Something that comes up often in discussions is the question of whether human beings are naturally evil creatures that need to be held in check with laws, either from the state and/or from a god, or whether they are intrinsically good. Those who believe that humans are intrinsically bad, claim that without any laws that tell people how to live and behave, and that threaten them with punishment if they don’t follow those laws, humans would be out of control and we’d be living in chaos. They point at their own negative experiences with people, and at examples of people in societies around the world who are jealous, deceptive, manipulative, violent and corrupt. And it’s true that when we look at the majority of people in societies around the world today, it really seems like humans have a lot of bad qualities and can’t be trusted. But is this naturally the case? And do we really need the state or a god to tell us how to behave correctly and to tell us how to live our lives?
First let’s define human nature and morality so that we know what we’re talking about:
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally, independently of the influence of culture.
Morality (from the Latin moralitas “manner, character, proper behavior”) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are “good” (or right) and those that are “bad” (or wrong).
When it comes to human nature, we have to ask ourselves how humans would naturally behave if they weren’t influenced by their environment, before we can determine if human nature is intrinsically good or bad. In other words, we have to look at the forces that exist within the human being himself that drive and shape his behavior. And what drives the human being at the most fundamental level are, of course, his primary biological instincts — the fundamental programming of life that’s behind the basic needs and desires of every human being, and that primarily define his behavior. I’ve discussed these basic needs and desires in details in my post on Our Basic Needs as Human Beings. All these basic needs ultimately exist in support of the one primordial desire: we want to live. Logically it would make absolutely no sense for nature to fundamentally include any desires in an organism that would contradict their primordial desire to live; if it did, entire species would simply self-destruct.
This means that natural human behavior resulting from the primary biological instincts will always be consistent with the primordial desire to live. That’s why the basic needs include communication and social interactions (such as cooperation) that benefit life and help to ensure that it will go on. And if we study nature, we can see that even at the most fundamental level of biology, organisms have a desire to help and support each other in difficult times. For example, at the cellular level we have social amoeba (Dictyostelid) that help each other in times of food shortage. The same can be said of animals such as wolves, coyotes, elephants, dolphins, rats and chimpanzees that show empathy and reciprocity. Humans are no different in this regard under natural and supportive environmental conditions; we want to live as individuals, but we also want to help others to satisfy their basic needs and to survive. It makes us stronger as a species and ensures our long term survival. 1
However, things start to go wrong when outside forces in the environment interfere with our desire to live. Faced with a direct or indirect threat on their life and the fulfillment of their basic needs, any organism will start to behave in extreme ways out of self-defense and self-preservation. The same goes for humans. Placed in a hostile environment humans will start to exhibit strange and, depending on the severity of the threat, even extreme behavior. And currently the societies we have around the world are all hostile towards humans; they’re fundamentally flawed and evil, purposefully designed to weaken every individual so that he can be easily controlled, manipulated and enslaved. They force individuals to conform to a flawed system, and in the process cause them to develop predatory behavior, as social engineer Jacque Fresco mentions in the video below.
Under these hostile circumstances it shouldn’t really be a surprise to us when we see people starting to exhibit unnatural and undesirable behavior.
For example, sexual suppression and repression in societies around the world — especially via religion — are the cause of many behavioral problems in human beings. In fact Dr. Sigmund Freud had warned many years ago that sexual repression was the root cause of many problems in Western societies. Starting from very early childhood, sexual suppression prevents humans from satisfying their natural sexual needs which causes psychological problems that lead to jealous, mean, irrational, unpredictable and even violent behavior. 2 I’ve discussed this extensively in my series on Understanding Women. An article on Psychology Today states the following:
Nothing inspires murderous mayhem in human beings more reliably than sexual repression. Denied food, water, or freedom of movement, people will get desperate and some may lash out at what they perceive as the source of their problems, albeit in a weakened state. But if expression of sexuality is thwarted, the human psyche tends to grow twisted into grotesque, enraged perversions of desire. Unfortunately, the distorted rage resulting from sexual repression rarely takes the form of rebellion against the people and institutions behind the repression. (If it did, perhaps we’d be reading of abused priests rather than priests as abusers.) Instead, the rage is generally directed at helpless victims who are sacrificed to the sick gods of guilt, shame, and ignorant pride.
