THE WICKEDNESS OF MAN
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
I remember reading Vernon Johns' essay on "Civilized Interiors" and not really understanding why he felt compelled to write about how men need to change their interiors. After all, human nature is fairly well set, so what can be done. I think this point is still correct, but I now understand the motive for Johns' essay, because I have been thinking a lot about the nature of human nature recently. And, I think, for reasons similar to those that motivated Johns.
Vernon Johns was a very frustrated man. He had to not only fight the whites but the blacks also in trying to get his voice heard in the United States. I think that it was out of his frustration with the negativity of his fellow humans that the question of what motivates humans arose. After all, if the supposed best minds of his time were so petty, then what hope was there for the rest of the human species. In his essay he was saying that even the "smartest" of the humans around him should look at their own inner civilization and ask themselves why they were so supportive of human evil.
For similar reasons, I have been asking myself the same question. The obvious shortcomings of the social sciences in their thought processes and the support of those same sciences for racial and ethnic segregation under the guise of the plural but equal slogan (they don't even plush about the similarity to the separate but equal slogan) has been a real eye-opener. Even when confronted with a version of reality far closer to the "truth" than their politically acceptable beliefs, they have still refused even to consider this reality (or even allow it to be published). Their actions are so perfidious as to deserve the title of "wicked" (and will be seen as such in the future when this period of segregation is no longer politically acceptable). So what is this thing called "human nature?"
Now we know that most of the social sciences take a political stance that human nature is very malleable and is primarily what the social structure makes of it. But those of us not so poisoned by politically correct thought, accept the influence of evolution on humans and know that much of human behavior is determined by biology and genetics. In fact, it has been generally estimated that perhaps as much as 50% of human behavior is explainable in terms of biology.
In thinking about human nature we have to sort out what is the biological nature of man versus the social influence on him. Basing our thinking about human nature in terms of evolution and the natural sciences (rather than the wishful and political moralizing of the social sciences), we have to see humans as fairly similar to and as petty as the other more evolutionarily advanced animals. And this pettiness and selfishness stems from man's evolutionary experience. If life were easier, humans might have evolved differently. But life is not easy and humans, like other animals, have built-in natures that are extremely petty.
For instance, take the ranking system of humans, which is extremely similar to the system that exists in other animals. Humans are always aware of the ranking system and they are almost always trying to improve their ranking in one way or another. Much of the constant bickering and conflict among humans stems from this impulse.
Related to the ranking impulse is the selfish struggle of humans to keep what they have gotten and to prevent others from getting their fairer share. The history of humans has been a struggle (and it has indeed been a struggle) to break the various injustices perpetrated by those who managed to capture the top spots on the social ladder.
Now, of course, there is such a thing as altruism. But when you look closely at this impulse, it is primarily an individual act of courage or heroism and selflessness to save another human(s). This is also part of human nature because group survival was absolutely imperative if individual survival was also to be assured. So much of this altruism occurs within evolutionarily defined channels.
But actually standing up to the entire society for what is right in a higher sense is a very rare phenomenon indeed. And that is why we call such people "prophets" -- a rare breed in the extreme. And these people are hated in their own times by the vast majority of humans in the group from which the prophet springs.
The concept of "prophet" is actually very telling for the nature of man. For the prophet is the exception to the rule of human nature. And because of this it is a very useful concept for helping us understand the nature of man and his society. For if we examine what man is based on the fact that he is not a prophet, we can gain insight into human character. If the prophet is seen as unusual because the prophet does not accept evil, the obvious message is that the "normal" human being does accept and live with evil. If the prophet is the only one willing to tell the "truth," then the obvious implication is that humans are naturally comfortable with lying. (One could argue that the social sciences actually approve of lying because people have to be taught what the social scientists deem as the "proper" -- politically correct -- message. They see this as a more important aspect of their purpose than trying to follow the truth wherever it might temporarily lead politically.)
It is an evolutionary fact that man is a "born" liar. Humans had to survive in groups and those that were too disruptive were eliminated. So man had to quickly learn how to keep his mouth shut about his real feelings and learn to adjust to the group. Man has to lie in order to survive in society. This lying was key to human society and human survival.
Since man is a natural liar, it probably shouldn't shock us so much that our social scientific intellectuals continue this tradition. Actually, the science part of the term is really a misnomer. It should be called social moralism or something similar because social scientists are more concerned about the political and social impact of their thoughts at the moment and in the near future than about discovering the truth. Of course, they are so enveloped within a moralistic context that they do not even see that they are being untruthful and primarily political. (I can remember getting the reaction of several sociologists to my writings about the real nature of racism. Their comments were "I don't like it." This was primarily a political comment. They didn't say if it was true or not, but that they found it politically unacceptable. Of course, racial segregationists who see themselves as the good guys would be expected to see it this way.) But a real social science cannot be based on what is politically acceptable. Only a narrow-minded and misguided social moralism is based on such a foundation.
Given the stubbornness of humans, as well as their pettiness and cruelty, we will just have to wait for the larger trends that will eventually spell the end of social moralism and the current period of segregation. And this brings up another key point I want to make. Far too much emphasis is placed on the ability of humans to control their own destinies. In studying the cycles of history, one sees first of all that the social sciences are not sophisticated enough and far too political to understand the reasons for the cycles. This leaves them unable to predict or explain the cycles. And, second, one sees that human inaction, primarily as the result of selfishness, is so pervasive that governments don't change as a free act of volition, but largely as a result of the larger social and economic forces that push humans into new actions.
Return to Main Page Table of Contents
Return to Home Page