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Is humanity inherently good or evil?

Overtime I have developed a way of thought that has led me to believe humanity is generally good. However, many events over the past few years have challenged my inherent belief. Do you believe that humanity is inherently good? Why?

  • Jul 28 2013: I believe that neither - basically humans are tribal animals trying to survive.Beyond that , good and evil are concepts layered upon the base depending on the society.

    So at the base neither good nor evil.
  • Jul 28 2013: Not to distract... but am I the only one that is annoyed by questions like this?

    Why must you restrict the way you define humanity through such polar means? What about all of the instances in which good and evil are clearly subjective? I think it's obvious that we're both... inherently good and evil.

    I do have to agree with Mary Elen Johnson though:
    " humanity is inherently good....... just really, really scared."

    Why not, the first part helps us sleep at night and keep the faith, and the second part couldn't be more accurate. There's countless models of emotions that manifest into action and rationalization, defense mechanisms, referenced against subjective experiences that muddy the waters a bit when trying to label people 'inherently' anything. We're inherently all of the above... The whole proverbial 'Pursuit of Happiness' thing I think best describes our inherent good, for that's what most of our lives are in the name of... 'happiness'.

    I think Morgan Freeman said it best on B.O.B's song 'Bombs Away' when he said...

    "As the war between light and darkness continues
    Heroes and villains become harder to identify
    Kindred spirits separated at birth
    Fighting for their place in time to be solidified"


    "As the mask of deception falls off the face of humanity
    Unveiling the grim reality of duality
    In which everyone is a casualty, no one will be exempt
    Truth has many shades
    It's not a matter of black and white, but gray
    Although many, we are one, so in the final analysis
    Could it be that we are fighting a war that can't be won?"

    just my two cents
    • Jul 28 2013: My apologies if this type of question annoys you. Yet, you still take part in the conversation; perhaps, a bit hypocritical. In my empirical opinion, these types of questions are very healthy. Although a broad question, this question can lead one to many other questions and perhaps personal discoveries.

      What does it mean to be good? And, by who's standard? Conversely, what does it mean to be evil? You say that it's "obvious that we're both" good and evil. This perspective is very much the same as mine, however, why is it that people are more susceptible to evil when given a certain amount of power or authority? Or, on the opposite spectrum, why do many feel an obligation to help a complete stranger who is in need?

      You may be intellectually more advanced than others reading this question, but please don't squander the curiosity of others.
  • Jul 28 2013: Good and evil are both subjective concepts with no measurable physical presence.
    In other words, they're an artificial construct of the mind that doesn't really exist, and even if it would exist, you couldn't get consensus for a single definition. Everyone has their own ideas on what's good and what's evil.
    Its one of those wholly inaccurate things they teach you in kindergarten (kids have a hard time with complicated concepts, and this makes explaining things to them easier), and never bother to un-teach you later in life.

    Therefore, nothing is inherently good or evil, because good and evil as a concept is not what I'd call grounded in reality.
    • Jul 28 2013: Exactly! There is no way to measure good or evil within humanity. Good and evil are subjective terms with some common assumptions trialling both.
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    Jul 28 2013: humanity is inherently good....... just really, really scared.
    • Jul 31 2013: mary ellen johnson

      You are not alone dear.
      If the Senate goes on vacation, I'm really scared.
  • Comment deleted

    • Jul 31 2013: Deepak Behl Thumbs-Up for a great conversation.

      The problem is that mankind lets the 5% of humanity lead.
      Every morning I arise, and say my mantra:
      "Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts."
      Deepak, I jest, Just a joke, please forgive me.
      I get carried away when I write. sorry. lol
      My mantra is really just three words. "Think Good Thoughts"
      Then I brush my teeth.
  • Jul 28 2013: I think humanbeing inherently neither good nor evil,it depends on how education,environment,people around them to accompany them growing up.

    Meanwhile I observe:good or evil can be inherited to next it from gene or later educaiton?
    • Jul 31 2013: edulover learner 20+ thank you

      I have an observation also, about the same as you.

      As a youth growing up I was a fairly good and bad kid.
      My Father was an alcoholic, but he became one after his 3 children were ages 3, 5, & 6.
      My Mother was a good mother, who started smoking after my father became an alcoholic.
      So we children were in pretty good shape mentally to begin our lives.

      I was an alcoholic, a woman chasing prevaricator, who rose to great heights in taking
      successful business ventures to new lows. All 21 of them. My wife took it for 20 years
      and said bye bye. 1 psychiatrist and 1 District Attorney later, I decided money was not
      what makes you happy. Today I live with less and feel so much better. I like myself.