All our basic needs are determined by nature itself and revolve around the continuation of life. And nothing is more important to the continuation of life than reproduction. Consequently, nothing is more threatening to the continuation of life than suppressing or repressing the sexual drives. Any individual faced with such a threat from his environment will exhibit extreme behavior and often violent reactions out of self-preservation and self-defense. As explained in another post, sexual suppression and repression in society exist in order to weaken, manipulate and enslave the individual.
Another example of hostility towards the individual in societies around the world is the fact that governments lay a claim on the income of every individual via income taxation, which interferes with their right to life. In essence the government steals part of the income of every individual without them being able to do anything about it; income that the individual needs to take care of his basic needs and keep himself alive. And the individual has to cooperate, otherwise the government by intimidation and/or through the use of force, eventually still confiscates part of his income. This is a direct attack on the right to life of every individual. And this again leads to undesirable behavior, like Frank Chodorov explains in his book “The Income Tax: Root of all Evil“:
The income tax, by attacking the dignity of the individual at the very base, has led to the practice of perjury, fraud, deception, and bribery. Avoidance or evasion of the levies has become the great American game, and talents of the highest order are employed in the effort to save something from the clutches of the State. People who in their private lives are above reproach will resort to the meanest devices to effect some saving and will even brag of their ingenuity. The necessity of trying to get along under the income tax has made us a corrupt people.
For a much more elaborate discussion on the many negative effects of income taxation on individuals and on society in general, read my post Income Taxation is Slavery. Like I mentioned there, nobody is born a criminal; it’s our society and the systems that we use within our society that creates criminals. And like author Albert J. Nock mentioned in his book “Our Enemy, the State,” the State is an anti-social institution comparable to a professional-criminal organization that’s hostile towards the individual. 3 With such an institution in society, it shouldn’t surprise us when people start to develop extreme and anti-social behavior. In fact, it’s completely expected and logical.
These are just a few examples of the way in which the environment can negatively influence the behavior of human beings, who in another more supportive environment would be naturally good and altruistic people. The natural state for any organism — including human beings — is to be cooperative and live in harmony with its kind and in its environment. Everything goes wrong when they are introduced into a system that manipulates and seeks to exploit them, that forces them to live against their true nature, and that makes it difficult for them to satisfy their basic needs and consequently threatens their survival. In such a case they start to develop undesirable and unnatural behavior, and that’s exactly what we see everywhere around the world.
All discussions on the question of whether man is good or evil, a social or antisocial being, are philosophic game-playing. Whether man is a social being or a mass of protoplasm reacting in a peculiar and irrational way depends on whether his basic biological needs are in harmony or at variance with the institutions he has created for himself.
Now that we know that human beings are intrinsically good under natural conditions we can look at morality. Based on the above, we can conclude that the distinction between good and bad intentions, decisions and actions really comes down to whether an individual’s primordial desire to live is being respected or not. A natural moral code should be based on that distinction.
Here’s what Frank Chodorov had to say about this in his book “The Income Tax: Root of all Evil“:
The human being is the unit of all social institutions; without a man there cannot be a crowd. Hence, we are compelled to look to the individual to find an axiom on which to build a nonsocialistic moral code. What does he tell us about himself?
In the first place, he tells us that above all things he wants to live. He tells us this even when he first comes into this world and lets out a yell. Because of that primordial desire, he maintains, he has a right to live.
Certainly, nobody else can establish a valid claim to his life, and for that reason he traces his own title to an authority that transcends all men, to God. That title makes sense.
When the individual says he has a valid title to life, he means that all that is he, is his own; his body, his mind, his faculties. Maybe there is something else to life, such as a soul, but without going into that realm, he is willing to settle on what he knows about himself—his consciousness. All that is “I” is “mine.” That implies, of course, that all that is “you” is “yours”—for, every “you” is an “I.” Rights work both ways.
But, while just wanting to live gives the individual a title to life, it is an empty title unless he can acquire the things that make life livable, beginning with food, raiment, and shelter. These things do not come to you because you want them; they come as the result of putting labor to raw materials. You have to give something of yourself—your brawn or your brain—to make the necessary things available. Even wild berries have to be picked before they can be eaten. But the energy you put out to make the necessary things is part of you; it is you. Therefore, when you cause these things to exist, your title to yourself, your labor, is extended to the things. You have a right to them simply because you have a right to life.
