Human Nature

Some Topics

father& son
  • Innate Tendencies

    Innate tendencies are constant features, buried deeply in the human psyche. Innate tendencies are not rigid forms but are patterns of organization that collect individual, biographic content. Innate programs are the form and biographical details are the content. There are two essential principles:

    1. Innate tendencies exert a persisting motivational force even though new learning may override them.
    2. New learning is added to, but cannot replace old tendencies.

    Recurrent patterns of behavior in human societies reveal innate tendencies. Similarities in emotional expressions in animal and humans reveal innate tendencies. Brain function has evolved conservatively so that old features of the reptilian brain remain intact in modern humans and the best new features such as detailed, declarative languages have evolved naturally by the elaboration of older communication systems shared by many animals. The more cognition is studied in other animals, the more obvious it is that most "thinking" is nonverbal and is well distributed in nature. Other animals may not think in the same way humans do and no other animals rely on language as we do, but all animals communicate using different strategies for encoding and decoding information. Most animals are specialized for specific environments and, if we competed on their turf, they could probably beat us in many ways.

    The mind of a Bonobo and a chimpanzee exists in our mind; we have some modifications and a few added features. Old programs include some of our most negative qualities such as predatory and territorial aggression and anger. Some of our most positive qualities are also innate such as the tendency to bond, care for infants and form cooperative social units with altruistic features. The old brain remains in control of our bodies and often controls our minds.

    Schools have emphasized learning reading and writing, but no school is capable of designing and installing language processors in the brain. Schools add content to and exercise the already-existing language processors. Children learn spoken language naturally and spontaneously but, left on their own, most will not read and write.

    Human destiny as a species still lies with the programs in the old brain. Individuals can transcend the old programs by diligent learning and practice but individual effort and learning does not change the genome. Whatever we value about civilized human existence - culture, knowledge, social justice, respect for human rights and dignity must be practiced anew and stored as modifications of each person's neocortex.

    Success at humanitarian efforts within a society reveals that portion of human attitudes, beliefs and behavior that can be modified and/or are supported by innate tendencies. Failure of moral authority reveals the extent to which innate negative tendencies prevail no matter how diligent the effort to modify or suppress them.

    Each person must understand and modify four innate tendencies:

    1. The tendency to criticize, blame and punish others is inevitable in humans and opposes the tendency to cooperate with and care for one another.
    2. The tendency to form exclusive groups and discriminate against others is also universal and opposes the tendency toward tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
    3. The tendency to covet the property of others, to lie, cheat and steal is also universal and opposes the tendency to respect the integrity of the other, to cooperate and share.
    4. The tendency to anger, hatred and killing is also universal and opposes the tendency to recognize the common humanity in the other and opposes the intelligence of seeking ones' own well being by protecting the well-being of others.

    Rules imposed in the form of laws and forceful oppression can never achieve the desired result since these devices can only restrain temporarily innate negative tendencies. The requirement is to transform human negative tendencies through a process of inquiry, self-scrutiny, liberal education, meditation and participation in diverse, multicultural experiences with other humans.

    The editor of Nature wrote:" Although history is not made entirely, or even mostly, by prominent men and women, two great exceptions to that rule were born exactly 200 years ago today, on 12 February 1809: Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln. These men shared more than just a birthday, the loss of a mother in childhood and a date with immortality. They shared a position on one of the great issues of their age: the 'peculiar and powerful interest' of their fellow humans bound in slavery. When he circled the world in the 1830s, Darwin's delight at our planet's natural riches was repeatedly poisoned by the human cruelties he saw meted out to slaves. "I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country," he wrote at the end of the Voyage of the Beagle. It was common at the time to believe that the different races of men had been created separate and unequal. But the abolitionist beliefs that Darwin derived from his family, friends and social setting strongly disposed him to the idea that all men - Englishman and Hottentot, freeman and slave - were brothers united in shared ancestry. The ability to see that unity-in-variety was one of the things that allowed him to perceive something similar in the natural world as a whole.

    "For all Darwin's noble ambitions, the century and a half since On the Origin of Species have shown how easily his image of a fiercely competitive world can be used to bolster pre-existing positions of power and privilege. The history of arguments about humanity based on "biology provides a sorry rehearsal of pretexts and apologias for everything from unthinking prejudice to forced sterilization and genocide. This history counsels caution as ever deeper and subtler forays into the science of human nature become possible. ..It is vital, however, that this new knowledge should be judged by far higher standards than the ideology passed off as biology that blighted so much of the twentieth century. Scientists have beliefs about what is right and wrong, just like everyone else. And try as they may to put them to one side - some try hard, some not so much - those beliefs will influence the way they do science, and the questions they ask and fail to ask. The scientific enterprise as a whole has to pay particular heed to the risk that preconceptions will creep in whenever what is being said about human nature has political or social implications. This is particularly the case when science begins to look, as moral psychology is doing, at the mechanisms by which people make decisions about right or wrong. Science may be able to tell us why some values are more easily held than others … work on altruism suggests, worryingly, that communities more normally need an outgroup to form against. Science insists on the value of truth even when it is inconvenient or harmful; most people's beliefs tend to reinforce their self-interest."

  • Human Nature is a 21st century portrayal of anthropology, neuroscience, philosophy, sociology and psychology - disciplines that need to be integrated as they are in this book. The topics are essential to understanding human nature, its origins and its problems. You could treat each topic as module of a larger system that develops emergent properties as the modules interact. Each reader discovers the features of human nature in himself or herself and then discovers similar features in others. After you understand more about the dynamics of close relationships, you can look at larger groups. You can continue by applying your insights into human dynamics to governments, countries and international affairs. Other Persona Digital books describe the same dynamics but emphasize different vantage points and concerns. Human Nature is available as a printed book or as an eBook for download. 492 Pages.

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    Human Nature
    The Good Person
    Pieces of the Puzzle
    The Sound of Music
    Surviving Human Nature
    Language & Thinking
    I and Thou
    Emotions & Feelings
    Neuroscience Notes
    Human Brain
    Children and Family
    Intelligence & Learning
    Religion 21st Century

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    Human Nature is the first volume in the Psychology & Philosophy series, developed by Persona Digital Books. We encourage readers to quote and paraphrase topics published online and expect proper citations to accompany all derivative writings. The author is Stephen Gislason and the publisher is Persona Digital Books. The date of publication is 2018.