Innate Traits of Man|
November 19, 1996
today is to fill out questionnaire
about the "nature of man" and create a website based on the findings.
I have some reservations about the questionnaire.
The language is unclear and the questions create false
dichotomies. I think the true answer to many of these questions is
somewhere between yes and no. Reality is often not so easily caged in such
I don't think we can say with any certainty if man
is or is not any of these things. Our knowledge, especially in this
culture, is limited to a small number of quite similar cultures. So what
we may think of as culturally invariable may in fact only be represented
in the small number of cultures we are aware of. The cultures in the
world that have the largest numbers of people in them have many similar
traits. To grow to their large size and influence they have out competed
many other cultures (largely through aggression and procreation). Although
the traits of the dominant cultures may
not be represented as strongly in the majority of the world's cultures,
we may take these traits to be innate because of our lack of knowledge
about the many other cultures of the world. Even if a trait is exhibited in
all the world's cultures it
may not represent the innate state of humans.
Despite my misgiving I think the survey yields some interesting results.
The vast majority of students think that humans are innately territorial
and competitive, while about half think we are selfish and prejudiced,
slightly less feel we are greedy and few believe we are inherently
arrogant, moral, ethical, or benevolent. When I filled out the survey my
answers were mostly along these lines. I have gotten similar results using
a related survey from Dr. Darkmatter to the results in today's class.
I believe much of our behavior is
genetically determined. So we can talk about traits being innate. However,
innate traits are carried by the gene not the individual. Because our
genes only function is to reproduce themselves they are innately selfish.
Our genes are not alone in this world, however. Other copies of our genes
live in those related to us. Hence we are innately competitive,
territorial and selfish primarily with regard to those who are not
related to us. We are benevolent and "moral" to those who are related to
us. Not necessarily because we're altruistic, but because they share our
gene that makes us moral toward those carrying similar genes will
reproduce its self more often and will hence be more represented in our
Biology, and Conflict
SOCIETY AND ITS FUTURE
Here are some human mental characteristics that affect what abilities
might be innate.