That is the moral basis of the right of property. “I own it because I made it” is a title that proves itself. […] your ownership entitles you to use your judgment as to what you will do with the product of your labor—consume it, give it away, sell it, save it. Freedom of disposition is the substance of property rights. Interference with this freedom of disposition is, in the final analysis, interference with your right to life.
What this means is that we don’t need many and complex laws to tell people how they should behave. A natural sense of morality is connected to human nature and comes from within; it automatically follows from the fundamental programming of life that drives us. We don’t need the state, culture or religion to tell us about morality. Every human being is able to automatically develop a good sense of morality based on his own natural instincts, provided, of course, that they’re allowed to develop themselves naturally and are not tampered with in any way by outside forces.
In the final analysis, a good and natural sense of morality is based on the following statement: Respect each other’s right to life.
It’s really that simple. Good intentions, decisions, and actions (virtue) are those that respect everyone’s right to life. Bad or evil intentions, decisions, and actions (vice) are those that interfere in any possible way with the right to life of an individual or a group of individuals.
For example, when you respect an individual’s right to life, this automatically includes acknowledging and respecting his basic needs as a human being, and it also automatically includes respecting his property rights, as Chodorov explained. People would stop hoarding resources (like money, land and food) because they would realize that in doing so they deny others the satisfaction of their basic needs, and thus interfere with their right to life. A competitive society would also not make sense, because everyone’s basic needs would be acknowledged — even those of a competitor; so instead of competition, there would be cooperation. Furthermore, when you respect an individual’s right to life, this also includes being honest to him, because feeding deceptive information to him will most certainly have a negative impact on his life, will introduce difficulties in his life and may even put his life in danger. Respecting an individual’s right to life also means respecting his freedom in the broadest sense of the word, including his free will and freedom of expression; as Chodorov explains, nobody can lay a claim on the individual or his life; he owns himself, and interference with an individual’s freedom of disposition is interference with his right to life.
As you can see, the above examples come naturally and every human being is able to automatically come to such a natural sense of morality under normal conditions. This is why Noam Chomsky was able to visit people in Amazon tribes and “take for granted that they have the same conception of vice and virtue as I do.” 4 We don’t need the state or a god to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong. In fact, when we allow the state or religion to decide for us what’s right and what’s wrong, and to tell us how to live our lives, then that’s exactly when problems start to arise.
I’ve already mentioned some examples above of how the state interferes with the right to life of individuals, causing them to develop unnatural and undesirable behavior. When it comes to religion, I’ve explained in previous posts what the purpose of religion is: to brainwash whole masses of people with a false reality in order to easily control, manipulate and enslave them. History is full of evidence of the kind of chaos, destruction and human suffering that has been caused by religion and religious conflicts and this is still going on today. Even when it comes to the gods that are being worshipped, there can be no doubt anymore about the fact that they were malicious and evil. I’ve recently published a post on Yahweh, the Judean/Christian god from the old testament in the Bible, and I encourage you to read it and find out exactly who this god really was and what he stood for. It will quickly become very clear to you that we can’t possibly take an example from such a god and base our sense of morality on him or his supposed word. If we were to develop our sense of morality based on such gods, we’d simply be as barbaric as they were. And I’ve argued that people who appear to be intrinsically bad are often that way precisely because they worship such gods. 5
So to summarize what I’ve discussed here, humans are intrinsically good under natural conditions. A human nature that is truly developed in a natural way, without any kind of manipulation from outside forces, such as the state, culture or religion, is universal and will always be supportive towards, and in service of, the individual’s desire to live. A natural sense of morality that automatically follows from such a human nature, comes from within each individual and is based on respecting each other’s right to life. All of us can come to this realization because it’s built into us, if only we can manage to filter the noise (brainwash) from our environment, and listen to the signal that comes from deep inside our consciousness so that we can get back in tune with our true nature.
When food (normally bacteria) is readily available they are individual amoebae, which feed and divide normally. However when the food supply is exhausted, they aggregate to form a multicellular assembly, called a pseudoplasmodium, grex, or slug (not to be confused with the gastropod mollusc called a slug). The slug has a definite anterior and posterior, responds to light and temperature gradients, and has the ability to migrate. Under the correct circumstances the slug matures forming a sporocarp (fruiting body) with a stalk supporting one or more sori (balls of spores). These spores are inactive cells protected by resistant cell walls, and become new amoebae once food is available.