      My Sister the eldest, never smoked, nor drank, nor learned to drive, She instead, was
      the leader of an association of weavers. And a interesting Scandinavian cook.

      My Brother, the younger, was an alcoholic, a woman chasing prevaricator, who rose to
      great heights in the Army, and died a few years ago.

      My children 2 girls and a later preemie boy grew to become a huge man. .
      2 of my children tested drugs and alcohol, but somehow, they escaped by
      the skin of their teeth.

      Not my eldest daughter. Lost at age 15 to alcohol and drug addiction, is still lost today.
      Her 2 boys, were conceived during both parent's heaviest use of alcohol and drugs.

      At ages 4 and 6 -- One of the boys hid in a closet and using a cigarette lighter
      tried to set fire to a cat . My ex-wife's stone house burned down.

      Both boys were raised within court ordered Foster Homes. Thus far, both have
      been jailed for deadly violence to others. 1 is in jail today. Both remain drug addicted.
      They steal, anything they want from their grandmother, or anyone else.
      They do not want to change.
      Meanwhile, I observe that good or evil can be inherited to the next generation.
      Is it from gene or later education? Both.
      • Aug 1 2013: Hi Dear Frank,thanks for sharing your experience about the topic to us.The experience from you reminded me:How important parents for children's growing up.

        I remember one of TED freinds asked me the same question about drugs and alcohol problems among adolescence teengages and children in United State.China there are also those teenagers addicted to drugs and alcohol too:those children probably are rich growing up family but lack of love:almost most of them parents are busy with business and ignore children's psychological growing up.I can say most of these parents without healthy psychological spirits but money only.It caused big problem in their children's education.Fortunately most of chinese children growing well in the society,at least for students I taught,all they are very lovely and good behave,when I talked to them,I always tried to show my high respect about their parents to them.
        Being a teacher,I am aware of a child growing up,most of depends on parents' hard work but teachers'...So any student performed good in my class,I never forgot to tell those students:thanks for your parents hard work to support you growing up...

        I haven't been to United State,but I think it is really a profound topic to keep searching:what caused so many children there addicted to drugs and alcohol?Being a teacher,I am very interested in it too.I welcome anyone comes to share that to me anyway and anytime:)
  • Aug 6 2013: humans are whatever their environment is simple as that they had no choice as to what their morals would become.
  • Aug 6 2013: I would classify humans is being evil in the sense that we are naturally very opportunistic. If something has the potential to benefit us we will take advantage of whatever "it" is, even if our actions mean the destruction of lives, homes, or habitats. Even people who try to help horrid situations are still part of the same evil. They're just largely mitigated. Such people know that they will be praised and glorified for their actions or they may be doing it for religious reasons, i.e., divine approval. We are just like any other species on this planet. We live to exploit. So, are we evil? Perhaps. But we would then have to categorize all life on our planet as being evil.
  • Aug 5 2013: Very intriguing question. Questioning the inherent good or evil of humanity. Not this person or another but rather Mankind as a whole, as a species. So, to start this up I need to understand where our baseline or frame of reference is for good or evil? All of us together comprise Mankind, by definition. Our behavior, beliefs and collective moral stature must then set our form, our basis, for what is good and what is evil.

    Consequentially, our inheritance, whether positive or negative, comes from within our own camp. You can't choose family and on a grand scale, we are all family. So, our inheritance, whether fully or partially responsible for our dispositions, comes from, well, ourselves or at least that group of people which form the basis for what we consider good or evil. So, I feel another question may be in need of inspection here.

    Since being "inherently" good or "inherently" evil would by definition be the equivalent of us collectively believing that we are better or worse than those that preceded us or than that which we could imagine ourselves being, it appears that it is mostly about how we feel about ourselves. Do we feel "good" or "evil" and is it our preference that the responsibility for this sense of worth be hoisted upon someone else's shoulders or can we support it on our own?

    We may in fact inherit very much of what we consider to be "ourselves" but being or feeling "good" or "evil" ? There is just so much we can accredit other people with, the least of which being how we feel about ourselves as a community.
  • Aug 3 2013: When you say inherent, I think instincts. When I think instincts, I think of all the defense mechanisms that are built into the creature homo sapiens. These instincts, including caution, self-preservation, and even selfishness, have helped the human race survive and grow for thousands of years. With this in mind, I think it is fair to say that humans are not necessarily evil, but have animalistic tendencies.

