Secondary School Student and IT guy, Hamblys Herbal Dispensary

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Are humans good or bad?

Good or bad are very broad terms, I know. Most of us would say we're evil mostly because of our ruthlessness to the planet, it's very easy to be harsh on ourselves. On the other hand, (I read this in an article I can no longer find) a Biologist would say it's amazing that a group of men can sit on a plane for hours with one fertile female and everyone walks off unscathed. I'd love to see an overall view from your different perspectives.

A thought of mine was that animals and plants fight for success as a species hence evolution and the reward systems in place so we eat and reproduce. We're programmed to advance humanity as a whole in some ways and look at us - we're brilliant. We certainly are the most successful species on Earth right now, possibly in the Universe. So this is good, isn't it - we won! Obviously, we have a responsibility now with so much intelligence and power. What do you think?

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    Jan 4 2012: I would like to contribute this of my favorites to use when asked either/or questions by children:

    “I asked the Zebra,
    are you black with white stripes?
    Or white with black stripes?
    And the zebra asked me,
    Are you good with bad habits?
    Or are you bad with good habits?
    Are you noisy with quiet times?
    Or are you quiet with noisy times?
    Are you happy with some sad days?
    Or are you sad with some happy days?
    Are you neat with some sloppy ways?
    Or are you sloppy with some neat ways?
    And on and on and on and on and on and on he went.
    I’ll never ask a zebra about stripes...again.”
    ― Shel Silverstein
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    Jan 11 2012: Humans are neither good nor bad.

    They can behave in ways we judge either good or bad.

    Human being are just as humans ought to be that given a good environment and sufficient love are wonderful.
    • Jan 12 2012: I agree fully with this comment. It is behavior that is good or bad not the person. I believe that was Dr. Spock s conclusion. (not that Spock you filthy fellow Trekkers)

      I would like to add indifferent to the list.

      @ Md Santo I would say (Good, Bad, Indifferent) (True, False, Unknowable) (Right, Wrong, Undecided or Unaware).

      It's this 3rd group that seems to be the issue.
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      Jan 12 2012: Frans,
      After visiting URL - (“Human Consciousness – Definition and relationship with Nature Knowledge”), should you goto URL - “Basic structure of HSBKM model framework” ). Take a look at pp 3 – 4 , types of Knowledge indicated through each type of Knowledge Interface (KI). Basically there are 9 types of Knowledge. Your inquiry about “intuition” come from the 3rd Knowledge Interface and hypothetically originated from 6th Knowledge Interface
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    Jan 5 2012: up to you, it's a free choice.
  • Jan 3 2012: Neither. Morality is relative.
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      Jan 5 2012: What does this mean "morality is relative"....? Really?
      • Jan 6 2012: Society determines what morality is. For example, to a society of cannibals, cannibalism is fine.

        Morality still exist just in different levels. Killing a human being is a worse crime then stealing from someone in societies in the United States.
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          Jan 6 2012: Zared, while your argument does make some sense, it obviously cannot be seen as a complete idea. I say that because it doesn't account for the infinite number of changes that different societies have seen in their morals. For these changes to have occurred, there must have been some outside thinking of morality.
      • Jan 7 2012: Societies interact with each other, morals can change by interaction. Also, societies evolve over time, so morals changes with time and development. It is a complete idea. I was just explaining it in a pithily manner.
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          Jan 9 2012: I would argue that morality is objective... Human morals are relative. As society evolves, we approach the ideal of objective morality, as we devolve, as we did in The Dark Ages, we move away from objective morality.

          Cannibalism is unhealthy, and a great way to spread parasites... No matter what your personal relative sense of morality tells you. Pigs are fat, fed cheap food, and lie in feces... so do lots of animals, but they are particularly bad... The belief that eating pork was evil, comes from the objective fact that it's unhealthy... Same with alcohol and drugs, they feel good, but treat your body poorly.

