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Old 08-23-2002, 05:21 PM   #1
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Are humans nature inherently bad or evil?

Seems like many feel that people are motivated by their own self interest and hidden agendas.

To frame this as a core issue....

Is this a basic problem in our society that is preventing us from having peace and harmony? Is there such thing as altruism?

As John Calvin put it...are all humans born "bad" or into "sin"?

Is this the core issue that puts us into conflict and starts wars and conflict?

In other words, do we have an inherent need to be selfish and satisfy our own egos?

Or is this a learned behavior that can be corrected by forming new habits?

If we can "fix" it, how would you go about establishing "metrics" to measure our effectiveness?

I submit that in order to have true peace (an ideal, not a reality), that it is required of us to sit aside our egos.

Talk amongst yourselves!!
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Old 08-23-2002, 06:00 PM   #2
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I think people are born innocent, evil is learned behavior in my opinion.

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Old 08-23-2002, 06:10 PM   #3
JW
 
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Re: Are humans nature inherently bad or evil?

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote:
In other words, do we have an inherent need to be selfish and satisfy our own egos?

Or is this a learned behavior that can be corrected by forming new habits?
As for my opinion:

1. We most certainly have an inherent DESIRE (not need) to be selfish and satisfy our own egos.

2. Dispite the fact that this is not a learned behavior, it most certainly can be corrected by forming new habits, or better yet than habits, new beliefs.

Well, I'm a biologist, and I beleive in selection (gasp!), so what do you expect??

I hate it when people talk about human nature or animal nature and leave it at that, as if that were immutable. We are intelligent animals! That gives us the option of hitting the override switch, in a lot of cases.

I'm a case in point. I don't believe in a god or religion. I completely believe we are animals just like the rest of them. I even don't believe in good or evil/right or wrong!

Dispite all that, I believe, more than a lot of people I have seen, in promoting well-being, not hurting others and fighting suffering.

It is simply a case of teaching people that others' suffering is suffering as much as their own, and showing them what love is.

As for measuring our progress as a culture.. gee I dunno about that one. Crime statistics I guess..

--Jonathan Wong
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Old 08-24-2002, 07:30 AM   #4
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Re: Re: Are humans nature inherently bad or evil?

Quote:
Jonathan Wong (JW) wrote:
I hate it when people talk about human nature or animal nature and leave it at that, as if that were immutable. We are intelligent animals! That gives us the option of hitting the override switch, in a lot of cases.

I'm a case in point. I don't believe in a god or religion. I completely believe we are animals just like the rest of them. I even don't believe in good or evil/right or wrong!
I completely agree. In my opinion, biology answers the question about inherent desires a lot better than philosophy or religion do.

There is no 'universal' good or evil. Good and evil can only exist in the mind of a more or less intelligent creature, that compares a situation/action to its own set of believes and ideals.

Tijmen
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Old 08-24-2002, 12:15 PM   #5
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We are inherently bad, yes...take a look around. We are capable of good, yes, but we are flawed and will therefore screw up more times than not.

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
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Old 08-24-2002, 03:24 PM   #6
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Hmmm...

I think that 'evil' is more than anything a product of fear. I think Calvinism is a messed up belief system because fear is at its center (no wonder humans then are inherently evil!)

I also think that living in a state of fearlessness is anything from unwise to impossible.

More later, I'm still chewing.

Deb Fisher
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Old 08-24-2002, 04:20 PM   #7
Neil Mick
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I think the glass is half full.

Evil and good are relative concepts, depending upon the society.

Now, selfishness versus altruism: that's another matter. Is selfishness "evil?" Our society thinks not. Take the stock market: a whole system built upon ppl's selfish desires, but (in theory) helping run the economy.

A system built upon predicting selfish impulses, generating more selfish impulses to buy or sell, providing the "glue" for our economy which holds our society together.

Human beings have an (innate or imprinted) desire to love and be loved, as well as a (learned or instinctual) impulse to (real or perceived) harm.

Left to their own devices, humans tend to treat each other with love and respect, unless racism or fear reactions mess up the party.

The glass is half full.
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Old 08-24-2002, 04:23 PM   #8
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The question, as it stands, is asking 'Do humans have a moral instinct?' No, we don't. I personally believe that the vast majority of people on this world are kind, good folks with strong morals. If it seems otherwise, it's just because bad people tend to make more of themselves.

But we don't have a moral instinct. We have a survival instinct. We do what we've learned gives us the best chance to survive and perpetuate ourselves. In a social species like ours, most of us as children learn from our parents and environment that the way to survive is to be kind and generous, so that others will be the same to us. This learned behaviour develops, of course, into a desire to be helpful, to reach out to others regardless of return. But it is still learned behaviour, not an instinct.

