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Are humans bad or good? - Comments

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 1 by Premiseless

The romanticism of ones potentials in life are never far away from the competitive gaze of an unknown contemporary. The next move is often a pernicious one, on the part of someone deceitful enough to masquerade as everyones virtuoso whilst motivated into a performance of maximizing their potentials by erasing the possible alternatives. And to this end the counter claim is born, where the accused becomes the accuser and the truth seekers find themselves unwittingly supporting a charlatan whilst persecuting the sincere. This is the double edged sword piercing into many a failed success seeker. The poison is rife till the arbiter of deception becomes the undeserving master of all truths. Romanticism is shackled and exists only where it pleases the cocktail of deception. So is born power, to protect and mechanise spaces in which lifetimes can afford the reality of delusional (due parental manufacture ala lifetime 'Christmas realities') potentials, at the expense of the masses who must pay the price for their potentails being hijacked by others that they can never taste. Fiction is their wages since the reality never, for most humans, sits at the dinner table! This is the all too pseudo-natural selection of humanities endeavors, delusions and labours, to magnify a romantic existential at whatever cost. And the cost is very predictable, as the deceptive mind well knows!

Is this the "shock" you speak of? The integration of all realities, due a seemingly sincere collective, longing for the romantic, reducing into a squalor of deception and delusional confusions? It was, I think, genetically set prior to the ensuing psychological anyhow. Just look at the variety within our species before you get seduced into the equalities of your ambitions. Our genes have born us this burden and the psychology which ensues simply predates and exploits, via deliberate or indirect abuse, the consequences that enforce a persecuted and pained majority. By "fair means or foul" is a common reaction to this reality and the truly romantic are too often (maybe even foolishly locked to become) the collateral sufferers of this "win at all costs" precipitate. Am I correct in thinking this is the "shock" cohort amongst us? The lower classes attempts to mirror the role of the upper classes who are oft placed to successfully protect the mechanized spaces mentioned above, is fraught with an ipso facto high percentage failure which then requires fictional claims to redress the fallout. Religion is its poor neighbor, self cost, management strategy I'd speculate. This is why I think we have what we see! It's a competition to realise the romantic, and delude potential competition, with all that affords it magnification.

Sun, 30 Oct 2011 11:16:47 UTC | #885368

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 2 by Schrodinger's Cat

I'm not sure if I agree or not. One of the evolutionary arguments I don't like is when people pick a particular time in our evolution and use that alone to argue ' that is why humans are like that'. Of course it's true in a great many cases ( Alice Roberts has an excellent series on that at the moment ).....but that is primarily physiology and I don't think one can draw concise cultural or social conlusions. That is to say, I don't think specific genes necessarily lead to a specific culture. A good example is the Polynesians. Across multiple islands, some were fierce and warlike, others were much more peaceful. The environment clearly played a part in this.......and so too did just pure blind chance of who got to be in charge and influence things. In fact, I would argue that blind chance rather than either genes or environment has shaped human culture far more than anything else.

Sun, 30 Oct 2011 14:56:02 UTC | #885407

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 3 by AtheistEgbert

I think the view that humans are good and the view that humans are bad are equally valid. Perhaps we are in fact amoral creatures, who have a delusion that we are moral creatures.

Sun, 30 Oct 2011 15:52:01 UTC | #885428

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 4 by Premiseless

Comment 2 by Schrodinger's Cat :

I'm not sure if I agree or not........ In fact, I would argue that blind chance rather than either genes or environment has shaped human culture far more than anything else.

Premiseless:

"The romanticism of ones potentials in life are never far away from the competitive gaze of an unknown contemporary."

I consider the proximity and concentrations of ones "ambitions" are now far more conspicuous in a world ever rendered smaller by western progress. Therefore I perceive the paradise life packages afforded peoples now and in the past are ever reduced due controls by humans becoming ever increased - a probably largely unavoidable divergence away from freedom of expression to live as one likes except insofar as the elite or the lucky have it to live in more likelier measure. A cumulatively holistic trade off by all but increasingly toward the less privileged, for certain advantages due said progress, but not so much as might bridge the gulf arising betwixt top and bottom. In fact the reverse if anything. And the resultant market of media enterprise and entertainment - to advertise to the masses the extent of their inequality - is all the more preservative of the emotions that conspire against the individual to remind them of what they are not that otherwise they might have aspired to be were chance or privilege to have greeted their existence. The seeds of ambitions to succeed by deception are ever rendered fertile by the realization there be no easier, or no other, method by which to afford a change to ones plight in this regard. The temptation, for some, is to breach altruism for the sakes of a selfish gain and excuse this as if it were a rebalance of injustice. Revenge and schadenfreude is looming large on the horizons of many an emotion, discontent with its lot in life (as with the poor or under achieved) or even when ethical egoism rallies satisfying an addictive aside to its already weighty exploitative conquests (as with the powerful) to keep the lowly , by and large, in their place. Either emotions tend to be pernicious magnifications of delusions about the preferred position of the self in a world so varied or devoid from any normalization and utilitarian objective. And their existence at all prompts reaction and derailment of any real agenda to do, or think, otherwise. Religion at least teaches us that!

All of us wanting a change resulting in whatever change we are getting, wanting some other change for the benefits of those not getting enough of a change to insist it never changes. In other words - the gap between top and bottom looms ever larger and ever more require redress whilst those in power exercise ever more of whatever previously got them to where they are at. The forces that persist this entropy are pernicious, no? And the goal, as ever, to romanticize ones existence as fully as befits ones capabilities remains, though the ranges of potentials diverges considerably wouldn't you agree? So the problem becomes, due an increased range of potentials on show, what of the ones who take the bait to aspire beyond what is reasonable for themselves and thereby 'fail' themselves with due process. How is this likely to converge upon some holistic harmony in a future world? We can already see the results all around us! I'd like to believe of it otherwise, but too few free minds have I ever chanced upon to convince me otherwise!

