Humans: Basically good or evil?

brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 25,999
I've been reading James Bradley's book The Imperial Cruise which is really more about a period of American history as relating to our interactions with several Asian countries between the late 1800's and 1905 than it is about the Imperial cruise of 1905.  Bradley pieces together a section of our history that has never been fully written about and much of what he says seems rather controversial (and yet, despite a open invitation by the New York Times, no one has stepped forward to prove anything Bradley say is false.)  Much of what takes place in this time period involves many instances of great cruelty and bloodshed.  And yet this is but a brief period of time.  When taken as a whole, many, many incidences of widespread cruelty and horrible violence can be seen throughout human history.

I mentioned all of this to my wife and told her that it just makes no sense to me.  I said that in all my life, I have personally only known one or two people whom I can imagine carrying out such cruel and violent behavior.  She said. "We have lived a very sheltered life.  Humans are a very [terrible?  I can't remember the exact word] species."  And this is coming from someone who is more open, accepting and loving of people than pretty much anyone I know.

So how is this possible?  It begs that age old question: Are humans basically good or evil?  My experience is that people are basically good.  I have known very few people I would describe as evil and capable of the kind of horrors written about throughout human history.  And yet there must be and have been huge numbers of evil people for so many atrocities to have occurred throughout history, with no end to them in sight.   I find it hard to believe humans are inherently evil... but I don't know.  Maybe I have indeed just led a sheltered life.

Thoughts?
"Love and only love will break it down"
-Neil Young
***********
M.I.T.S.





Comments

  • oftenreadingoftenreading Victoria, BCPosts: 9,302
    I have lots of thoughts but no time to flesh them out right now. 

    What I will say is that humans are, at our essence, xenophobic. There is ample research demonstrating this. I think this accounts for the way individuals can go above and beyond  to help someone who they see as somehow within their community, however it is defined (large or small), but yet en masses we can be so violent to those we see as others. 
    my small self... like a book amongst the many on a shelf
  • oftenreadingoftenreading Victoria, BCPosts: 9,302
    Oh - I also don’t use the word “evil”, as it has religious overtones I reject. 
    my small self... like a book amongst the many on a shelf
  • TalonTeddTalonTedd TorontoPosts: 800
    People are opportunists.  Weather it's an opportunity to help someone in need or steal from that same person.  

    Eddie Vedder said
    Tell me if there were no Angel's.  Would there be no sin.

    I think we are both at all times but we prefer the easy way...that's the good.  There ain't no rest for the wicked and that's the hard way.

    I think you are a good guy.  Really good.  But pushed hard enough. Whipped long enough and sooner or later that opportunity to get justice revenge whatever against whomever. You may take it....or not and just take it

    Opportunists.

    I remember when, yeah. I swore I knew everything, oh yeah.
  • rgambsrgambs Posts: 11,758
    I think people are just animals trying to figure out how to be Gods.  We struggle between aggressive egocentristic survival instincts and the newly risen empathic cooperative tendancies.
    Modern societies have shifted most people away from the middle toward empathic and cooperative behavior with selfish aggression peppered in, but it doesn't take much to bring the balance back to the zone where atrocities become commonplace.
    Monkey Driven, Call this Living?
  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 25,999
    Oh - I also don’t use the word “evil”, as it has religious overtones I reject. 
    I don't think of "evil" as being a religious term but I can accept that.  I can change it... but to what... "bad".  That's too vague.  I hope most here will understand what I'm going for.
    "Love and only love will break it down"
    -Neil Young
    ***********
    M.I.T.S.





  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 25,999
    TalonTedd said:
    People are opportunists.  Weather it's an opportunity to help someone in need or steal from that same person.  

    Eddie Vedder said
    Tell me if there were no Angel's.  Would there be no sin.

    I think we are both at all times but we prefer the easy way...that's the good.  There ain't no rest for the wicked and that's the hard way.

    I think you are a good guy.  Really good.  But pushed hard enough. Whipped long enough and sooner or later that opportunity to get justice revenge whatever against whomever. You may take it....or not and just take it

    Opportunists.

