Are Humans Inherently Good or Bad?

Since the beginning of time, our existence has raised a number of questions we cannot seem to disregard nor answer. How was the universe created? What is our purpose in life? Are we born with a moral compass that points out what is good/bad or does society shape our view on moral beliefs? For centuries philosophers and psychologists have tried to answer these questions accurately, each of them advocating different views. For instance Hobbes defended the idea that the natural state of man was “solitary, poor and nasty” while Rousseau believed we are all born good and pure, and blamed society for turning us evil by corrupting our good nature. Aristotle argued that morality is something we learn, not something we are born with. Sigmund Freud stated that new-borns are moral blank slates and that it is the role of parents and society to teach babies the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, mean and nice.

One way of finding out about our fundamental unspoiled characteristics is to look at babies. Babies are humans with the absolute minimum of cultural influence – they have never seen the news, have never been to school and haven’t talked to any politicians. Long story short, their minds are as close to “innocent” as a human mind can get. A study from the Yale Infant Cognition Center showed that young babies, after watching a puppet show that demonstrated the selflessness and selfishness of two different colored puppets, tended to choose the selfless puppet.

The test is very simple. A gray cat repeatedly tries to open a big plastic box but he just cannot manage to open the lid all the way. A bunny in a green t-shirt (the good bunny) comes and helps him open the lid. Then, the scenario is repeated, but this time a bunny in an orange t-shirt (the bad bunny) comes and slams the box shut and runs away. Which bunny do the babies choose? In this study, more than 80% of the babies preferred the good bunny, either by reaching out their hands for the good bunny or solely staring at it. This study showes that babies seem to be drawn towards kindness. Research conducted by other universities has also shown that children will impulsively help an adult who seems to be needing assistance like trying to open a door with their hands full, or trying to retrieve something that has dropped; without seeking any encouragement or reward. So what happens to these moral instincts as we grow old? Why is it harder to bump into kindness in big cities when we are adults?

Unfortunately children are exposed to the corrupted society which influences them against their free will. I believe humans are not by nature evil. Instead, they are born good but affected by the environment and people to act in “bad” ways to either harm others or themselves. Things we witness and do everyday changes our behaviour from acting good to evil. You get to choose the path you want to take, either it’s the bad one or the good one. We are all born to live a life where we are faced with good and evil things and what’s important is to invest in our innate capacity for goodness.   By harnessing this orientation toward goodness we can direct our capacity to do good, to be good; to love, care, help and heal. However it is impossible to ignore our destructive capacities,therefore, it is essential to acknowledge and own them. For it is only when you build a bridge between good and bad; love and hate that forgiveness can make its way for salvation and healing.

 

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