    While this is definitely true, there is one other thing that we must remember: the human tendency for empathy, which can, and often does, trump the other instincts. From family members risking their lives for loved ones, to a global outpouring of support for natural disaster-torn areas, it is impossible to deny that empathy plays a huge role in the way humanity functions today. Whether this is also an evolutionary instinct, or comes from somewhere else, I can't say, but I think this empathic capability makes the human race capable of great feats of compassion and connection that would not be possible if humanity were "inherently evil."
  • Aug 2 2013: Neither- we are, as a group, too simple to function on a basis of "good" or "evil". We just dabble in both frequently upon a synopsis driven whim. Enlightenment is thinking about 50% of your actions before you proceed with them... I say 50% because more often than not we won't even take into regard the rightness or wrongness of what we do, and since those terms are relative to most people would it matter anyway?
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    Aug 2 2013: Put that notion aside,
    If human are inherently evil, and I change them to good, are they still evil?
    If human are inherently good, and I change them to evil, are they still good?
    In both case, am I good or evil? I am both good and evil.
  • Aug 1 2013: Austin Bundy,
    I believe that humanity is inherently good,
    with an exception being geographical governments..

    Why? Below I list today -- I am not a zealot.
    Merely a concerned historian of sorts.

    Try reading the histories of the Hitler regime in the early 1930's.
    The way a small cadre of individuals were able to enslave untold
    millions within a very few years.

    Millions maimed & died. Innocent men, women, and wee children.

    The parallel's with some of today's geographical governments are
    most disheartening.

    Secret surveillances of phone and computers must be opposed
    by our elected and appointed representatives. Those who refuse
    to work to cancel ongoing snooping activities, need to be removed
    from their fat positions of influence.

    A repeat of the Nazi should not be tolerated.

    Am I wrong, in your opinion to be thus concerned today?
  • Aug 1 2013: edulover learner 20+ Thank you.

    Your point about working and neglecting the children during their most formative years
    has reminded me of my son's conversation with his son yesterday. His son, my grandson,
    was to leave last night on a trip to the State of Arizona. He was moving there with his
    mother (my son's first wife, now divorced from my son). She was moving to attend a
    school, and to work at a job she had found.

    While in my house, we live close to one another -
    My son, told my grandson, a 12 year old child, that the same thing happened to him,
    at the same age, and how badly he had felt since, to lose his daily contact with me.
    Both were close to tears at the end of their conversation, and hung around each
    other quietly talking until it was time to go.

    In all the years since my separation from my wife - when my son was 12 -
    My son and I never sat down together, to talk about our 'lost times'. Not once.
    I believe, we both may be solitary individuals as a result, We both enjoy being by
    ourselves, although we both have many friends, we always claim that is not so.
    We are two peas in a pod. We do go out of our way to say I love you every day.
    And a hug or pat on the shoulders is done often, with nary a word. My son does ask
    my consul for his problems and sends his friends to me for my advice. Oddly he
    does not relish my beating him on the pool table when we play snooker. I teach the
    3 and 4 cushion bank shots to the other elderly players. As a wee child, he would
    fall asleep beneath my pool table, and I would carry him to his bed after a bit.
    Memories are best when told as a story. We get to enjoy the editing.

    The drug problem was not here when I grew up. I blame it on the 1960's when
    Corporal Punishment of children was made against the law. Since then,
    our youths then, and since, have lost their way. A pitiful 50+ years, and the
    leadership of the United States suffers because of it. They never grew up.
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    Aug 1 2013: Humanity is inherently both. But a combination of genetics and experience, we tend one way or the other.
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    Aug 1 2013: Humanity is Inherently Good..with a potential for being great to awesome.
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    Jul 31 2013: Frank, thank you for your reply. It is a far stretch for me to believe they would curtail a vacation. Yes, it's all really scary stuff. I find myself continually asking, who the heck is really in charge here ? The answer speaks to a host of self-serving "club members" who's favorite desert is power.
  • Jul 31 2013: AUSTIN BUNDY


    Will this type of activity found today at the US Senate Hearings, help to answer your question?