    I agree that opportunism can run the full gamut from helpful to greedy.

    I worked with a brilliant woman in our local community college's "Human Services" department and in one of her lectures she pointed out the wisdom  of being an "opportunist".  She pointed out that this word generally has a negative connotation but that another way of looking at it is that it can also mean "taking advantage of beneficial opportunities as they arise" and that for many people who have difficulty in being successful, this can be very useful.  
    "Love and only love will break it down"
    -Neil Young
    ***********
    M.I.T.S.





  • Go BeaversGo Beavers Posts: 7,093
    I fully believe that at our core, all humans are good. Cruel behavior has to go through a process to happen.  
  • oftenreadingoftenreading Victoria, BCPosts: 9,302
    I fully believe that at our core, all humans are good. Cruel behavior has to go through a process to happen.  
    You don’t have a toddler, do you ;)
    my small self... like a book amongst the many on a shelf
  • I fully believe that at our core, all humans are good. Cruel behavior has to go through a process to happen.  
    I believe this wholeheartedly I refuse to believe that if you nourish a human with loving care that human can become evil ..
    jesus greets me looks just like me ....
  • I fully believe that at our core, all humans are good. Cruel behavior has to go through a process to happen.  

    I'm not so sure. That being said... I wouldn't go as far as to say we are inherently bad either.

    I feel there are some things linked to our instincts that are challenging for many to control. We try to paint a pretty picture of humanity and how special we are... but I agree with RG that we are just animals- really really complex animals.
    "My brain's a good brain!"
  • oftenreadingoftenreading Victoria, BCPosts: 9,302
    I fully believe that at our core, all humans are good. Cruel behavior has to go through a process to happen.  
    I believe this wholeheartedly I refuse to believe that if you nourish a human with loving care that human can become evil ..
    Psychopathy appears to be largely inborn and resistant to amelioration, even by loving family. 
    my small self... like a book amongst the many on a shelf
  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 25,999
    I fully believe that at our core, all humans are good. Cruel behavior has to go through a process to happen.  
    I believe this wholeheartedly I refuse to believe that if you nourish a human with loving care that human can become evil ..
    In my heart I subscribe to this notion Jose.  I have met far more good and wonderful people in my life than people I would consider bad or evil. 

    But I've also lived a privileged life.  White, male, baby boomer, California.  Even at my lowest- a few decades ago during the few years I was reduced to living in my vehicle and considering the purchase of a 79 cent chicken sandwich at Jack in the Box a major splurge- even then I lived a privileged life compared to those who lived through all the many horrors of past and recent events (including those that most of the history books don't talk about).

    I guess maybe it is a result of reading a fair amount of history lately, but these days I find I have to cling to the notion that humans, in general, are good because so many are not.  One of the reasons I love this place is because people here are generally quite good and there are even saints who walk among us (not me, I'm no Angel as Gregg Almond once put it, and no, not necessarily the religious type, oftenreading :wink: )
    "Love and only love will break it down"
    -Neil Young
    ***********
    M.I.T.S.





  • Go BeaversGo Beavers Posts: 7,093
    I fully believe that at our core, all humans are good. Cruel behavior has to go through a process to happen.  
    I believe this wholeheartedly I refuse to believe that if you nourish a human with loving care that human can become evil ..
    Psychopathy appears to be largely inborn and resistant to amelioration, even by loving family. 
    Psychopaths throw my theory about everyone is good at their core theory a curve ball, but here's an interesting article about the choice of empathy with psychopaths, as opposed to it being automatic for others. The choice suggests something sideways in the wiring of their brains.

  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 25,999
    I fully believe that at our core, all humans are good. Cruel behavior has to go through a process to happen.  
    I believe this wholeheartedly I refuse to believe that if you nourish a human with loving care that human can become evil ..
    Psychopathy appears to be largely inborn and resistant to amelioration, even by loving family. 
    Psychopaths throw my theory about everyone is good at their core theory a curve ball, but here's an interesting article about the choice of empathy with psychopaths, as opposed to it being automatic for others. The choice suggests something sideways in the wiring of their brains.

