Humans On Earth, Good at Birth
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Are humans good or bad? It’s a question that has repeatedly been asked throughout humanity. For thousands of years, philosophers have debated whether people have a basically good nature that is corrupted by society, or a basically bad nature that is kept in check by society. Different cultures and fields have their own opinion. Such as Augustine’s doctrine of original sin. In Augustine’s view, all of humanity was really present in Adam when he sinned, and therefore all have sinned, the power of divine intervention is the only way to save the (Wikipedia). Thomas Hobbes, as an English philosopher, considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy argued that humans were savagely self-centered. But another philosopher Rousseau argued that people were born good, instinctively concerned with the welfare of others instead of being selfish. More and more voices prove that humans are inherently good.
In Chinese traditional culture, people are always considered good, the representative and famous people who advocate this thinking were Kongfuzius and Mencius. Mencius believes: ‘People have all kinds of wickedness, and water has all kinds of things.’ Mencius believed that human nature is like water, which was initially good. If the water suddenly rises, then something must have affected it. Just like human nature, if someone becomes bad, it must be affected by something. There is also a word-of-mouth song which expresses the same meaning as Mencius’s point, “At the beginning of life, man is good in nature. Human nature is alike, habits make them different. For lack of education, nature is in alteration.And the nurture of the young, Better be maintained for long(Wang).” It is the translation from an ancient book San Tzu Ching, which has over 700 years of history, and also is an elementary guide to knowledge for Chinese children. It is easy to know that human beings have been considered good at birth in Chinese culture for a long time, and they regard education and culture as the radical distinction of people.
The thinking of Human beings is inherently good not only in Chinese culture but also is proved by science. Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, it influences humans in many aspects, like language, religion, cuisine, social habits after birth. But it is necessary to avoid these influences when finding out human nature. So the researchers from Yale University involved the youngest experimental subjects— babies, their minds are a wonderful thing to show human nature. Babies have the minimum of cultural influence because they don’t have many friends, have never been to school and haven’t read any books, they can’t even control their phalanges very well, so their minds are purest as a human mind can get.
The experiment is like this: It was basically a kind of puppet show; the stage a scene featuring a bright green hill, and the puppets were cut-out shapes with stick on wobbly eyes; a triangle, a square and a circle, each in their own bright colours. What happened next was a short play, as one of the shapes tried to climb the hill, struggling up and falling back down again. Next, the other two shapes got involved, with either one helping the climber up the hill, by pushing up from behind, or the other hindering the climber, by pushing back from above. After the show, infants were given the choice of reaching for either the helping or the hindering shape, and it turned out they were much more likely to reach for the helper.
Even those babies lack the ability of language which makes the experiment tricky, and babies only show their self-interest, but it already proves that people tend to help the weak in their potential mind since they were babies. Just as what Tom Stafford said in his article Are we naturally good or bad? ,“A cynic would say that it just shows that infants are self-interested and expect others to be the same way. At a minimum though, it shows that tightly bound into the nature of our developing minds is the ability to make sense of the world in terms of motivations, and a basic instinct to prefer friendly intentions over malicious ones. It is on this foundation that adult morality is built.(Stafford)” The way to make sense of this result is infants who with their pre-cultural brains, had expectations about how people should act.
Adult morality and the value of right and wrong all base on kind human nature. Yale’s experiment shows that people are inherently helpful and good started from their birth. And San Tzu Ching suggests that people are good or bad due to education and treatment in their early life. This is also be proved by an example in Waal’s book The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, he wrote there is an environment like baby farm exist(baby farm is a place where Watson dreamed of, there are no parents, children are only be touched if it has behaved incredibly well, and not with a hug or kiss, but a little pat on the head), “ All we can say about them is that they were deadly! This became clear when psychologists studied orphants kept in little cribs separated by white sheets, deprived of visual stimulation and body contact. They looked like zombies, with immobile faces and wide-open, expressionless eyes. (Waal) ” Because these children are orphans, they have much less opportunities to have close connection and touchment than normal children who have parents. If Yale’s experiment shows people are inherently good, the fact of the orphanage reveals how different treatments influence people in their early life. It is a cruel and sad fact, lacking love from parents will form a barrier to prevent expressing true feelings and showing empathy. Only with love, people can release their good nature.