    XKeyscore: NSA tool collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet'

    • XKeyscore gives 'widest-reaching' collection of online data
    • NSA analysts require no prior authorization for searches
    • Sweeps up emails, social media activity and browsing history
    The US Senate is in recess until 1pm est. Today, July 31st, 2013.
    After today, they go on vacation for the month of August.
    Some will be visiting with their constituents who sent them to Washington DC.
    Some may be hiding, out of country for a while. They should.
    The American voter is not too happy at this moment in time.
    I am of course irate as I write of these donkey's fooled by the Mi.litary.
    As the Astronaut might say: "Houston we have a problem here."
  • Jul 31 2013: It cannot be define exactly. But I can say that the environment, surrounding and people whom one gathers togetherswith make one persone complete. Although a lot of factors exist, it is comfortable for people to think Humanity is inherently good because if we think humanity in a negative way, our future will be dark and blind. Isn't it better to think positively? :)
    • Jul 31 2013: Sophia BAE

      Times are changing rapidly Sophia.
      We need to become aware quickly now.
      At least those of us who care.

      The US's Military, and who knows who else, have overstepped their boundaries.
      And today the 31st day of July, 2013 may be remembered for their deeds.

      I am a history buff. And this is a page out of the 1930's Germany.
  • Jul 30 2013: When someone think about this, I say that humanity always inherently good.why ? because humanity think to help people and other.people who don't have humanity never consider to help other and inherently evil
    • Jul 31 2013: Sapta Utama

      Follow closely the news today July 31st 2013.

      Watch, look, and listen to the interplay between humanity and the acceleration of
      information technology, for both the ethical use, and unethical use of these and
      other speculative technologies, as relates to the many United States spying agency's.

      Today's disclosures to the United States Senate, of current and past practices of
      "Military cyber IA and NSA spying agencies and their Private Corporation Partners"
      who have provided for years splitter Telephonic Transmissions and the collection of,
      ALL of our Computer Communications including specific surveillances' of ALL innocent
      and unknowing customers, who have been quietly misled by continuous Security Updates
      stated to be protections against virus's, malwares,and dastardly hackers.

      So today the United States Senate let us and the world know, "they have been scammed"

      Will the Congress remain in session to remedy the deplorable acts?
      Should they take their August vacation?
      Will the Military try to explain their actions, or try to cover up?
      Will the Major American Communication Corporations stopped fleecing their customers?

      Turn in, Watch CNN or whatever.
  • Jul 29 2013: The points where I would wish to focus are on the words "humanity" and inherently".

    I think that any really interesting question like this needs context. Are we taking into account all of humanity that lived or our current population? Is this a question regarding the sum total of humanity as a species, homo sapiens, or are there problems is addressing an ethical discussion without recognising the subjectively of not only culturally referenced notions of good and evil, but individuals? Whom is to decide what is good and what is evil to begin with?

    "Inherently" starts me thinking about genetics, encoding of behaviour, world views and the like. Is there a sense of conformity or self-awarnes/s here, are we taking responsibility for our actions? Which mechanisms are we going to explore that create a predisposition towards something?

    Are we predisposing that altruistic behaviour is ultimately good, for example? If we were to decide yes, then we are obligated to step out to the next layer of context. Choosing for example culture and environment, a small scale personal act of altruistic behaviour which might be casually ascribed as "good", could then become culturally and environmentally negative, so in which contexts are good and evil defined?

    I would say that humanity of inherently adaptable and the questions over the predominate ethical and moral landscaoe which we create changes over time and context.

    With Genuine Interest

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    Jul 29 2013: Austin,
    You say... "Overtime I have developed a way of thought that has led me to believe humanity is generally good. However, many events over the past few years have challenged my inherent belief".

    Does your statement suggest that what we "think" about something becomes our belief? You "thought" humanity was "generally good", and "events over the past few years have challenged your belief?

    Could it be that what we focus on expands to become our overall reality/belief? That is my belief, so I don't like categorizing all of humanity one way or another. There are wonderful, respectful, compassionate, caring, loving, very useful human characteristics, and there are human characteristics that are not so useful. I agree with is what we, as individuals choose, which contributes to humanity collectively.
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    Jul 29 2013: Inherently "Humanity" is is what we individual human turn it into then expressed collectively
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    Jul 29 2013: I agree with John Mauren's remark: the question is quite sharp and black/white (and could be better formulated). but this might indeed reduce the number of comments or discussion

    I'm going to break down the question:
    1) you ask about "humanity" and not about "humans". (so the question is more sociological than psychological)
    2) You mention good/evil (not good/bad). Which I usually use on a human level, not a humanity level.
    2.1) I think good/evil might have something to do with intent. I don't accept the idea that "humanity" has intentions, which would make the question void.
    2.2) If I use good/bad instead, then I ask the question: good or bad towards what? Certainly, humanity hasn't been good for quite some species (which are now extinct, or nearly extinct), but humanity has been good towards humans and itself (the humans who form it are -on average- better of than in the past, and humanity has spread around the globe and is still connecting and growing more and more).
    This would imply that humanity is more good than bad for humans and itself, but not necessary for all other living things (I don't even know if humanity is good for most living organisms)