Sun, 30 Oct 2011 17:18:29 UTC | #885450

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 5 by Neodarwinian

Anthropologist?

Immediately one expects dichotomies and one is rarely disappointed. Just that last paragraph says it all for this proposal. Smacks of group/racial selection and we know what is the target of selection; the individual and his genes.

Humans have strategies that they deploy and to be dichotomous instead of distributive in one's thinking about these strategies is to commit the fallacy of the excluded middle

Sun, 30 Oct 2011 19:51:27 UTC | #885489

PatW's Avatar Comment 6 by PatW

What the anthropologist meant is that each individual living organism of each species has a DNA expressed demand to survive as an individual, regardless of who has to be injured or die to accomplish that. It's self-evident in the behavior of all other non-human species. In the case of weeds and other plants, each weed demanding to survive at the expense of other flora. The same applies to fauna. That survival must take place within specific environments, of which all those environments make up the entire ecology.

Culture is made up by individual species capable of doing that within their own formed and selected pack groups aka societies. Respective cultures are subjectively taught as are words, invented by homo sapien, to define what homo sapiens observe in the confines of their own particular environments, lying within the whole of the entire ecology.

It's been my extensive research and learned experiences, which taught me the anthropologist isn't wrong, when referring specifically to DNA inherent, primal homo sapien behavior compared to other species' DNA inherent primal behavior.

Sun, 30 Oct 2011 21:18:45 UTC | #885513

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 7 by Zeuglodon

Asking whether we're good or bad is too sweeping. Surely, some people are good and some people are bad, and the majority fall somewhere along a continuum, perhaps even a multidimensional scale? For instance, perhaps it could include the distribution of an individual's finances towards charitable institutions, the physical work put into the attempt to feed another being (as a cost to helping another being), the quantity of brain matter devoted to feeling guilt if a shortcoming is brought to their attention in an experiment (this would require identifying neural correlates, of course), etc.

Sun, 30 Oct 2011 22:44:48 UTC | #885527

aldous's Avatar Comment 8 by aldous

The question is not whether humans are good or bad but how intelligent we are. Are we rational enough to avoid wiping out the entire race in nuclear war?

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 00:18:43 UTC | #885563

Helga Vieirch's Avatar Comment 9 by Helga Vieirch

Comment 2 by Schrodinger's Cat I'm not sure if I agree or not. One of the evolutionary arguments I don't like is when people pick a particular time in our evolution and use that alone to argue ' that is why humans are like that'. Of course it's true in a great many cases ( Alice Roberts has an excellent series on that at the moment ).....but that is primarily physiology and I don't think one can draw concise cultural or social conlusions. That is to say, I don't think specific genes necessarily lead to a specific culture.

Good grief… how on earth did you construe "specific genes lead to a specific culture" from anything I said?

As for your earlier statement stating what "... I don't like…. ", I am a bit perplexed. Are you suggesting that the "evolutionary environment of adaptation" is not a valid concept? If a species spends 99% of its evolutionary history in a particular environment, does this have no validity in explaining its special adaptations? For what other animal would such a piece of reasoning sound valid to you?

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 00:27:39 UTC | #885572

PatW's Avatar Comment 10 by PatW

Comment 9 by Helga Vierich :

Comment 2 by Schrodinger's Cat I'm not sure if I agree or not. One of the evolutionary arguments I don't like is when people pick a particular time in our evolution and use that alone to argue ' that is why humans are like that'. Of course it's true in a great many cases ( Alice Roberts has an excellent series on that at the moment ).....but that is primarily physiology and I don't think one can draw concise cultural or social conlusions. That is to say, I don't think specific genes necessarily lead to a specific culture.

Good grief… how on earth did you construe "specific genes lead to a specific culture" from anything I said? As for your earlier statement stating what "... I don't like…. ", I am a bit perplexed. Are you suggesting that the "evolutionary environment of adaptation" is not a valid concept? If a species spends 99% of its evolutionary history in a particular environment, does this have no validity in explaining its special adaptations? For what other animal would such a piece of reasoning sound valid to you?

There are two types of environment - ecological and social. Ecological is produced by nature - naturally produce food, water, and shelter for physical survival, plus, the internal drive to survive as driven at the DNA expressed brain level. Social was always constructed by those species setting up their own cultures to enable physical survival. Done by both human and non-human species. To which type of environment are you specifically referring? The anthropologist is referring primarily to social environment designed and constructed by species not nature.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 00:39:54 UTC | #885575

Helga Vieirch's Avatar Comment 11 by Helga Vieirch

Comment 5 by Neodarwinian Anthropologist?

Immediately one expects dichotomies and one is rarely disappointed. Just that last paragraph says it all for this proposal. Smacks of group/racial selection and we know what is the target of selection; the individual and his genes.

I wanted to start a discussion. It so happens that the current dominant cultural paradigm in most cultural systems -those dominated by organized religions- IS one that supports the idea of some kind of original sin… the notion is widespread that humans are, in a sense, born bad. Just read Steve Pinker's latest book. It does not go much beyond Aristotle in providing a justification for social stratification and the existence of a state to "govern" human passions and violent impulses.

I am trying to set the cat among these various pigeons. I think Aristotle was wrong, and I think Steve Pinker is wrong. Not 100% wrong, but lacking important data sets on human evolutionary history, to name just one of many failings in their models.