Take the example of a street kid who finds himself in a gang. What does he learn? Kindness? Generosity? No. He learns dominance, theft, violence as the way to survive. Kindness is weakness, generosity is to be exploited. If humanity had a moral instinct, gang members would feel inside what they were doing was wrong, regardless of whatever they were told, but even a cursory glance shows that this is not the case - swarming and killing someone for $20 in their wallet, or their coat, or just for laughs, is perfectly all right to some people. That's what they've learned.

And the media sure doesn't help. Look who our heroes are: Criminals, WWF superstars, action heros. The Sopranos is one of TV's most popular shows; the message being 'these criminals - these thieves and murderers are good people'. Stone Cold Steve Austin has his face - and his upraised fingers - on every second T-shirt out there. The 'Good Cop' is the one that kills 50 bad guys on his way to killing the main bad guy with a clever quip. The hero is the one with the biggest gun. There are no popular heros who triumphed by putting his weapon down - and please, I'm talking about media, not religon.

Video games are all about bloody, gory fighting. (I've been arguing against Mortal Kombat since the day that disgusting 'game' came out.) In the West, unless a kid has real good parents, the message he learns nowadays is 'violence is success'.

So good - or evil - is not an inherent behaviour, but a learned one. I'm just worried about how few people are learning the good side nowadays.

Dave

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Old 08-24-2002, 04:46 PM   #9
Veers
 
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I still say we're inherently bad... Like I said, we can learn to be better, or worse. I do not wish to debate all about this, so I will leave it at I say so because of observation (if we were not inherently evil, shouldn't there be at least one person who's perfect? well, there's not) and my beliefs in the Bible.

Dave, ever read Lord of the Rings? Aragorn is a good example of a hero who remains a hero even when he lays aside his sword. Also, I'm only 17 (probably one of the younger members here) and I, too, despise Mortal Combat (both for its fighting inacuracy and its violence) and other media. Guess how much TV I watch in a week...10 hours maybe? No, I watch one 30 min show on weekdays (G Gundam) and the occasional TechTV. Ok, so most of my screen time is on the computer, but I also don't like games made for the violence...anyway, dinner's ready, gotta go.

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
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Old 08-24-2002, 06:03 PM   #10
Neil Mick
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Lol...good post, Jonathan.
Quote:
Dave Organ (DaveO) wrote:
The question, as it stands, is asking 'Do humans have a moral instinct?' No, we don't. I personally believe that the vast majority of people on this world are kind, good folks with strong morals. If it seems otherwise, it's just because bad people tend to make more of themselves.

But we don't have a moral instinct. We have a survival instinct. We do what we've learned gives us the best chance to survive and perpetuate ourselves. In a social species like ours, most of us as children learn from our parents and environment that the way to survive is to be kind and generous, so that others will be the same to us. This learned behaviour develops, of course, into a desire to be helpful, to reach out to others regardless of return. But it is still learned behaviour, not an instinct.

Take the example of a street kid who finds himself in a gang. What does he learn? Kindness? Generosity? No. He learns dominance, theft, violence as the way to survive. Kindness is weakness, generosity is to be exploited. If humanity had a moral instinct, gang members would feel inside what they were doing was wrong, regardless of whatever they were told, but even a cursory glance shows that this is not the case - swarming and killing someone for $20 in their wallet, or their coat, or just for laughs, is perfectly all right to some people. That's what they've learned.

And the media sure doesn't help. Look who our heroes are: Criminals, WWF superstars, action heros. The Sopranos is one of TV's most popular shows; the message being 'these criminals - these thieves and murderers are good people'. Stone Cold Steve Austin has his face - and his upraised fingers - on every second T-shirt out there. The 'Good Cop' is the one that kills 50 bad guys on his way to killing the main bad guy with a clever quip. The hero is the one with the biggest gun. There are no popular heros who triumphed by putting his weapon down - and please, I'm talking about media, not religon.

Video games are all about bloody, gory fighting. (I've been arguing against Mortal Kombat since the day that disgusting 'game' came out.) In the West, unless a kid has real good parents, the message he learns nowadays is 'violence is success'.

So good - or evil - is not an inherent behaviour, but a learned one. I'm just worried about how few people are learning the good side nowadays.

Dave
All of your examples are from our society, which rewards violence and mythologizes aggression.

Other societies are different.

But, do we have a programmed, instinctive response to survive and be selfish? I believe so.

Is the behavior to be kind and generous learned, or instinctive? An experiment was done with a baby monkey. It was separated with its mother and was given a choice between a mom-doll that was functional but with a mechanical look and hard edges, or one with softer surfaces and more anthropormorphic. The monkey almost always chose the softer doll.

Maybe the desire to be good is the instinctive desire to have a comfortable spot next to mom!
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Old 08-24-2002, 07:33 PM   #11
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IMHO, since there is no research that confirms the biological or genetic basis of moral cognitive distinctions or judgements, I would have to conclude that while it appears "normal" in our age and society, it is not inherently natural to be bad or evil. It is learned and anything we learn we can unlearn. And that is why we are here.