A coin has two sides, when people are immersed in compliments they are good at birth, another voice arises. The result of an experiment which was carried out by biologist David Carrier and his team astonishes people by proving human beings carry violent DNA in their genes. That means there is a huge possibility that people are inherently bad. Carrier, who is head of the Evolutionary Biomechanics Lab at the University of Utah, wanted to get the study right, so he gave a hypothesis and took an experiment. Gabbatiss introduced Carrier’s experiment in his article Is Violence Embedded in Our DNA?, “After carefully dissecting out the muscles of a disembodied arm, biologist David Carrier and his team tied fishing lines from each isolated tendon to a guitar tuner knob, allowing the researchers to move the fingers around like ghastly marionettes.
Using this setup, they could measure the varying strain on the bones when the hand was arranged in different positions and slammed into a padded dumbbell weight.” (Gabbatiss) Actually , in 2015, Carrier’s research already showed that a buttressed fist, one with the thumb closed against the index and middle fingers, provides a safer way to hit someone with force. Carrier and his co-authors propose that our hand proportions may have evolved specifically to turn our hands into more effective weapons. Carrier proves that humankind has evolved for violence. Gabbatiss also pointed out, “Carrier’s conclusions have proven contentious: Critics argue that just because a buttressed fist protects the hand during a punch doesn’t mean the hand evolved that way for this specific reason any more than the human nose evolved to hold up glasses.”(Gabbatiss)
Exactly, it is extreme to say people are bad and carry violence DNA. It is unfair to say wolves are evil because they hunt sheeps and other animals; and it is also tendentious to say rabbits are innocent because they only eat grass. It only bases on their basic needs. Regardless of basic needs, the rest part should be the things to measure whether one person is good or bad. Thus, carrying violence DNA doesn’t mean humans are bad, it could be recessive traits. The microevolution of people’s body parts just helps us to adapt to the changing world better, it doesn’t affect human good nature at all.
To further prove that kindness in humans’ potential minds and they tend to help each other and cooperate, Harvard and Yale researchers provided a new set of data to help people analyze human nature instead of pseudosciences or subjective assumptions. The researchers took advantage of a reliable distinction between reflection and intuition. When people meet emergency or dangers, the first behavior tendency indicates the basic human nature. They found 834 participants who are undergraduate students from different countries on campuses.
The researchers aimed to figure out potential links between processing speed, selfishness, and cooperation by using 2 experimental groups 5 studies. Stafford explains, “Each group consisted of making financial decision tasks and required participants to make decisions between acting selfishly—opting to maximize individual benefits at the cost of the group or cooperatively—opting to maximize group benefits at the cost of the individual”(Waal). The results were shocking: the faster group is more intuitive, the decisions they made were associated with higher levels of cooperation, whereas the slower group is more reflective, decisions were associated with higher levels of selfishness. These results suggest that our first impulse is to cooperate—that Augustine and Hobbes(in the first paragraph) were wrong, and that we are fundamentally good creatures after all.
Altruism is another aspect that shows humans are unselfish and accommodating. The word literally means “other-ism”; and it is the philosophy of doing things purely for the benefit of others, without expecting to get anything reward. There are still other well-known altruistic leaders such as Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gandhi etc. Among these people, Nelson Mandela is definitely a good representative person. Even though he was imprisoned for 27 years, upon his release, he never sought revenge but instead called for forgiveness and reconciliation. He went on to establish a number of foundations that sought to help the underprivileged. The best thing can measure his achievement for being altruistic is that he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, he deserves more than that though. Mahatma Gandhi was dedicated to serving the people of India by gaining freedoms, improving living conditions and civil rights for his life’s work. This was Gandhi’s passion. Gandhi’s service to others, was the perfect embodiment of altruism. All these great altruistic leaders value other’s happiness and benefits more than themselves. They explain humans are intrinsically good through their whole lives. Above all the evidence and discussions do not definitely solve all the puzzles of human nature, but if human nature is a thing people must be born with and people act based on their intuitive and automatic impulses, then DNA of kindness and courage must exist in human history for a really long time.