So, bring on your best rebuttals. I do not want a bunch of sneering about my being an anthropologist. That is not good enough, in my opinion. even if not meant as a personal slur, and a professional slur, and not a gentleman's way of constructing a proper argument. I expect better from people on this forum.

I have repeatedly suggested that organized religion is a DEPENDENT variable - not a cause, but an effect of a particular kind of socio-economic system. That is the cat I am using, and it is a scientific cat. So let us by all means look at the science. And by the way, "group selection" is a whole other discussion but one which I also find very few people here willing to engage in debate about. And, just in case it has never occurred to anyone, the individual vs group selection thing is just another silly dichotomy.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 00:43:37 UTC | #885576

PatW's Avatar Comment 12 by PatW

Comment 11 by Helga Vierich :

Comment 5 by Neodarwinian Anthropologist?

Immediately one expects dichotomies and one is rarely disappointed. Just that last paragraph says it all for this proposal. Smacks of group/racial selection and we know what is the target of selection; the individual and his genes.

I wanted to start a discussion. It so happens that the current dominant cultural paradigm in most cultural systems -those dominated by organized religions- IS one that supports the idea of some kind of original sin… the notion is widespread that humans are, in a sense, born bad. Just read Steve Pinker's latest book. It does not go much beyond Aristotle in providing a justification for social stratification and the existence of a state to "govern" human passions and violent impulses.

I am trying to set the cat among these various pigeons. I think Aristotle was wrong, and I think Steve Pinker is wrong. Not 100% wrong, but lacking important data sets on human evolutionary history, to name just one of many failings in their models.

So, bring on your best rebuttals. I do not want a bunch of sneering about my being an anthropologist. That is not good enough, in my opinion. even if not meant as a personal slur, and a professional slur, and not a gentleman's way of constructing a proper argument. I expect better from people on this forum.

I have repeatedly suggested that organized religion is a DEPENDENT variable - not a cause, but an effect of a particular kind of socio-economic system. That is the cat I am using, and it is a scientific cat. So let us by all means look at the science. And by the way, "group selection" is a whole other discussion but one which I also find very few people here willing to engage in debate about. And, just in case it has never occurred to anyone, the individual vs group selection thing is just another silly dichotomy.

I, for one, don't understand exactly what you seek for debate in specific terms. Since Steven LeBlanc is referring to significant human input of human created detriment causing rapid artificial global warming ecological climate change detriment. That excerpt bears no relationship to debate on theisms. His theme, at least in that excerpt, pertains only to homo sapien created social environments not encouraging even remotely, adequately reasoning through their own bad ecology collapsing behavior. What we have now isn’t natural global warming. Nature knows how to maintain a balance without collapsing the entire ecology. Homo sapiens, in general. don’t. In general homo sapien behavior, homo sapiens demand excess and enough is never enough. When discussing the excerpt, it’s only fair and correct to remain on the theme Steven LeBlanc intended. The theme of that excerpt isn’t theism.

I didn't note anyone else sneeringly referring to you as an anthropologist. When I used the word anthropologist, I was referring to your OP reference - Steven Leblanc, anthropologist. I don't disagree with Steven Leblanc's interpretation of general homo sapien social environment and cause to effect from same. Good and bad are subjective words normally subjectively judged by what homo sapiens observe about others but rarely objectively observe about themselves.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 01:43:38 UTC | #885585

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 13 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 9 by Helga Vierich

Good grief… how on earth did you construe "specific genes lead to a specific culture" from anything I said?

As for your earlier statement stating what "... I don't like…. ", I am a bit perplexed. Are you suggesting that the "evolutionary environment of adaptation" is not a valid concept? If a species spends 99% of its evolutionary history in a particular environment, does this have no validity in explaining its special adaptations? For what other animal would such a piece of reasoning sound valid to you?

I was making the point, which both yourself and the author of the article you critique seem to have missed, that sheer chance.......and not something one can assign to any physiological, ecological, or socialogical cause........plays by far the larger part in determining the state of society and the inter-relationships between groups.

The fact that I don't currently speak German and have a picture of Der Fuhrer on the wall....is entirely down to Hitler having eaten something bad for breakfast and one day deciding to invade Russia.....rather that finishing off Britain first. That's a mighty big social variant.....down to the whims of one man !

What's more, as Sam Harris says in The Moral Landscape, if Hitler had won the war.....the prevailing social ethic of what is 'good' would not be liberal democracy but Nazism, precisely because society would raise people to believe so. Harris argues....and I personally disagree....that in time some sort of natural ethical values would have arisen and defeated this Nazism......despite everyone being raised in it. In other words...Harris is arguing for some sort of inherent morality.

One has to wonder, if Harris's inherent morality actually exists, how someone like Hitler ever came to power in the first place. Certainly there were social, economic, and cultural factors....but once again the primary factor is sheer chance. So much sheer chance, in fact, that the pontification of the experts and all their waffle explains very little.

The trouble with trying to assign any specific variable to how societies develop, inter-relate, and so on is that what ostensibly appear to be causal factors are over-ridden by chance events. Hitler's rise to power was not inevitable......so how can one argue an inevitablist causality behind it ? That causality is entirely restrospective....when what might have happened became what did happen....and added later by historians and others.