Examples of social behavior in other animals:
The phenomenon of ‘reciprocity’ in nature is seen by evolutionary biologists as one way to begin to understand human morality. Its function is typically to ensure a reliable supply of essential resources, especially for animals living in a habitat where food quantity or quality fluctuates unpredictably. For example, some vampire bats fail to feed on prey some nights while others manage to consume a surplus. Bats that did eat will then regurgitate part of their blood meal to save a conspecific from starvation. Since these animals live in close-knit groups over many years, an individual can count on other group members to return the favor on nights when it goes hungry (Wilkinson, 1984) Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce (2009) have argued that morality is a suite of behavioral capacities likely shared by all mammals living in complex social groups (e.g., wolves, coyotes, elephants, dolphins, rats, chimpanzees).
Such social behavior exists in order to guarantee the primary objective of survival and to ensure that life will go on, as I also discussed in my post on Our Basic Needs as Human Beings.
I also highly recommend watching the below TED talk by Frans de Waal on moral behavior in animals.
In the video below titled “We Are Built To Be Kind” psychology professor Dacher Keltner from the University of California, Berkeley, dispels many myths about the way humans are wired and explains the science behind empathy and kindness.
Despite many of us believing in social Darwinism (the mistaken view that survival of the fittest translates into being naturally selfish; the most ruthless and bloodthirsty of us will survive etc.), Keltner puts the record straight: That wasn’t Darwin’s view of evolution at all. In fact, Darwin felt that sympathy is the strongest instinct that humans have (“The all-important emotion of sympathy”). In chapter 4 of “Descent of Man” Darwin wrote:
With mankind, selfishness, experience, and imitation, probably add, as Mr. Bain has shown, to the power of sympathy; for we are led by the hope of receiving good in return to perform acts of sympathetic kindness to others; and sympathy is much strengthened by habit. In however complex a manner this feeling may have originated, as it is one of high importance to all those animals which aid and defend one another, it will have been increased through natural selection; for those communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.
The conclusion is that social behavior — including compassion and empathy — is very important for having a successful society or group, and consequently is essential for survival. And as Keltner explains in the video, the feeling of compassion is hardwired in a very old part of the brain called the Periaqueductal Gray, showing that compassion is really old in the nervous system as Darwin speculated. All of this shows that humans are wired to be intrinsically good, unless of course you put them in a hostile environment.
The Trobriander children are not familiar with sexual repression and sexual secrecy. The sexual life of Trobriander children develops naturally, freely, and without interference through all stages of life with full sexual gratification. The children engage in sexual activity in keeping with their age. In spite of this, or, rather, precisely for this reason, the Trobriander society, in the third decade of this century, was ignorant of any sexual perversions, functional mental illnesses, psychoneuroses, sexual murder; they had no word for theft. In their society, homosexuality and masturbation were looked upon as incomplete and unnatural means of sexual gratification, as a proof that the capacity to experience normal gratification is hampered. The strict, compulsion-neurotic toilet training which saps the civilization of the white races is unknown to the Trobriander child. Hence, the Trobriander is spontaneously clean, orderly, naturally social, intelligent, and industrious.
Based on his research, Reich had concluded that humanity has been “forced for thousands of years to deny its basic biological law [the sexual needs] and, as a consequence of this denial, has acquired a second nature which is anti-nature.” Just like I explained above, Reich also recognized that natural human behavior resulting from the primary biological instincts will always be consistent with the primordial desire to live:
The patriarchal, authoritarian era of human history has attempted to hold the asocial impulses in check by means of compulsive moralistic prohibitions. It is in this way that civilized man, if he can indeed be called civilized, developed a psychic structure consisting of three layers. On the surface, he wears an artificial mask of self-control, compulsive insincere politeness, and pseudo-sociality. This mask conceals the second layer, the Freudian “unconscious,” in which sadism, avarice, lasciviousness, envy, perversions of all kind, etc., are held in check without, however, being deprived of the slightest amount of energy. This second layer is the artificial product of a sex-negating culture and is usually experienced consciously as a gaping inner emptiness and desolation. Beneath it, in the depth, natural sociality and sexuality, spontaneous joy in work, the capacity for love, exist and operate. This third and deepest layer, which represents the biological core of the human structure, is unconscious, and it is feared. It is at variance with every aspect of authoritarian education and control. At the same time, it is the only real hope man has of one day mastering social misery.
