Human Nature Can Change

Many people, especially CONservatives, believe that “Human Nature Cannot Change”. In my opinion, this is more of a self-fulfilling prophecy for those who want the status quo.

Consider some behaviors that have characterized human beings for many thousands of years-

1. For most of human history people have been shitting and pissing in their drinking water supplies. Though some ancient people were observant enough to conclude that infectious diseases do spread through contaminated drinking water, their beliefs had little impact on human history.

This went on right till the late 1800s, when developments in science (microbiology) and technology (engineering) made it possible to supply clean drinking water and dispose sewage. Today more human beings have access to clean drinking water and sewage disposal than don’t. In any case, behavior that was acceptable and normal for all of human history before the last 100-odd years is now seen and enforced as unacceptable.

2. Consider human living arrangements.. For almost all of human history most of the people you interacted with or lived around were related to you. Today most of the people who live around you and interact with are not related to you. Urbanization is not an exclusively western phenomenon- indeed most of the worlds largest urban areas are found in Asia (Tokyo, Seoul, many Megacities in China and India) and Central-South America (Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Rio, Buenos Aires etc)

Current levels of urbanization were however possible only after public health and engineering issues (clean water, sewage disposal, availability of electricity, well maintained roads, automobiles etc) were progressively solved over the last 100-odd years. While I do not see them as utopias, urban areas are certainly better places than the rural areas where the bulk of its inhabitants originally came from.

3. Consider how we interact with other people.. For most of history we could only interact with people we could talk to in person or write/type letters to. Is that still the case and how has it affected our view of the world? Do you think extensive international trade does not affect the inner world of humans?

Today any person with a cellphone who is marginally literate can send/receive texts and pictures in addition to talking with people who are far way or who they have often never met in real life. Do you seriously believe that this new ubiquitous ability has not affected people’s worldview? Do you think governments today can control information like they used to- especially as far as the younger generations are concerned? Do you think that a guy like Hitler, Stalin, Mao would be able to do what they did no the same scale?

I am going to keep this post short, however I could give you many more examples- and might do so in future posts.

Comments?

  1. July 30, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    The tradition of pissing and shitting where people drink lives on in modern India:
    http://www.chinasmack.com/2010/pictures/filthy-india-photos-chinese-netizen-reactions.html
    Some things don’t change?

  2. July 30, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Ironic that you mention how cheaper communication makes it easier to keep up with things….

    However, there was better coverage of the Vietnam war than the debacles we are in in the Middle East right now. So, hard to say…. blogging is like your own printing press but still, I don’t know that things are “better”….

    Censorship, misinformation, who knows…..

  3. Clit Commander
    July 30, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    @stpmerwitha

    Not too much misinformation these days when people have the ability to record video and post to youtube 10 minutes later. All thanks to affordable and widely available tech.

  4. Anonymous
    July 30, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Human nature cannot change. The things you mention, pissing in their drinking water, are not related to human nature.

    No matter what people do, humans are still a bunch of unthinking dumb-shits, incapable of offering a rational reason for anything they do or supposedly believe.

    Neither you, nor anyone else can change that shitty fact.

    Want proof…

    1. “…whose the children really were, the husbands’ or the adulterers’…”

    2. “We don’t know who the father is…”

    One of these quotes was spoken by the Ancient Greek orator Lysias in a murder trial in Ancient Athens, more than 2500 years ago, the other was spoken on the Maury show last week. Can you tell which one is which?

  5. joker
    July 31, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Hehe, true. That’s my main beef with CONservatives, even the most sane of them: thanks to technological advances, human nature HAS changed or, if they prefer to see it on a way that allows them to keep the integrity of their beliefs, advances have brought to the surface aspects of human nature that were suppressed before. And, for better or worse, those changes are irreversible. Prime example: sexual behaviour. No matter how much they scream for the return of feminine chastity and responsible, respectful husbands, pills and condoms are still there, they aren’t going anywhere and any ban is laughable (Catholics try, only to confirm it). As long as they refuse to see how rules have changed, their return to the 50s looks as far away as Star Wars.

  6. mikeraw
    July 31, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Where exactly IS Central America?

  7. deus
    July 31, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I don’t think you are talking about human nature AD. I think you’re talking about subsets of human behavior within civilized society.

