There’s a lot of discussion, debate, and memes surrounding the nature of man and I decided to write out my thoughts on a specific question I find myself pondering sometimes and again: are humans innately good, or evil?
But this phrasing presents a false dichotomy between two extremes whereas the truth is probably somewhere in the middle and more nuanced. Some people are driven to commit heinous acts and compelled beyond reason by their own biology, which essentially makes them inherently evil by nature.
Yet, some twin studies have shown that amoral compulsions may manifest differently depending on their environment: the compulsion to cut, for instance, could lead one twin to become a serial killer and the other a surgeon.
Instead of asking “What is the nature of man?” or “Is human nature inherently good, or evil?” some psychologists believe it may be more productive to ask “What is the nature of power?” The Stanford prison experiment and similar psychological experiments along with the historical hindsight, documentation, and subsequent analysis of events like the Holocaust share the commonality of a top-down progression of evil: those with authority and power can more easily persuade, or command subordinates to commit acts of cruelty.
Interestingly though, more recent studies have revealed that the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which is important in the formation of trust, mother infant bonding, and intimacy during sex, is also released when committing, or watching an act of cruelty against someone from an out-group. This certainly seems to suggest that human beings are biologically coded to enjoy sadism in at least some capacity. But remember, we’re also biologically coded to love.
The evidence indicates we have the innate capacity for both good and evil; our brains are wired to enjoy love and intimacy along with cruelty. But, to what degree? Is the average human being 60% good and 40% evil? Is it 50/50? While it’s difficult to quantify, it may be enlightening to ask if other animals are innately good or evil, since we are just animals after all. Observations have shown creatures ranging from ants to primates are able to perform acts of altruism for fellow group members, but also violence and seemingly actual cruelty towards out-group members. Many animals compete for things like mates and social influence within in their own group, but these actions are usually limited to aggressive displays of dominance, or at the very least the conflict subsides before lethality. It makes sense to occasionally compete with in-group members while limiting the mortality as it allows more favorable traits to be passed onto to future generations without diminishing the genetic diversity of the group as a whole. At the same time it makes sense to lethally compete with out-groups over limited resources needed for survival.
So what does all this mean? Well the answers aren’t as simplistic as the question. We’re animals, we’re innately capable of altruism and cruelty, and we’re easily manipulated and often situationally dependent. Perhaps one reason it’s difficult to see the good in this world is because the good isn’t often a spectacle; it’s the default setting of civilization where nothing is really going on because most people are good enough to the point where they just want to live and let live. But every time the terrorists inevitably shoot up another school, or church, or whatever, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people willing to aid, comfort, or to help the injured and first responders however they can.
Unfortunately, the situationally dependent and easily manipulated parts of us are being exploited and the regular quiet of the world seems to be eroding. Otherwise good people are following the examples of their respective leaders and advocates who have made it acceptable to openly mock children who were shot. The Parkland Students and those who’ve taken up the same cause have been dehumanized as political enemies: liberals, leftists, snowflakes, libtards, cucks, and the list goes on. When a good chunk of the population and people in charge have not just a lack of empathy, but disdain for kids were who gunned down during school that’s dangerous.
Mankind’s inherent moral flaw isn’t that we’re inherently evil, or even that we have a dualistic nature, it’s that we’re mostly neutral until the winds of fate push us one way or the other.