    3) If you ask whether humans are inherently good or evil: then I would say: both, but we are more good than evil. We all cheat a little bit, take little advantages when we can (especially when we are sure chances of getting punished are very small), but we cooperate a lot (allowing us to live together in very big numbers and diversity), which is good.
    Still, there is a small percentage of people (individuals) who have some mental impairments that makes them more evil than good.

    note: I assume harming people intentionally is evil. Harming people unintentionally is bad. There is no difference in English to distinguish intentional and unintentional good (maybe good and beneficial would be better: good vs evil and beneficial vs bad).
  • Jul 29 2013: Sometimes good. But a little evil can clear the air of a great deal of good.
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    Jul 29 2013: Inherently good, in that we don't want kill each other from birth. If something traumatic happens, then any action after that wouldn't be inherent. Actually, anything at all that happens after birth couldn't be labelled as "inherent," as we had been affected (haha almost wrote "infected").

    Inherently bad-ish (definitions of good and bad are hard to form), in the sense that we are inhherently self-centered. Our perspective is first degree (
    • Jul 29 2013: Under that definition, we're neither.
      A new born human has little more than a capacity to learn, eat, sleep and poop. Not exactly what I'd qualify as inherently good or evil.

      You could argue that we're shaped by the world around us, but that's a completely different philosophical question.
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    Jul 29 2013: I believe that everybody, deep down inside, is good and is capable of being good. Everyone has their loved one that they would sacrifice for.

    It is their wrong doing that is bad but not the people themselves. Some people try to do good things but always end up screwing up. Some people who commit evil acts just because they have to suffer from a trauma, depression, stress or some other bad events in their life.

    And I believe that good people would bring out the good in people. If you actually take the effort to treat people, not as who they are or who they used to be, but who they could become, it would truly make a huge impact. If you believe that people can be good and you show them that you do, then they will become good.
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    Jul 29 2013: .

    It is "inherently" good because
    it is our ancestors' successful experience of symbiosis.
    Otherwise, humankind can not survive.
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    Jul 28 2013: Austin, Humanity being the human race as a whole, IMO, is neither good or bad but a collection which contains the best and the worst.

    It always helps me if someone gives a specific we can discuss. State some events that concern you. Don't give up there are great people out there.

    So lets discuss specifics shall we.

    I wish you well. Bob.
  • Jul 28 2013: Neither. Good and evil is a concept that only makes sense if one believes humans are outside the community of life.

    It is like saying are lions evil for slaughtering a young antelope or are hippos evil for sometimes eating their own? Are honeybees good because they pollinate fruit trees? Animals are animals and humans are animals too.
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    Jul 28 2013: How goes the human drama on Earth? That answer will show the answer you seek.
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    Jul 28 2013: Good

    The acts that make it seem otherwise are not organic to man.
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    Jul 28 2013: Hi Austin.
    It depends on what good and evil are. How do we define good and evil?
    Looking at the history & present state of mankind, it is difficult to be upbeat about the state of mankind.

    • Jul 31 2013: Peter Law 50+ Please let me step in Peter.

      During today's Senate hearing,
      A problem has finally come to light concerning our
      our congress and certain military actions that bypass
      secret court approvals, in concert with private telephonic
      and computer communication paid-partners performing
      surveillance's and collection and splitter transmission to
      Army cyber IA, and Army led NSA, and other such
      information collection agencies, like the DHS, CIA & FBI.

      And, to be more redundant --
      For years now we have been told the value of computer
      program updates. A never ending stream of protection
      placed inside our every computer. But we are never told
      about the programs inserted that provide surveillance's and
      collection and splitter transmission to Army cyber IA, and
      Army led NSA, and other such information collection agencies,
      like the DHS, CIA & FBI.

      Spy agencies, Secret courts and Military partners.
      All to collect our privacy, and store it for eons upon
      the Utah bluffs, and Virginia, and Georgia, and 8 or 10
      other sites, elsewhere.

      Looking at the history & present state of mankind on
      July 31st, 2013
  • Jul 28 2013: Is weather inherently cold or hot?
    • Jul 28 2013: I appreciate your wisdom
    • Jul 31 2013: Barry Palmer 50+

      You've won the HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD award.
      For a lot of thought to your message.