    Here’s an example of human nature:

    – Desire to eat
    – Desire to fuck
    – Desire to build yourself up socially with regards to others (most of the time by putting others down, sometimes by building yourself up)
    – Desire to survive (even if that means killing others)

    And I do believe those things will not disappear. Evolution is too slow. By the time our reptilian and mammalian brains wither away and disappear we’ll be out of resources and dead.

    In some humans (the dumber ones, as their reptilian and mammalian brains are more developed with relation to their higher rational brain) these desires are stronger. That’s why today, in our culture of the lowest common denominator, we have become a base, food sex and safety obsessed society, where intelligence is put down and violent sports, having the highest bedpost notch count and the biggest muscles makes you the best.

  8. Commander Shepard.
    July 31, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Great blog entry and excellent commentary as well.

  9. georgec
    July 31, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    What changes though is not the basic impulse just the MANNER in which that impulse is satisfied, which OF COURSE will change with new technology and new knowledge.

    People still shit and piss, right? Thats not going to change. They might do it differently, or in different places, but theyll do it.

    I know of no example, though, where there has been a change of impulse rather than the manner of satisfying that impulse.

    Presumably you are writing this because you think a lot of the shitty things we see people do in society can change – like what, par example? Do you think we can get rid of the aggressive impulse? Do you think we can get rid of the status-seeking impulse?

    We can design institutions that will regulate the manner in which these impulses are satisfied, but can we get rid of the impulse? And there is no guarantee our institutions will last. One generation will be quite willing to satisfy the aggressive impulse through, say, sports, or economic competition, where the next generation will find this a pale shadow of the real thing. How do you propose to deal with a generation of people who simply want war? If they want it, theyll get it. Vide WWI.

    There are basic human impulses that appear with different degrees of strength in different generations, but are never wholly absent, and can never be eradicated.

  10. August 1, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Isn’t this whole blog about how we all still tend to take a shit in the collective pool for the sake of short term gains?

    Human nature changes from generation to generation based on who succeeds in reproducing.
    There’s nothing permanent about it.
    We could talk to an ancient Greek about reproduction, eating, sleeping, and elimination, but we might be surprised how our way of seeing the world is fundamentally different than his, both on the level of nature and nurture.

    Generally, we can predict that humanity will settle into something of a Nash equilibrium based on the relationships between survival strategies (i.e. monogarmous vs. cuckoo males)

    As technologies, environmental conditions change you can end up with an entirely new equilibrium.

    Within a generation or two, you have a new human race.

  11. With the thoughts you’d be thinkin
    August 1, 2011 at 8:53 am

    One could argue that human nature is a constant but its manifestions are dependent on the sociological/technological conditions. One could also argue that man is just as similar in charecter to the capuchin monkey. After all is man not just a smart and socially apt primate? After all studies have shown monkeys behave like stock investors and blow their bananas on prostitutes and groomins from females. Hell is understanding that capuchins respond to sexy advertisements. Hell is more hairy and low to the ground than we care to admit.

  12. anon666
    August 3, 2011 at 11:31 am

    When people refer to human nature, they refer to behavioral or motivational traits that are invariant across time and culture. One good example would be status-seeking behavior, which has existed in some form in every society. The currency by which status is measured changes, but the fact that people act for the purpose of presenting themselves as better than others has not changed.

    So why are some societies dysfunctional while others are not? and more importantly – how did previously dysfunctional societies become functional?

    Are you stupid enough to believe that manifestations of human desires and feedback mechanisms are not as important, if not more, than any ‘biological’ bullshit explanation .

    • anon666
      August 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm

      None of your questions or “clever” retorts are remotely pertinent to anything that I actually said.

  13. anon666
    August 3, 2011 at 11:38 am

    ” Desire to eat
    – Desire to fuck
    – Desire to build yourself up socially with regards to others (most of the time by putting others down, sometimes by building yourself up)
    – Desire to survive (even if that means killing others)”

    Yes: sex, status, security. I’d say that most of us, introverts included, have a need for social interaction. Lastly, we possess the desire to be entertained — we become bored if we don’t have some sort of stimulus to engage our minds (which can range from playing slot machines all day to reading philosophical treatises).

    Then there are chemical addictions — many of us discover that we receive a dopamine rush in response to certain experiences or the consumption of different substances, but the specific experiences that create that seem to vary per person. However, there are certain experiences that create pleasure for the large sections of the population. Sex, obviously. Alcohol, nicotine and sugar are big ones too, although not as universal as sex (not to mention that different ethnic groups have different biological reactions to certain chemicals).

  1. August 7, 2011 at 12:16 pm

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