And that is why I dislike most attempts to explain past human behaviour...whether good or bad...via retrospectively inserted causality. The problem with retrospective causality is that it is easy to insert a chain of seemingly causal events that were nothing of the sort at the time.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 02:17:51 UTC | #885595

Helga Vieirch's Avatar Comment 14 by Helga Vieirch

Huh. I am so confused by all this that i barely know what to say. Surely you aren't assuming that the whole German people were supporting Hitler? Probably fewer of them were members of the "Nazi" party than modern Americans are registered "Republicans or "Democrats". Most just kept their heads down and went along as long as it meant they could get paying jobs somehow and fight their way out of the destitution left by WWI and the Great Depression. Hitler would likely not have survived the next rational plot against him, even if WWII had been won by the Germans.

There is no such thing as "retrospectively inserted" causality in science. There are only hypotheses about causality that are supported or not supported by the verifiable evidence that can be assembled to test them.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 03:17:14 UTC | #885603

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 15 by Premiseless

Comment 13 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Comment 9 by Helga Vierich

Good grief… how on earth did you construe "specific genes lead to a specific culture" from anything I said?

As for your earlier statement stating what "... I don't like…. ", I am a bit perplexed. Are you suggesting that the "evolutionary environment of adaptation" is not a valid concept? If a species spends 99% of its evolutionary history in a particular environment, does this have no validity in explaining its special adaptations? For what other animal would such a piece of reasoning sound valid to you?

I was making the point, which both yourself and the author of the article you critique seem to have missed, that sheer chance.......and not something one can assign to any physiological, ecological, or socialogical cause........plays by far the larger part in determining the state of society and the inter-relationships between groups.

Yes, this point is a very valid "pit liberator" - of non capitalist thinking anyhow!

If I were born to Dawkins or some remote Amazonian tribal unknown, surely good and bad would have an entirely massive impact upon what I live as good and bad? There is NO inherent definer of what it is we each speak of as if commonly good or bad except insofar as it speculates we each treat each other with due respect in the here and now - and even this is multi-variable dependent upon whether we have excuse not to do so based upon individual, cultural, educational and existential inequalities that de facto present themselves at the intersection of the point of interaction. i.e. the "who you are" predefines how you prejudge the " who you aren't. If you refuse this precept, you refuse to acknowledge all difference of opinion! This is long before any of us mutate into another "culture" and piss off (entropy reversal rather than mere competition) the one we apparently spurned, whether by circumstance, education, sheer ignorance or psychological fragmentation etc.

The fact that I don't currently speak German and have a picture of Der Fuhrer on the wall....is entirely down to Hitler having eaten something bad for breakfast and one day deciding to invade Russia.....rather that finishing off Britain first. That's a mighty big social variant.....down to the whims of one man !

This might be read as eggism - be careful now!

What's more, as Sam Harris says in The Moral Landscape, if Hitler had won the war.....the prevailing social ethic of what is 'good' would not be liberal democracy but Nazism, precisely because society would raise people to believe so. Harris argues....and I personally disagree....that in time some sort of natural ethical values would have arisen and defeated this Nazism......despite everyone being raised in it. In other words...Harris is arguing for some sort of inherent morality.

One has to wonder, if Harris's inherent morality actually exists, how someone like Hitler ever came to power in the first place. Certainly there were social, economic, and cultural factors....but once again the primary factor is sheer chance. So much sheer chance, in fact, that the pontification of the experts and all their waffle explains very little.

I once argued against you about Harris but now I consider he has some indoctrination dissonance, due subjective morality bias, consciousness going on. Either that or merciless baiting the crowd for a next free-fix of capitalist $ texts. Who am I to suggest this? Nevertheless I see an oddity that makes me wary of what appear to me as mummy's boy philosophies. Not rooted in the world at large - if this offends you, you misunderstand me!

The trouble with trying to assign any specific variable to how societies develop, inter-relate, and so on is that what ostensibly appear to be causal factors are over-ridden by chance events. Hitler's rise to power was not inevitable......so how can one argue an inevitablist causality behind it ? That causality is entirely restrospective....when what might have happened became what did happen....and added later by historians and others.

So Hitler was not inherently intent on killing per se? He simply converged upon this due the contributory variables to his existential? This is certainly food for thought. I've seen it in some very young humans (but am unaware of the domestic influences) - that they have an increased propensity to inflict guiltless pains and dominance upon others - but emerge later as if adjusted to a position of success in society. Also the reverse where a seemingly inherently empathetic individual becomes oppressed till breaking and exhibits what then transpires as socially polarising. Do I ever anticipate everyone will ever get to the same educated position on this - not really and therein we have the bad hearted vindictives due a poor education, reacting to the bad hearted oppressives due a poor education - carousel! Thing is - it's tragically funny how few see this. Religion is not the only fruit!

And that is why I dislike most attempts to explain past human behaviour...whether good or bad...via retrospectively inserted causality. The problem with retrospective causality is that it is easy to insert a chain of seemingly causal events that were nothing of the sort at the time.

With humans emotions loom large on every horizon, whether by imposition or reaction. This is the elephant that is always in the room. Even science cannot avoid this. Hitchens would say "Nor should it!" And therein the stage is set for all we see that is unequal about a universe that does not give a jot!

Does the grain of wheat hate the mouse and does the mouse hate the cat and can any of them help this? It's everyones problem!

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 06:01:47 UTC | #885628

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 16 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 14 by Helga Vierich

Huh. I am so confused by all this that i barely know what to say.

What's confusing ? I am simply making the point that your retrospective insertion of what was good or bad for 'Palaeolithic hunter gatherers' seem to be based more on your own general beliefs about mankind than on genuine science. A dreadfully over-hasty generalisation.