          Objective morality, involves focusing on rational long term self interest, so as to live a long life that you are proud of, and makes you happy. There is a definition of what that means that is objective... but no one knows exactly what it is. We approach understanding the concept through philosophy and theology. Each person has individual taste, choice, and experiences, which make their concept of morality work for them, and lead them on the path towards objectivity...

          There is objective moral knowledge however. Some things aren't good for you, and some things are actually evil... Killing people, at random, isn't "expressing your own code of morality", it's murder, and it's objectively not moral. Killing a specific person for a specific reason, is usually murder. If however they intend to kill you, or kill others... Humanity doesn't know, most religions are pretty confidence self defense is moral. There are objective answers to these questions however, that involve potential futures. We can't predict the future.

          Morality, is our attempt to make a rational, educated guess, as to how a human being should best live their life, to create a good future for his or herself, and the world. There are objective answers to these questions, none of us are quite perfect at professing them, and each path is unique. My hippy daisy moment of the day.
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    Jan 12 2012: "Good" and "Bad" are human constructs. And they are not necessarily useful since they are not defined the same way by all humans or all human societies. I'd rather think about "Kind" or "Unkind"...
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      Jan 13 2012: I just wonder if we can obstruct concepts of good and bad that aim to benefit human conscious experience.
      • Jan 16 2012: Yes

        If what you are doing is hurting an other then it is wrong. If it is not hurting an other then it is OK. If it is helping an other it is a superior action.

        This puts the responsibility of ones own action squarely on ones own shoulders. Where it should be.
        • Jan 16 2012: What if hurting an other means helping an other and what if helping an other is really hurting the other?

          There is no superior moral action. All moral constructs are from circumstantial social norms.
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          Jan 17 2012: Stephen, Your hurting comment is similar to the golden rule.

          Zared, I get the point about social norms but aren't there some norms that enhance human/society levels of happiness and others that don't. Aren't these norms open to rational critique.

          Our human experience seems to be an ongoing tension between competitiveness and cooperation.

          You know the funny thing is kids can often tell what is fair or not. We tend to agree across cultures that taking something that doesn't belong to you - theft is not fair - i.e. bad. But it does gets complicated. Tax is the government taking something that doesn't belong to them - as part of social contract in return for services etc.

          Despite the UN convention on human rights, rights of children, I doubt we'll see a practical applied universal view anytime soon. The differences are too large in terms of what people think is right and wrong. Humans are still cutting off hands for theft, support execution etc thinking it is right, whereas others like me find that barbaric and disproportionate.

          But suggest a rationale non religious analysis would start to highlight some ideals that benefit the human condition. We are already on the human journey. Slavery, rascism, homo phoboa, sexism, monarchies, capital punishment etc are hopefully on the way out as being accepted behaviour in the long view. A lot of progress in the last few hundred years of the 100k+ years homo sapien has been around. Its worth challenging norms based on religion or tradition. But the light bulb has to want to change.

          One more random thought - I suggest most people have a view of what they think is good or bad behaviour. I do, although I accept it is a product of my experience and exploration. However, I suggest no one achieves perfection on their own individual scale of good and bad. So from this narrow view we are all a bit of both. The practical differences are how hard individuals and societies strive to meet these ideals.
  • Jan 11 2012: Humans are not 'good' or 'bad' , we are 'happy' or 'unhappy' :)
    I strongly believe that we can't be happy doing 'bad' things.
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      Jan 11 2012: Dear Natasha,