Until again,

Lynn

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 08-25-2002, 04:06 AM   #12
mike lee
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Cool self-centered bliss

Most other people are bad -- but I'm good!

P.S. I think that the Catholics believe that mankind's tendency toward lust and materialism, which breaks the link with the spirit, is what makes him inherently "bad." As a Christian, I've concluded that the best way to deal with the situation is face the problem and overcome it. In aikido terms -- achieve haromony within one's self.
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Old 08-25-2002, 05:54 AM   #13
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Well, I've already proved lapses in my Catholic upbringing, but... I think humans are born with the potential for infinate good, and the ability to learn to be infinately bad. The direction they take is based on their life experiences and what they learn from it.

A very small percentage, through some terrible chain of developmental events, learn to see others as not human, and end up on the road approaching infinately bad.

The rest of us, somewhere else in the spectrum.

I think Dave had a point that may have been missed: when the US military realized that their soldiers had an inborn reluctance to kill, studies were made and projects designed to change training, so that soldiers would kill effectively when ordered to do so. The result, more realistic appearing targets, eventually virtual wars where soldiers could 'kill' their opponents, desensitzation to scenes of carnage, etc.

Many of these things are today accomplished for our youth through TV, movies, and video games, but without the layer that the military used, the need to hold fire until ordered to do so.
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Old 08-25-2002, 09:34 AM   #14
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Are humans nature inherently bad or evil?

Yes.
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Old 08-25-2002, 10:10 AM   #15
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lots of good discussion going on on both sides of the fence!

Some say humans are born "bad", some say not.

I tend to think that we are born "neutral" to the concepts of good and bad and that we are products of our environment.

I somewhat agree with Deb that most of behavior is rooted in fear or lack of understanding.

Therefore, if we are products of our own paradigms and conditioning, then the good news is that we can do something about it!

However, several people made some arguments contrary.

From the biological perspective, in the theory of natural selection, it is in each organisms best interest to act as an individual. I would also agree with that.

But, nature also shows us that sometimes in highly evolved social animals such as ants that acting for the better of the group is good for the individual.

Therefore, altruism, or selflessness can also support the theory of natural selection.

An argument that I would offer Jonathan, if humans are born "bad", then how could they ever be "good"?

If they are capable of both "bad" and "good" then I wouldn't that make them "neutral" and put the concepts of good and bad on either side of the coin..therefore all behavior is learned?

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Old 08-25-2002, 11:18 AM   #16
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You can argue born neutral and become good or bad, born bad but learn to be good, and born good and learn to be bad...so I think what 'starting point' you choose depends on how you see human life.

Personally, I our soul is a bit of what I see as God, and so that makes each human born containing an absolute good, and behavior develops from that point. But it is my belief, not something that I could prove, and I can't quarrel with those who choose a different starting point (although I do wonder what it is like to view the world throught the eyes of those who believe in the 'bad' starting point).

Looking out for one's interests does not make one bad, necessarily (picture the hero jumping to safety at the last second as the arch villain plunges to his death), nor does putting someone else's interests first necessarily make one good (picture an abused spouse).
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Old 08-25-2002, 11:38 AM   #17
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Well I would have to say that labeling newborns or even adults "bad" or "good" by nature is a foolish notion because in nature there is no "bad" or "good." There is only survival. No other creature on earth has an understanding of evil or absolute good. It is a man made concept to use for a cop out IMHO. We use those concepts to explain things that we can't understand. It is the ego that seperates man's mind from an animal's. Animals do what they must to survive. That same instinct has somehow been warped into self satisfaction in humans. We do things in order to feel safe yes, but all the "bad" things that people do are motivated by ego. There are many of us who are trying to overcome this ego. I think that is the human plight of seeking salvation.

Not to be arguementative DaveO, but you're putting blame on popular media that is IMHO a cop out as well. My parents tried to tell me that I shouldn't watch the Simpsons because it would teach me bad things. However, I love that show and always have. The simple truth is that no matter what happens in the fantasy of media, a child develops it's morals from interaction with other human beings. I did not learn to be "bad" from the Simpsons and to this day I feel that such a cop out is an insult to a young person's intelligence and potential.
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Old 08-25-2002, 11:46 AM   #18
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Yes Colleen, you I agree...this was the conclusion I reached, and where I was going next....it really doesn't matter since it is all a matter of perspective!

Which is why today, I seem to have be less opinionated then when I was younger, you really must be careful about forming a conclusion, even if it is based on "fact" since the facts are usually clouded by all kinds of things.

