Posted in: Discoveries

Scientists Discover Human Beings Are Actually Good Natured Folk After All

Is human nature essentially good or evil?

It’s one of the classic and timeless questions about human nature: Are people inherently good or evil? Recent studies suggest that our initial impulses are usually selfless, meaning that we’re a bunch of good eggs after all.

The question is one that philosophers have debated for centuries, with most people falling into the Hobbes (we’re evil) or the Rousseau (we’re good) camp, while a precious few outliers opt for Locke’s tabula rasa compromise (we can go either way).

A new set of studies probed human nature to find compelling scientific data that helps us understand our inherent nature as essentially selfish or selfless beings. Various scientific researchers from Harvard to Yale set out to answer the same question: What is our automatic impulse or first instinct? Do we act selfishly or cooperatively?

David G. Rand, a developmental psychologist with a background in evolutionary game theory at Harvard, Joshua D. Greene, a Harvard moral philosopher-turned-psychologist, and Martin Nowak, a biologist-cum-mathematician, all set out to answer this question with their own unique backgrounds and scientific tools at hand.

Out of seven studies and a total of 2,068 participants from campuses and nationwide sampling, researchers seemed to prove the Hobbes assumption wrong. Each test asked individuals to make decisions that would either maximize group benefits or individual benefit. Time was also a unique factor: The faster the decision is made, the more intuitive it was judged to be.

In every single study, the results showed that faster-made decisions benefited the group, while slower-made decisions tended to benefit the individual. That is, quick thinking favors the group, while slower thinking favors the selfish individual.

Though the study doesn’t definitively call the game in favor of good-natured human beings, it provides some interesting data that supports the idea, and shows that human beings are at least willing to work together initially before a situation’s unique concerns pollute our intentions. You can read more about the experiments at Scientific American.

What do you think? Are human beings essentially good or bad?

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7 Responses to “Scientists Discover Human Beings Are Actually Good Natured Folk After All”

  1. Jeff Lark

    We're inherently evil. You can know this by giving people enough time without the rule of law. Exceptions will occur, but not often.

  2. Austin Sickels

    If you really want to test out if humans are either good or evil then don't test the question on adults but on kids when they are still in the developmental stages of life when they are still acting on instinct and not on logical choices.

  3. Debbie Vargas

    The truth is, humans will lie. They lie on these types of surveys and observations in the fear that they will be perceived as being evil and want to save face. When really put to the test, it isn't a matter of good or evil, it's a matter of survival.

  4. Armando Tan

    Thousands of years ago, writers of divinely inspired books we now call the Bible said God made man in His own image. And since the same book tells us repetitively that God is holy, so we who are made in His image must be holy too.Just because we made a mess of our true identity when God gave us free will, doesn't mean we are inherently evil.

  5. Debbie Vargas

    This has nothing to do with God. Perhaps you should go back and read that statement in the Bible again, it does not say His image, it says Our image. Our could have been anyone or anything in the Heavenly vicinity. The Bible was also written by man, no matter how much it was supposed to be inspired by God. Out of all the interactions that I have had with multitudes of people, the ones that believe in God and the Bible have more of a vested interest in promoting themselves and using the label of religion or Christianity to do it.

  6. Armando Tan

    Debbie, I don't think you read the Bible. See Genesis 1:27. In verse 26, God was talking about the mystery of the Godhead- which is the Trinity; hence the use of the plural pronouns "us" and "our". I wonder what makes you so condemning of us Bible-believing Christians. what level of human perfection have you really achieved?

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