      From my point of view, there are three pairs of key words used to describe how human choosing their life preferences in the Universe. They are namely “Good or Bad”, “True or False” and “Right or Wrong”. Those three pairs of key words likely to describing human life preferences in Physical Universe, Inner Universe and Divine Universe respectively.
      • Jan 12 2012: Md Santo !
        Thank you very much for the response !
        But I think "three pairs of key words" serve more for the purpose of judgement of human choices, not for the description of those. And Who is to judge ?
        "Only he who understands the whole can also comprehend a part " Can we see the whole ?
        As to my experience , any judgement diminishes my understanding , which is limited by definition :) Maybe you will agree that reality and ' human choices ' as a part of it is better described in terms of ' both/and ' rather than ' either/or.' OK, the direction of human good choices is clearly seen and as we can expect leads - towards greater caring, a lessened regard for material things, a desire to be of service to others, a more integrated awareness... It is a map, "good' "right' , but "black and white' map, it is not reality, it differs from the landscape. Every moment we do our choices, which can be both good and bad, right and wrong. Maybe the thing which makes us feel good and happy and which is really important is our attempt to be 'good' to do 'right' things, but whether they are 'right' or 'wrong' we don't know.
        "It's too early to say !" - was the response of Chinese emperor who was asked to comment on the event which had taken place 200 years earlier ... Still it was too early to say ! :)
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          Jan 12 2012: Natasha,

          Yes, it's difficult for us to see the whole considering we have limitation to judge. And our limitation come from the living reality that we have only, from my terminology, maximum possible score of Knowledge Value (KV) = 9.0 within continuum ranging from 10 -38 (Planck Number) through infinity ( see URL - “Basic structure of HSBKM model framework” )

          Yes, to assess our Knowledge instead of K-mapping we should do also K-audit, KM metrics etc. But anyhow because of our limitation, it's still relative not absolute judgement to know the landscape
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    Jan 5 2012: our natural state is GOOD, we were born good. if one is not aligned with the inner self can go what we call bad.
    but we are good. indeed good.
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      Jan 5 2012: I disagree, our natural state is bad. Left to our own device, we wreak havoc. Loving parents, then caring educators, and perhaps religious doctrine help us to have some sense of morals and values.

      However, we all have a potential to be good. Our life experiences mold us...this is my point of view.
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    Jan 12 2012: There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. - William Shakespeare (from Hamlet)
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    Jan 12 2012: QUOTE: "We certainly are the most successful species on Earth right now, possibly in the Universe."

    By what measure are we the most successful? Sure we may be the brightest but then we are comparing ourselves to paramecium and bonobos.

    It is estimated that there are 5 × 10^30 bacteria on the planet with a total biomass exceeding that of all animals and plants combined ... and they'll probably be here after we're gone.

    And then there's the cockroach ... virtually indestructible.
    • Jan 12 2012: Good point! I guess judging successfulness is a matter of opinion too. I guess I was thinking about the food chain, our brains and civilization but we probably won't be here the longest.
  • Jan 17 2012: @ G M

    Hey, you noticed that it is the golden rule, which happened to show up in some form or another, in every culture that "Man" has manipulated for himself.

    The treatment of human beings is my cause, World Hunger my issue so I twist the golden rule to sound like this;

    If I knowingly allow people to suffer and die, from the curable disease of starvation, then I willingly allow people to just let me suffer and die.
  • Jan 17 2012: @Zared
    We agree on that. There is no such thing as one moral that is absolute.

    So we have to use some method of deciding what is right or wrong, so I say;

    If what you are doing is hurting an other then it is wrong. If it is not hurting an other then it is OK. If it is helping an other it is a superior action.

    So if either person is being hurt, stop immediately what you are doing, evaluate and either fix or throw out the situation that is doing the hurting. Until the hurting stops.

    No utopia here. People are still going to have hardships to deal with. Just the ability to choose for yourself good behavior or bad behavior.

    So no moral absolutes but you can't always choose good behavior?

    That was poorly phrased, how about; You cannot always intend for there to be a positive outcome for both parties in a dispute?
    • Jan 17 2012: Yes, it is impossible to always have a positive outcome for both parties in a dispute because perception evaluates true meaning and both parties including a third-party will view the dispute.
      • Jan 17 2012: let me ask the question again more clearly.

        YOU (because its the only person you can speak for) can not always intend for a positive outcome in every dispute between yourself and another human being?