    Interesting article, GB.  In a psych class I took years ago, the prof talked about the continuum of people types ranging from the my pscho/sociopathic to the most saintly.  His premise was that no one was 100% bad (i.e. even the worst people had at least moments of goodness) and that the most "saintly" are not 100% pure, citing Mother Teresa as an example (saying that there was probably some part of her that did good deeds for selfish reasons.

    And most of us lie in the middle.  Ahh, but here's the question: on which side of the median do the greatest lie?
    "Love and only love will break it down"
    -Neil Young
    ***********
    M.I.T.S.





  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 14,397
    the answer is yes.
    _____________________________________SIGNATURE________________________________________________

    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • pjhawkspjhawks Posts: 9,157
    both but the good far outweigh the evil.
  • fifefife Posts: 3,242
    I remember this old saying from Plato which basically says that no one does bad intentional and I do believe that.  Most people are good people but at the same time do things that may be considered bad.
  • fifefife Posts: 3,242
    brianlux said:
    I fully believe that at our core, all humans are good. Cruel behavior has to go through a process to happen.  
    I believe this wholeheartedly I refuse to believe that if you nourish a human with loving care that human can become evil ..
    Psychopathy appears to be largely inborn and resistant to amelioration, even by loving family. 
    Psychopaths throw my theory about everyone is good at their core theory a curve ball, but here's an interesting article about the choice of empathy with psychopaths, as opposed to it being automatic for others. The choice suggests something sideways in the wiring of their brains.

    Interesting article, GB.  In a psych class I took years ago, the prof talked about the continuum of people types ranging from the my pscho/sociopathic to the most saintly.  His premise was that no one was 100% bad (i.e. even the worst people had at least moments of goodness) and that the most "saintly" are not 100% pure, citing Mother Teresa as an example (saying that there was probably some part of her that did good deeds for selfish reasons.

    And most of us lie in the middle.  Ahh, but here's the question: on which side of the median do the greatest lie?
    I agree with this but the mother teresa thing, I believe that she was bad in many many ways
  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 25,999
    fife said:
    brianlux said:
    I fully believe that at our core, all humans are good. Cruel behavior has to go through a process to happen.  
    I believe this wholeheartedly I refuse to believe that if you nourish a human with loving care that human can become evil ..
    Psychopathy appears to be largely inborn and resistant to amelioration, even by loving family. 
    Psychopaths throw my theory about everyone is good at their core theory a curve ball, but here's an interesting article about the choice of empathy with psychopaths, as opposed to it being automatic for others. The choice suggests something sideways in the wiring of their brains.

    Interesting article, GB.  In a psych class I took years ago, the prof talked about the continuum of people types ranging from the my pscho/sociopathic to the most saintly.  His premise was that no one was 100% bad (i.e. even the worst people had at least moments of goodness) and that the most "saintly" are not 100% pure, citing Mother Teresa as an example (saying that there was probably some part of her that did good deeds for selfish reasons.

    And most of us lie in the middle.  Ahh, but here's the question: on which side of the median do the greatest lie?
    I agree with this but the mother teresa thing, I believe that she was bad in many many ways
    Interesting, fife, how so?
    "Love and only love will break it down"
    -Neil Young
    ***********
    M.I.T.S.





  • fifefife Posts: 3,242
    brianlux said:
    fife said:
    brianlux said:
    I fully believe that at our core, all humans are good. Cruel behavior has to go through a process to happen.  
    I believe this wholeheartedly I refuse to believe that if you nourish a human with loving care that human can become evil ..
    Psychopathy appears to be largely inborn and resistant to amelioration, even by loving family. 
    Psychopaths throw my theory about everyone is good at their core theory a curve ball, but here's an interesting article about the choice of empathy with psychopaths, as opposed to it being automatic for others. The choice suggests something sideways in the wiring of their brains.