In the first place, one is viewing 'good or bad' from a 21st century secular liberalism perspective.....itself rampant with political correctness and the desire to prostrate itself at the feet of every two-bit religion that might feel 'offended'. Two thousand years ago, the average Roman citizen would have thought nothing about eating their popcorn to gladiators hacking each other to bits.......their version of The X Factor I suppose.

The notion that such barbarity ( as we would see it ) is entirely related to population is nonsense. Small tribes on the Pacific islands could be every bit as barbaric and brutal, as both Captains Cook and Bligh discovered. One has to ask the genuine scientific question............what made the inhabitants of one island fierce and warlike, and the inhabitants of another island more peaceful and gentle ?

Anthropologists may like to think that the answer was diet, or environmental pressures, or whatever. I would suggest the far more likely cause was sheer chance. Random events, and particularly the random nature of whoever ended up being in charge and imposing their whims.

The only reason I mentioned Hitler was that the sheer chance is no different at whatever level or size of population on cares to mention. To argue that a series of grand and linked together events led to Hitler is to completely miss that in fact a whole series of totally random and chance events changed the outcome far more. Retrospectively one sees a pattern and sequence of seemingly causal events and history seems almost purposeful and going somewhere. The reality is its a seething cauldron of events, many purely random and chance. In other words.....its impossible to insert a single specific causality and say 'this caused all the badness'......because but for a few minor chance events all that badness might just as well not have happened.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 07:24:31 UTC | #885635

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 17 by Zeuglodon

Comment 16 by Schrodinger's Cat Anthropologists may like to think that the answer was diet, or environmental pressures, or whatever. I would suggest the far more likely cause was sheer chance. Random events, and particularly the random nature of whoever ended up being in charge and imposing their whims.

Don't you mean chaotic? You don't have to invoke randomness because humans usually follow predictable laws, but when you've got a mishmash of humans interacting together, each one a unique specimen and acting on dozens of biological, chemical, psychological and neurological laws as they live, chaotic describes it pretty well. Society is more like weather and climate than like a gambling machine.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 08:40:43 UTC | #885654

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 18 by Premiseless

Comment 17 by Zeuglodon :

Society is more like weather and climate than like a gambling machine.

This all depends on whether you are forcing money and power out of meteorology or running a casino!

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 09:03:16 UTC | #885660

Helga Vieirch's Avatar Comment 19 by Helga Vieirch

Comment 8 by aldous The question is not whether humans are good or bad but how intelligent we are. Are we rational enough to avoid wiping out the entire race in nuclear war?

That is another topic. I already started that discussion several weeks ago.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 09:16:03 UTC | #885662

Helga Vieirch's Avatar Comment 20 by Helga Vieirch

*Comment 10 by PatW

There are two types of environment - ecological and social. Ecological is produced by nature - naturally produce food, water, and shelter for physical survival, plus, the internal drive to survive as driven at the DNA expressed brain level. Social was always constructed by those species setting up their own cultures to enable physical survival. Done by both human and non-human species. To which type of environment are you specifically referring? The anthropologist is referring primarily to social environment designed and constructed by species not nature.**

The "social environment" you refer to - where cultures are competing for resources - can not be considered separately from the ecological environment. The competitiveness of the cultures in Steve Le Blanc's example only obtains if there is an ecological constraint - an eventual limitation of resources such that if one culture keeps expanding its population, it must also keep expanding its territory, and that it must do so at the expense of neighbouring cultures.

My first objection to Le Blanc's scenario is twofold: one, that human populations do not always grow; secondly, that their birthrates (let alone their whole cultural systems) are not necessarily under conscious control.

My second objection is a bit more complex. You see, if you consider the kind of cultural pattern that LeBlanc suggests would be successful under conditions of competition between cultures for access to resources, it is the aggressive, pro-nalist, warrior-culture. Even if humans are born innocent of any genetically mediated tendencies for aggression and violence, the suggestion is that most humans on the planet today are descended from the winners of a fairly deadly competition between rival cultural systems.

Yet the archaeological and ethnographic record does not support this. For 99% of our evolutionary history (which spans about 5 million years) we were foragers, and we were pretty thin on the ground. Cultures would not have needed to compete over resources. In fact, points of contact with various neighbouring cultures would have been conduits through which a forager society might gain access through trading and gifting relationships to resources from a much wider range of ecosystems than lay within their own annual round of movement. We have evidence of such exchange within hunter-gatherer societies during the last 200,000 years which spanned entire continents. We have evidence, from hunter-gatherer cultures living 12,000 years ago, 2000 years before the domestication of plants and animals, of cooperative efforts which appear to have created purely ritual and ceremonial sites bringing hundreds and possibly thousands of people together -possibly several times a year- from over vast inhabited wilderness teeming with wildlife and rich plant life. These were not competing cultures, they were cooperating, The sites were places of healing and ritual. In one article, one of the sites is even even fancifully referred to as a possible source of the myth of a garden of Eden. These cultures were not associated with any evidence of warfare or violent death.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 10:28:39 UTC | #885675

Helga Vieirch's Avatar Comment 21 by Helga Vieirch

Comment 13 by Schrodinger's Cat

...I was making the point, which both yourself and the author of the article you critique seem to have missed, that sheer chance.......and not something one can assign to any physiological, ecological, or socialogical cause........plays by far the larger part in determining the state of society and the inter-relationships between groups.

The fact that I don't currently speak German and have a picture of Der Fuhrer on the wall....is entirely down to Hitler having eaten something bad for breakfast and one day deciding to invade Russia.....rather that finishing off Britain first. That's a mighty big social variant.....down to the whims of one man !