        This is not a possible or impossible question. This is me asking you if you can control your behavior.

        If the answer is that mankind cannot control his behavior (on an individual basis), then what are we even talking about here? We need to turn to dust and get on with a better form of life.

        I believe we can control our decisions to hurt one another.

        Try to look past your understanding of my question and you will see it more clearly.
        I will try to do the same. (We are all learners here)
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    Jan 12 2012: Apparently we're quite good. Particularly with fava beans and a nice chianti.
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    Jan 12 2012: Yes, I’m fully aware that some people mentioning my work as Metaphysical and/or PseudoScience on what I’ve done regarding the issues. But as I’ve suggested you to take a look at URL - (“Human Consciousness – Definition and relationship with Nature Knowledge”), specially pp 4 – 5 mentioned under the heading “Knowledge Value (KV) measurement” actually is an effort to develop Knowledge Management (KM) metrics to “de-metaphysicalized” the issue

    Our concept of Knowledge Value (KV) measurement applied to Nature as well as Human Knowledge, shown as Knowledge Management (KM) metrics actually derived from our operational Human System Biology-based KM (HSBKM) model framework applied in the form of an absolute value scaling ratio ranging from 10 -38 (Planck number) applied to Knowon, our newly proposed 5th fundamental force in physics and consecutively KV = 5.0 applied to human Knowledge with Higher Consciousness (KHC) or accumulated to KV = 9.0 as human maximum possible score en route to infinity or goes beyond human KV (“unknown” or “spiritual” domain area). KV is mean to assessing hypothetically the intensity of Nature Knowledge consciousness element factor (CEF) within Knowledge continuum in the Universe (see URL “Knowledge Value (KV)” and - “Basic structure of HSBKM model framework” )

    I do agree on what you’ve said that “Humans are born neutral” considering right before born no intervention whatsoever from namely the lower and medium level of consciousness to triggering our free will
    • Jan 13 2012: Huh?

      I was referring to the notion of "spiritual being" as being metaphysical. Your work is clearly out of my pay grade and I would be a fool to claim it wrong or right.

      I am skeptical that you can quantify "knowledge" but by all means give it your best shot.
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    Jan 10 2012: Finn, bit of a nonsense question unless you define good and bad.
    • Jan 10 2012: Well yes but it's all part of the fun if you give your opinion on what's good and what's bad. You could think of being as successful as possible as a species to be good. Or to be the cleverest or the most caring to other species to be good. It can be part of the answer, showing what you personally think to be good... maybe a new TED discussion is what the difference between good and bad is! :)
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        Jan 12 2012: Okay, will put up a few ideas.

        Suggest the behaviour of other animals or living things is usually not considered good or bad, just following their nature, killing, competing etc to survive and pass on their genes. Although, human may look upon animal behaviour through a human lens ans see a mother animal protecting it's young as admirable from a human perspective and other behaviour detestable if committed by a human.

        From one perspective, at the highest level all human and animal behaviour is just following our natures. With may link to good and bad being relative to a particular set of values or cultural norms.

        Humans have most sophisticated brains and intellectual capabilities on many levels and we have developed various value norms in various societies/groups. Some of these relate to basic individual survival and group dynamics not dissimilar to what we see in other pack mammals . However, As far as I know humans are the only animals that have a concept of rights. Also are the only animals that kill and die over ideas, or have third parties such as police and judges decide things, secular and religious codes and laws.

        The variety of views over time and places is amazing. If your daughter is raped in some cultures the first impulse of some fathers may be to kill the daughter out of shame. In others the impulse is to protect and aid the daughter and perhaps punish, lock up or kill the rapist.

        Suggest judging humans from most value sets we are a mix of good and bad. From both an individual and a societal perspective. Succeeding and failing in part to meet the local ideal standards - more or less. Most societies have crime. Most individuals would admit they are not perfect by their values. Perhaps the more important issues are how individuals choose to live relative to their values and debate about what is good and bad.