Reich was able to trace the manipulation of human sexuality to its core purpose — power and control over the human species:
Sexual suppression supports the power of the Church, which has sunk very deep roots into the exploited masses by means of sexual anxiety and guilt. It engenders timidity towards authority and binds children to their parents. This results in adult subservience to state authority and to capitalistic exploitation. It paralyzes the intellectual critical powers of the oppressed masses because it consumes the greater part of biological energy. Finally, it paralyzes the resolute development of creative forces and renders impossible the achievement of all aspirations for human freedom. In this way the prevailing economic system (in which single individuals can easily rule entire masses) becomes rooted in the psychic structures of the oppressed themselves.
The State is not a social institution administered in an anti-social way. It is an anti-social institution, administered in the only way an anti-social institution can be administered, and by the kind of person who, in the nature of things, is best adapted to such service. Taking the State wherever found, striking into its history at any point, one sees no way to differentiate the activities of its founders, administrators and beneficiaries from those of a professional-criminal class. As Dr. Sigmund Freud has observed, it can not even be said that the State has ever shown any disposition to suppress crime, but only to safeguard its own monopoly of crime.
As Nock also states, unfortunately the majority of the people simply don’t yet recognize the state for what it truly is:
Instead of recognizing the State as “the common enemy of all weIl-disposed, industrious and decent men,” the run of mankind, with rare exceptions, regards it not only as a final and indispensable entity, but also as, in the main, beneficent. The mass-man, ignorant of its history, regards its character and intentions as social rather than anti-social; and in that faith he is willing to put at its disposal an indefinite credit of knavery, mendacity and chicane, upon which its administrators may draw at will. Instead of looking upon the State’s progressive absorption of social power with the repugnance and resentment that he would naturally feel towards the activities of a professional-criminal organization, he tends rather to encourage and glorify it, in the belief that he is somehow identified with the State, and that therefore, in consenting to its indefinite aggrandizement, he consents to something in which he has a share-he is, pro tanto, aggrandizing himself.
Read my post “Statism: A System for your Enslavement” for more details on how the State abuses every individual in society and continuously attacks their right to life from the moment they are born.
We can begin to see human nature in terms of certain capacities to develop certain mental traits. I think we can go further than this and begin to discover universal aspects of these mental traits which are determined by human nature. I think we can find this in the area of morality. For example, not long ago I talked to people in Amazon tribes and I took it for granted that they have the same conception of vice and virtue as I do. It is only through sharing these values that we were able to interact — talking about real problems such as being forced out of the jungle by the state authorities. I believe I was correct to assume this: we had no problem communicating although we were as remote as is possible culturally.
Chomsky is correct in stating that there are universal aspects to certain mental traits that humans develop. As I discussed above, these are the result of the fundamental programming of life which is responsible for the primary biological instincts in every human being. These instincts are the same in every human being and determine their basic needs, based on which a natural and universal sense of morality automatically follows.
When millions of people around the world still worship this maniac today, should it surprise us that the world is the terrible mess it currently is? Should it surprise us when the millions of people who worship this maniac behave a lot like him? When people worship and look up to a jealous god, should it surprise us when jealousy and envy become part of their personality? When people worship a vengeful god that can’t forgive, but punishes and kills instead, should we then be surprised when they display similar behavior? When people worship a god who manipulates, incites, provokes, and uses divide and conquer strategies to forward his agenda, should we then be surprised when they take an example from their god? Or should it be easy for us to understand certain world events, such as why Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people? It seems to me that they’re in fact just behaving like the barbarian they worship. […] In fact we have a very frightening situation on Earth right now where millions of people look up to a barbaric god and his supposed word for moral guidance; a situation where children grow up while their innocent, defenseless minds are taught to associate a loving and righteous god with all the atrocities mentioned above and in the bible, with potentially negative consequences for how they develop their sense of morality as they grow up.