Another thought I had was along the lines of an inner city culture where violence becomes the "norm". "Gang Bangers" and the like to frame it into a stereotype, are not "wrong" in how they act, they are products of the environment that they grew up in. They actions are validated and reinforced by that environment. To them it is a matter of personal AND group survival for the to act this way (so they think).

Prison, the death penality, are examples of "negative" reform. (you modify behavior in attempt to AVOID something more negative).

How might you use Aikido, or the principles or Aikido to reach out to people to modify behavior in a "postive" manner? (modify behavior in attempt to INCUR something more positive.)

Negative reforms/discipline are necessary in varying degrees...but they have not proven to be effective at reducing "bad" or conflict behavior.

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Old 08-25-2002, 11:56 AM   #19
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The media is something that "we" as a society created. Therefore, to see yourself removed from the media, and use it as a scapegoat would be wrong. Everyone in the world is responsible for his/her actions, including the institutions we create.

I agree that "good" and "evil" are concepts that humans created. Especially when you get into morality issues stemming from the dogma of religious institutions.

However, looking at the core of the dogma, for the most part the dogma is a set of rules developed in an attempt to get people to get along collectively! (Don't want to get into the politics of social groups and the attempt to control others through the use of rules and dogma!)

I do think animals at a core level understand good and bad. Most animals seems to have an inherent ability to understand that it is BAD to be eaten by another animal therefore, they will tend to avoid that.

The unfortunate thing with Humans is that we are victims of our own intelligence. We have very cleverly disguised rules, dogma, socialization, the media in ways that seek to influence others for the benefit of others. All the smoke and mirrors and distractions can really confuse and trick you into all sorts of behaviors which create conflict both at a personal level and at a societal level.

I think the thing to do is to first be aware of it and then start actively thinking about the things you do daily and the impact that it has on the world.

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Old 08-25-2002, 01:47 PM   #20
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Kev...I would say that to become good we need God's help. Really, when you look at it, without love, "good" deeds are really selfish ones...and since God is love (by love I mean unselfish, no grudges, patient, kind, forgiving, etc. and also, "love is God" is not true), while what we do--helping the old lady across the street, stopping to help someone with a flat, etc.--are good deeds (really, they are), the majority of the time they're selfish...expecting some kind of reward, either from man or God.

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
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Old 08-25-2002, 02:03 PM   #21
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Abraham Maslow, in his "Hierarchy of Needs," describes the impules to love and be loved is inherent in everyone (I'm paraphrasing here, so apologies), even in ppl who are doing evil. Does any leader committing an evil act say that they're doing evil? No: they say that they must do this thing for the good of..."

According to Maslow, this person is doing an evil act out of a need to love, or be loved. Their process of acting out this need, and their perceptions of their actions, have been twisted by how they were treated in the past.
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Old 08-25-2002, 02:23 PM   #22
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Interesting perspectives...one based on God as manifestation of love, another based on an western pyschologist.

Both, center on the concept of man acting in his own self interest.

As has been stated above, lets not dwell on the origins or perspective of self interest we could be here forever, and never agree.

Is it safe to say that Man's goal is a simple one, that is to acheive happiness?

You might derive happiness in helping a lady cross the street...or from eating a gallon of Ben and Jerry's, or in believing in and worshiping a God.

Is this drive to acheive personal happiness what causes all the conflict in the world?

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Old 08-25-2002, 03:37 PM   #23
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Yes, I think it's safe to say man's goal is to acheive happiness. However, I don't think that that goal is what causes the worlds' problems; but rather sin.

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
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Old 08-25-2002, 04:36 PM   #24
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I would say that conflict results when one person's way to happiness impinges on another's, whether it is two siblings competing for mother's attention, two men fighting over a loaf of bread/bottle of wine/woman, companies over a contract, or nations over land/oil/visions of government. The trick is finding a way for each to achieve happiness but not at the expense of another's. To do this, you have to see the other as a partner in achieving mutually satisfactory goals, rather than an opponent in a win-or-lose situation.

So I guess for me the cause of conflict is the inability to see partners, and the preference for seeing opponents.
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Old 08-25-2002, 05:18 PM   #25
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Quote:
To do this, you have to see the other as a partner in achieving mutually satisfactory goals, rather than an opponent in a win-or-lose situation.

So I guess for me the cause of conflict is the inability to see partners, and the preference for seeing opponents.
Got to agree with Coleen on this one. I was going to say earlier in the thread that the whole notion of Good and Evil (or selfishness and altruism) depend on our understanding of who is part of the Us and who (or what) is Not Us. A lot of morality has within it hidden assumptions about the extent and limitation of the Us. Thus, as we extend our idea of who and what is the same as us, we find our morality extending to more and more of creation. Personally, I find the idea of extending it to flies and musquitoes to be a bit much, and I probably draw my own line at dogs and cats and maybe also other human beings who look different than me, but that's just me.

Yours in Aiki
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