        I believe rights are a choice not an absolute, but they should be argued from secular ethical perspective.

        In summary - Neither or both.
  • Jan 9 2012: Are humans good or bad? Yes

    If you believe that the advancement of technology makes us the most successful species in the universe then sure.

    However, all of the species alive are the most successful to date. Without microbes, a seemingly minor life player, life on this planet does not exist. Man is only the top of a food chain that he drew up.

    A champion has both won and lost many battles so the idea of being "the winner" is illusory at best.

    I personally choose to do good sometimes and choose to do bad sometimes and I suspect, being a human like myself, you behave in a similar fashion.

    We are born into existence like all other species (without further instructions). Meaning no responsibility was issued to me.

    Since I am here and so are you, I have 2 choices; cooperate with other people to make my life better or do my own thing to make my life better. That's pretty much it.

    So as the human race, we will either learn to live together in peace or we won't. Either way, life will continue to reinvent itself and the species we call human beings will evaporate like so much that has come before us.

    Your thoughts?.
  • Jan 7 2012: I could argue that there is no such thing as good or evil and that despite whatever protestations of self-determination you will see, we are all ultimately witless puppets of physics and time.

    But instead I will argue that we actually cannot know when an act is an expression of free will with malice or nobility or the result of time and physics or as some would prefer to put it, nature and nurture.

    If a lion breaks out from a zoo, it might go and kill people but nobody will hate the lion because we automatically give it the benefit of doubt.

    The line separating humans from other animals is an imaginary one, we are each just as bound as the other by the laws of physics. The human brain is what dictates the actions of a human and the human brain is a physical mass. If someone goes out and kills or rapes another human being, it is because of the physical configuration of their brain.

    Don't misunderstand me though, I'm not trying to say that free will does not exist. I'm saying that even if it does exist, there is no possible way to ever know if an act is an expression of free will or not.

    If it cannot be known then we must believe and reconcile two contradictory things if we want to live in a prosperous and respectful world.

    We must assume that nobody is ever responsible for what they do and always show compassion because to pick and choose will never be anything other than an arbitrary throw of the dice and an expression of our personal flawed prejudices.

    We must also assume that everyone is an entity with free will and something more than a biological robot because the alternative means that it doesn't matter how we treat them. If you could know that an entity was just a robot then what moral difference does it make if you "hurt" it?

    Good and Bad are labels we use to disguise our arbitrary lines of separation we throw up between ourselves and others which allow us to feel superior and do horrible things.

    I want to say more but I am out of characters.
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    Jan 7 2012: i think Good and Bad are just labels we put on things that have proven to be either benificial or detrimental to the human race. we created good and evil and i dont think there would be "good" or "evil" without the human race. so from a more objective point of view, its purely an illusion amd we are in fact neither.
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    Jan 6 2012: yes we are bad and/or good if you believe "god" and "bad" have anything to do with being human. The more verbage one uses to describe ones' humanness the more good and bad come into the fray. Humans as an evolutionary species? Check for good. Humans as one of many members of Earth insofar as ow we treat our earthly-home? check for bad. Humans as how they co-exist with other humans. Double-check bad. Humans ability to describe these events and ponder many "what iff's?" double check good. I just hope what you feel personally as it relates to others is "good'!! Peace.
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    Basically human beings are good. But, because we have “free will” factor, we could get becoming bad. I’m in agreement with Stephen Covey’s quote saying ...... “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.....”

    Md Santo -
    • Jan 9 2012: Please define what a "spiritual being" is
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        The term “human” refers to bio- physical structure comprising the peripheral and autonomic nerve system or senses (as lowest consciousness) and mind brain or central nerve system (as medium consciousness), but the term “spiritual” refers to non bio-physical structure representing our highest consciousness level or conscience

        Because of its highest level, epistemologically the nature of “spiritual” (psycho component) considered as dominator to the nature of “human” (somato component). Therefore “spiritual being” is “human being” with emphasized on their highest consciousness level with consideration that we are psycho-somatic entity creature

        Ref for this short narration among others is URL - (“Human Consciousness – Definition and relationship with Nature Knowledge”) and please note on page 4
        • Jan 12 2012: So in short your definition is Metaphysical.