The trouble with trying to assign any specific variable to how societies develop, inter-relate, and so on is that what ostensibly appear to be causal factors are over-ridden by chance events. Hitler's rise to power was not inevitable......so how can one argue an inevitablist causality behind it ? That causality is entirely restrospective....when what might have happened became what did happen....and added later by historians and others.

I must respectfully remind you that the development of a fascist state is not random, although the exact person who rises to power in such a state may be more so. Surely you recall the horrible state of the German economy after the "peace" imposed after WWI? Surely you recall that one of the chief motivations for German military conquest of lands outside of the redrawn boundaries was what Hitler called "Lebensraum" in other words, the need for more land and resources to support the German people? There were German migrants by that time who had settled all over Europe, particularly near the Black Sea and in parts of Poland, the Ukraine, and Russia, not to mention Namibia and other parts of Africa, South America, and parts of the Far East. And do not forget that one of the consequences of WWI was the loss of German colonial "possessions" - these got parcelled out among the victors. This represented a significant blow to the German economy. Presently, the USA appears to be headed in the direction of fascism, according to some observers.

I do not view any of this as "chance events". And I very much doubt that indigestion had anything to do with any decision to invade Russia, whether on the part of Hitler or his military advisors.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 11:04:35 UTC | #885678

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 22 by Premiseless

Comment 21 by Helga Vierich :

I do not view any of this as " chance events". And I very much doubt that indigestion had anything to do with any decision to invade Russia, whether on the part of Hitler or his military advisors.

OK but do you say Hitler was 'born bad' or provoked into this position by an abrasive opposition to any peaceable solutions he may have suggested which then inspired him to being made zookeeper and protecting his live-stocks future interests? Similarly would you say the same is true of Jewish heritage in how it annihilated peoples in history who did not bend to its gods demands? This topic is currently still very sensitive due recent atrocities but the fundamental principles respecting whether one is good or bad remain. How does one say goodness is incorruptible when it often employs atrocities to maintain its claims and position? This is the challenge to humanity - can you remain 'good' when violence or repeated resentment confronts you and to what extent can you afford to do so and remain who you are? The strata of privilege are greater than at any time in history and thus the cages of existence to inhabit and protect ever more complex and confusingly diverse, pushing against a peaceable holism, than the times in history you refer to. The critical question isn't about how good or bad people are but about how good their existence can afford to be before it meets with violent competition. How long can Father Christmas stay over before someone kidnaps him? And how many weapons has he in his sack just in case? Everyone wants a 'good existence' but the trade off is increasingly at someone elses expense.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 12:43:56 UTC | #885699

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 23 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 17 by Zeuglodon

Don't you mean chaotic?

Yes....a better word.

The point being that one can look back at the past and assume that event A led to event D...that there is direct causation....when in fact the chaos interjected events B and C after event A and they were what steered events to D. I am simply questioning the notion that one can invariably say that specific initial causal factors have led to specific outcomes. I think this issue arises especially when one tries to define a specific 'homogenous' population such as 'Palaeolithic hunter gatherers'. Across the globe such populations were as divergent as chalk and cheese. No doubt in some part due to environment factors, but I suspect in larger part due to the chaos inherent in any society.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 14:32:18 UTC | #885725

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 24 by irate_atheist

Are humans bad or good?

How about just 'gullible.'

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 16:25:16 UTC | #885756

PatW's Avatar Comment 25 by PatW

Comment 20 by Helga Vierich :

*Comment 10 by PatW

There are two types of environment - ecological and social. Ecological is produced by nature - naturally produce food, water, and shelter for physical survival, plus, the internal drive to survive as driven at the DNA expressed brain level. Social was always constructed by those species setting up their own cultures to enable physical survival. Done by both human and non-human species. To which type of environment are you specifically referring? The anthropologist is referring primarily to social environment designed and constructed by species not nature.**

The "social environment" you refer to - where cultures are competing for resources - can not be considered separately from the ecological environment. The competitiveness of the cultures in Steve Le Blanc's example only obtains if there is an ecological constraint - an eventual limitation of resources such that if one culture keeps expanding its population, it must also keep expanding its territory, and that it must do so at the expense of neighbouring cultures.

I have no idea why you placed the words social environment in quotation marks. I stated there are two types of environment social and ecological. I didn't say or imply they're mutually exclusive. They aren't. That's exactly what Steven LeBlanc stated as well. Yet, your theme became are humans inherently good or bad, which bore no relationship to the theme of Steven LeBlanc's except. In the above citation, your words finally appear to somewhat grasp exactly what Steven LeBlanc was actually relating.

In your opening words in your OP, you stated this:

A book by Steven Leblanc, anthropologist, has me in a kind of outraged shock. It seems that he has fallen for the view that humans are naturally violent, aggressive, deceitful, manipulative…

I wasn't inclined to interpret his words to equate to yours. Because he distinctly called people dimwitted and selfish when living for today and tomorrow be damned. He personified the ant as the wise unselfish ecological conservationist, and personified the grasshopper as the ecological dimwitted self-centered. Nowhere in his presentation did he say that humans are inherently good or bad, because they aren't. Few traits in homo sapien are inherent in the individual demand to survive, and most behavior originates with learned behavior starting with our first elder care takers. Steven LeBlanc wrapped up his theme with this - the bad guys always seem to be winning with selfishness because the bad guys don’t have any scruples. They’ll use any means necessary to take what they demand including ecological destruction. They will always make certain they manipulate a majority of people into giving them the power and money to do that.