    Interesting article, GB.  In a psych class I took years ago, the prof talked about the continuum of people types ranging from the my pscho/sociopathic to the most saintly.  His premise was that no one was 100% bad (i.e. even the worst people had at least moments of goodness) and that the most "saintly" are not 100% pure, citing Mother Teresa as an example (saying that there was probably some part of her that did good deeds for selfish reasons.

    And most of us lie in the middle.  Ahh, but here's the question: on which side of the median do the greatest lie?
    I agree with this but the mother teresa thing, I believe that she was bad in many many ways
    Interesting, fife, how so?
    without turning this tread to another topic, there were a lot of issues around Mother Teresa but will tell just a couple.

    Number 1, her treatment of woman who were pregnant.  there are some reports from other nuns who worked wit her that would say that mother teresa would refuse providing medical assistance to mothers who had decided to abort their babies and I don't mean helping with the abortion but any medical issues.
    there were also reports of of money being misused that were supposed to be used for medical centers.
    I could go on but I am at work
  • HughFreakingDillonHughFreakingDillon WinnipegPosts: 16,890
    rgambs said:
    I think people are just animals trying to figure out how to be Gods.  We struggle between aggressive egocentristic survival instincts and the newly risen empathic cooperative tendancies.
    Modern societies have shifted most people away from the middle toward empathic and cooperative behavior with selfish aggression peppered in, but it doesn't take much to bring the balance back to the zone where atrocities become commonplace.
    I love your first line, gambs. that sounds like a line in a song. and I agree completely. I think since we basically "got out" of the food chain, survival no longer being our prime motivation for anything, people are confused as to what their role is/should be. there is a drive to BE SOMETHING, but no one knows what, since before it was a drive to just BE. 

    I think, if our species survives, it will eventually evolve to transcend the capitalistic drive and become more of a "one" where we help each other out rather than fight for ourselves. 

    but I think before that happens, a revolution will have to take place. a bloody one. or a catastrophic event where millions, possibly billions, die. I know, it sounds like a movie (and possibly a badly cliched one), but it's what I think will happen. 
    "It's so nice when toxic people stop talking to you.
    It's like the trash took itself out"
  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 25,999
    rgambs said:
    I think people are just animals trying to figure out how to be Gods.  We struggle between aggressive egocentristic survival instincts and the newly risen empathic cooperative tendancies.
    Modern societies have shifted most people away from the middle toward empathic and cooperative behavior with selfish aggression peppered in, but it doesn't take much to bring the balance back to the zone where atrocities become commonplace.
    I love your first line, gambs. that sounds like a line in a song. and I agree completely. I think since we basically "got out" of the food chain, survival no longer being our prime motivation for anything, people are confused as to what their role is/should be. there is a drive to BE SOMETHING, but no one knows what, since before it was a drive to just BE. 

    I think, if our species survives, it will eventually evolve to transcend the capitalistic drive and become more of a "one" where we help each other out rather than fight for ourselves. 

    but I think before that happens, a revolution will have to take place. a bloody one. or a catastrophic event where millions, possibly billions, die. I know, it sounds like a movie (and possibly a badly cliched one), but it's what I think will happen. 
    Excellent points, HFD. 

    "I think, if our species survives, it will eventually evolve to transcend the capitalistic drive and become more of a "one" where we help each other out rather than fight for ourselves."

    This was a supposed goal of the "Age of Aquarius" (boomer) generation.  It utterly failed when it came time to make babies, buy houses and commute from unsustainable suburbs to that jaaaaawwwwb.  Younger generations will have to do more than give lip service for something positive to happen.

    "but I think before that happens, a revolution will have to take place. a bloody one. or a catastrophic event where millions, possibly billions, die. I know, it sounds like a movie (and possibly a badly cliched one), but it's what I think will happen. "

    Yes, inevitable and unavoidable at this point.  But good things may rise from the ashes.  A counselor once told me that sometimes hitting rock bottom (which can verge on death) is the last chance for some people to rise above.  I think the same can be said for civilization.


    "Love and only love will break it down"
    -Neil Young
    ***********
    M.I.T.S.





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