          World English Dictionary
          metaphysical (ˌmɛtəˈfɪzɪk ə l) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide]

          — adj
          1. relating to or concerned with metaphysics
          2. (of a statement or theory) having the form of an empirical hypothesis, but in fact immune from empirical testing and therefore (in the view of the logical positivists) literally meaningless
          3. (popularly) abstract, abstruse, or unduly theoretical
          4. incorporeal; supernatural

          I encourage the study of what we do not understand. I discourage bold claims in areas that we do not have full understanding.

          That is why I asked what you meant by "spiritual beings".

          I believe Humans are born neutral. We have needs and desires. The acquisition of those needs and desires can be labeled as a good behavior or bad behavior from a second party s point of view. All people display good and bad behavior.
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          Jan 12 2012: Md Santo,
          The view you try to express in your posts are most similar to mine but I find the way you try to quantify it all a bit confusing. I visited the pages you refer to without being informed about your scheme. I see knowledge value KV without any explanation about what knowledge has to stand for or who or what knows. I do understand that information is the base of creation, I understand the Universe to be all-knowing and human consciousness limited in space-time but can't put this in numbers.

          What do I miss? Where does intuition come in?
        • Jan 12 2012: Hi, Md Santo !
          You said :"The term “human” refers to bio- physical structure.... but the term “spiritual” refers to non bio-physical structure..."
          Etymologically the term ' Human ' refers to both. The fallowing explanation was in one of Kathy K comments, hope she won't mind my quoting :
          'Hu' (or hum, depending on the source) is Sanskrit for "breath", while 'man' (or 'manus', depending on the source) is Sanskrit for "mind",
          therefore the HUman is the combination of the breath (or spirit of God) and the mind (to think).
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    Jan 5 2012: Neither. I dont think humans are a good or bad question. We make mistakes and we get angry. We are only beginning to learn. And what is good for one is bad for another. I work with so called 'bad boys.'I never see them as bad. I never see anyone as bad. oh except for a murdering psychopath i once new. Now he was a bad egg but i guess he can be explained. Good and Bad. Jesus. Hmmmm I'm not so sure.
    I must admit we can look pretty ugly when it comes to sexual competition. We will fight for our girl. Hey that's why we're slightly bigger than females. Isnt it just wonderful?. DNA reproduction knows no morality.
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    Jan 4 2012: Bad!
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    Jan 4 2012: Both ; dependant on our mood.

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      Jan 4 2012: Hi Peter,

      And what's your mood depending on?
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        Jan 4 2012: Hi Frans

        Happy New Year !

        Much the same as yours I guess. Prevailing circumstances, adrenalin, tiredness, wife, side of bed etc. The trick is to be good when you really feel like being bad.

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    Jan 4 2012: I think we are relatively good, but objectively awful. Compared to our surroundings on the planet earth, we are fantastically successful at this current moment in time, and we do a better job of stuarding the protection of other species, than they would do of us, if our roles were reversed.

    Objectively, however, if, for example, an alien race that could move at light speed were to visit us as a race, and learn of our history... I think we would have a very difficult job defending our thousands of years of violence and slavery. If I were an alien passerby, I would keep right on moving past this crazy violent species, we'll probably dissect ya.

    I thinkhumanity is in great danger of forgetting that objective reality exists. Comparing us to other species, is a race to the bottom... Comparing us to ideals moves us forward. One must always remember that which we come from, and appreciate where we're going however.
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    Jan 4 2012: I think we are good, with bad habits.
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    Jan 3 2012: If anything, we'll turn out to be good to the universe in the long run. Like bees, keeping everything rocking and rolling.
  • Jan 3 2012: Good.