Babies aren’t born expressing any of this: violent, aggressive, deceitful, manipulative behavior. They have to learn it from the first caretakers they have, which are normally their parents expressing their words, actions, or a combination of both. I'm fairly certain that Steven LeBlanc, anthropologist, is well aware of that as well. Want a child to express all you listed for destructive behavior? Just keep pumping into their heads that the same rules applying to everyone else don’t apply to that parent and that child, and/or say these few words, “Don’t do as I do. Do as I say.” Children will get those contradictory messages loud and clear, plus, very often active on them as a habit they intend not to break throughout life. Want children to attempt to avoid your listed destructive pitfalls? Then elders need to set and practice the examples they desire their children to follow, in order to attempt to avoid those destructive pitfalls in your list of pitfalls which aren‘t inherent.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 16:28:39 UTC | #885758

PatW's Avatar Comment 26 by PatW

Comment 22 by Premiseless :

Comment 21 by Helga Vierich :

I do not view any of this as " chance events". And I very much doubt that indigestion had anything to do with any decision to invade Russia, whether on the part of Hitler or his military advisors.

OK but do you say Hitler was 'born bad' or provoked into this position by an abrasive opposition to any peaceable solutions he may have suggested which then inspired him to being made zookeeper and protecting his live-stocks future interests? Similarly would you say the same is true of Jewish heritage in how it annihilated peoples in history who did not bend to its gods demands? This topic is currently still very sensitive due recent atrocities but the fundamental principles respecting whether one is good or bad remain. How does one say goodness is incorruptible when it often employs atrocities to maintain its claims and position? This is the challenge to humanity - can you remain 'good' when violence or repeated resentment confronts you and to what extent can you afford to do so and remain who you are? The strata of privilege are greater than at any time in history and thus the cages of existence to inhabit and protect ever more complex and confusingly diverse, pushing against a peaceable holism, than the times in history you refer to. The critical question isn't about how good or bad people are but about how good their existence can afford to be before it meets with violent competition. How long can Father Christmas stay over before someone kidnaps him? And how many weapons has he in his sack just in case? Everyone wants a 'good existence' but the trade off is increasingly at someone elses expense.

I have no idea if Hitler was "born bad" or not. We'll never know if Hitler had the brain potential to develop a conscience, or had some type of fetal brain damage preventing it. What we do know from extensive research analyzing Hitler and his sociopathic personality disorder is this. He was severely mentally and physically abused by his father, and also witnessed the severe abuse of his mother starting as a very young child. He grew to resent his mother for not protecting him from his father's abuse. That doesn't excuse Hitler's actions. However, it does explain why he plotted to take over control of an entire nation while also engaging in megalomaniac delusions grandeur to take over the entire world. That is learned behavior not inherent behavior.

General comments based on other postings - If saying, well, if it wasn't that person (Hitler), it would have been another doing the same. That assumes randomness that it would have happened anyway no matter who started it, because the constants of destructive economic, political, and wide spread anti-Semitism conditions would have an underlying direct relationship to what occurred at that time in history.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 16:51:45 UTC | #885765

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 27 by Premiseless

Comment 26 by PatW :

I have no idea if Hitler was "born bad" or not. We'll never know if Hitler had the brain potential to develop a conscience, or had some type of fetal brain damage preventing it. What we do know from extensive research analyzing Hitler and his sociopathic personality disorder is this. He was severely mentally and physically abused by his father, and also witnessed the severe abuse of his mother starting as a very young child. He grew to resent his mother for not protecting him from his father's abuse. That doesn't excuse Hitler's actions. However, it does explain why he plotted to take over control of an entire nation while also engaging in megalomaniac delusions grandeur to take over the entire world. That is learned behavior not inherent behavior.

Right, well that's some interesting variables in the mix, however, as S.Cat points out, not everyone who suffered a background similar to Hitler's became a Hitler. There are other influential factors in the mix to elevate such a complex to a position of absolute power, no doubt. It's interesting that if it could be suggested he only did what he did due learned behaviours , and not due his inherent evil, there may be cause for confusion about how we all judge each others behaviours wouldn't you say? I'll not labour this point however since even if he was just extraordinarily unlucky to have the events that did befall him induce such horrors, it cannot reasonably be tolerated in behalf of the majority sufferers that he be excused his plight, even though there may be good reason to do so. I'll take issue with you though over your use of 'sociopathic personality disorder' to define 'bad' and 'good' . What exactly do you mean by it? My science brain says ???? in response to such language.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 18:47:11 UTC | #885790

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 28 by Premiseless

Comment 24 by irate_atheist :

Are humans bad or good?

How about just 'gullible.'

For everything you thought you learned, trusted or thought real that you later found to be false? That'd surely include everyone?

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 18:50:17 UTC | #885792

Helga Vieirch's Avatar Comment 29 by Helga Vieirch

Comment 22 by Premiseless

OK but do you say Hitler was 'born bad' or provoked into this position by an abrasive opposition to any peaceable solutions he may have suggested which then inspired him to being made zookeeper and protecting his live-stocks future interests? Similarly would you say the same is true of Jewish heritage in how it annihilated peoples in history who did not bend to its gods demands? This topic is currently still very sensitive due recent atrocities but the fundamental principles respecting whether one is good or bad remain. How does one say goodness is incorruptible when it often employs atrocities to maintain its claims and position? This is the challenge to humanity - can you remain 'good' when violence or repeated resentment confronts you and to what extent can you afford to do so and remain who you are?

Not at all, I doubt that any human being is "born bad". In fact that was why i wanted us to talk about this. Steve LeBlanc is suggesting that there is a certain inevitable tendency for aggressive and selfish cultures to eventually outcompete peaceful human groups who controlled their population and lived sustainably. In other words, his model could be take to indicate that humans are predominantly descended from this long evolutionary history favouring those who did not control their population growth and therefore aggressively expanded their territories at the expense of their neighbours.

