out-Group!” This changes as they see acceptance within their group for those outside of it! Or doesn’t change as they sense nonacceptance!
So could this be the very beginnings that ultimately shape whether we turn out to be a good or bad person?
We can also of course, and unfortunately, be born with imperfections that could very well lead us down the road to Evil! As in chemical imbalance, Neuron disconnect, injury or disease. All possible causes of later behavior inconsistencies. The brain is a very complex organ and with so many interconnected working parts relying on each other — just one faulty connection or imbalance can lead to disastrous effects.
Lack of Empathy for example, can be a contributor to bad behavior. Those suffering from a total lack of empathy include some of our best known serial killers and sex offenders. In some cases, this lacking can be traced to a blocking of, or an inadequate supply of, certain “feel good” chemicals in our brain.
Oxytocin, Dopamine, Serotonin are some of these “feel good” chemicals that when insufficient in our brain can reduce or eliminate empathy. In fact Oxytocin has been dubbed “The Moral Molecule” for its theorized influence on Mankind’s overall behavior.
D.N.A. and Genes you were born with also play a big role in who we are. Neurologists continue to find Gene differences that influence personalities and traits that can cause addiction, even criminal behavior.
There’s no denying it! Our past history clearly shows Man’s propensity towards Evil. As quickly reviewed in our opening video (see it now if you missed it) there is no need to re-list Mankind’s sordid past of; War, racism, genocide and enslavement. We all know the atrocities that colors our shameful past.
Even today, there clearly still exists forms of Evil in our modern societies. Both individually (murders and rapists) and collectively (hate groups and evil empires.)
So? Are we inherently born Good? Or Evil? Perhaps this question will remain unanswered? After all, unless we somehow, and some day, crack baby linguistics? All the Goo-Goos and Gaa-Gaa’s? We may never know?
So let’s try a related question we “can” answer! One requiring opinion only. Are we human beings — less Evil now? Then say, in the past? Are we becoming more attuned to our capacities for empathy?
Are we now on our way to becoming a better and kinder species?
Or perhaps the opposite — Our evil tendencies growing each passing year?
Are we helpless in our ongoing evolutionary inner-battle between “Good and Evil?”
Frankly, I’m not really sure? How about you?