I am also, by the way, an anthropologist. but I think that LeBlanc's model could be taken as support for the idea that most of humanity is doomed to be irrational and aggressive because we are mostly the descendants of what he calls "ecological dimwits" Who are these people? Read on: "They have no wonderful processes available to control their population. They are forever on the edge of the carrying capacity, they reproduce with abandon, and they frequently suffer food shortages and the inevitable consequences".

Take a look at a later line form his article:

"This is not a bunch of noble savages; these are ecological dimwits and they attack their good neighbors in order to save their own skins. Since they now outnumber their good neighbors two to one, the dimwits prevail after heavy attrition on both sides. The "good" ants turn out to be dead ants, and the "bad" grasshoppers inherit the earth."

Note that Steve doe not make it explicit whether the state of ecological dimwittedness is occasioned by "human nature" (it is in our genes), or whether it is due to cultural conditioning.

This is quite clever of him, for to have stated outright that it was biological would put him squarely in the camp of Robert Audrey (the "Territorial Imperative", Laurence Keeley "War before Civilization" , Malcolm Potts ("Sex and War") and even John Grey (Straw Dogs) and Steven Pinker among many others, starting with Plato and Aristotle, whose works of political philosophy take greed and violence of humans in a "state of nature" for granted, thus declaring that humans did much better if "governed" by elites consisting of wise and learned men, within a city state. Later philosophers like Hobbes and even John Locke essentially took the same position - and of course Hobbes is famous for describing human life in a "state of Nature" as "brutish, nasty and short".

THIS is what I object to. I am one of the few ethnographers who have lived with hunter-gatherers, and I am a student of Richard Lee whose work among the foragers of the Kalahari turned Hobbes on its head. I do not particularly like the idea of humans being "born bad" - this is not what the science shows - neither the evidence from the study of young children's behaviour, cognitive functioning, nor neural imagery, nor the evidence from the ethnographic record of foragers, nor the evidence from archaeology from the pre-neolithic period… in fact there is every indication that humans evolved to be adapted to learning a cultural system and a language. So if LeBlanc's evolutionary winners were the "dimwits" they must, in my view, have been made irrational and ecologically dimwitted by their upbringing - in other words, they were taught those ways of thinking and behaving by their parents and by the rest of the culture they were born into.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 19:06:46 UTC | #885796

PatW's Avatar Comment 30 by PatW

Comment 27 by Premiseless :

Comment 26 by PatW :

I have no idea if Hitler was "born bad" or not. We'll never know if Hitler had the brain potential to develop a conscience, or had some type of fetal brain damage preventing it. What we do know from extensive research analyzing Hitler and his sociopathic personality disorder is this. He was severely mentally and physically abused by his father, and also witnessed the severe abuse of his mother starting as a very young child. He grew to resent his mother for not protecting him from his father's abuse. That doesn't excuse Hitler's actions. However, it does explain why he plotted to take over control of an entire nation while also engaging in megalomaniac delusions grandeur to take over the entire world. That is learned behavior not inherent behavior.

Right, well that's some interesting variables in the mix, however, as S.Cat points out, not everyone who suffered a background similar to Hitler's became a Hitler. There are other influential factors in the mix to elevate such a complex to a position of absolute power, no doubt. It's interesting that if it could be suggested he only did what he did due learned behaviours , and not due his inherent evil, there may be cause for confusion about how we all judge each others behaviours wouldn't you say? I'll not labour this point however since even if he was just extraordinarily unlucky to have the events that did befall him induce such horrors, it cannot reasonably be tolerated in behalf of the majority sufferers that he be excused his plight, even though there may be good reason to do so. I'll take issue with you though over your use of 'sociopathic personality disorder' to define 'bad' and 'good' . What exactly do you mean by it? My science brain says ???? in response to such language.

That's true. It's a classic court room argument in many a US criminal trial. However, it can't reasonably be negated that Hitler's background was indeed what lead Hitler to be driven to do what he did. That's because he was a psychopath. Other people can be abused and not develop a personality disorder known as psychopathy. That’s true.

Adolf Hitler's father changed his surname from Schiklgruber to Hitler at the age 39. Alois, his father, was born to a unmarried woman names Schiklgruber. The unmarried woman has been strongly rumored to have been impregnated by a very wealthy ethnic Jewish male for whom she worked as a servant. However, there has never been any proof presented for that rumor.

Adolf Hitler is stated to have his birth certificate read Adolf Schiklgruber Hitler.

The following has an interesting accounting of how the surnames Schiklgruber and Huetler ended becoming the surname Hitler.

http://history1900s.about.com/od/hitleradolf/a/hitlerancestry.htm

The word absolute connotes finite to the extreme.

There is no inherent evil from DNA expression. People don't inherit evil from their ancestral lineage. They may learn it generation after generation, but they don't inherit it from DNA ancestral lineage.

I personally don't see any good or legitimate reasons to engage in genocide.

“I'll take issue with you though over your use of 'sociopathic personality disorder' to define 'bad' and 'good' . What exactly do you mean by it? My science brain says ???? in response to such language."

I'll answer that this way. The perception of good and evil depends on whose ox being gored - metaphorically speaking. To the one whose ox is being gored, that’s normally perceived as evil by that owner of the gored ox. To the one’s whose ox is doing the goring as intended by the owner, that’s normally perceived as good by the owner of the ox doing the goring.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 20:25:20 UTC | #885815