“If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships — the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt
Human nature has always been a subject of debate. Some say that we are violent and destructive. In contrast, others insist that we have the capacity for empathy and compassion.
Let’s explore two different schools of thought, pro-competition and pro-cooperation, both trying to explain human nature thru science.
The pro-competition school of thought is based on the idea that human beings are essentially selfish and competitive by nature. This theory was first proposed in the 18th century by French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. According to Rousseau, humans are driven by a desire for self-preservation and dominance over others. They cooperate only when it is in their own best interests and will always put themselves first.
Many studies have supported this theory that has shown that people are more likely to help someone if they think it will benefit them somehow. For example, one study found that participants were more likely to share money with another person if they believed that doing so would increase their chances of winning a prize.
The pro-cooperation school of thought, on the other hand, suggests that humans are caring and empathic creatures who cooperate out of pure altruism and compassion for others. According to this theory, cooperation is not beneficial but necessary for survival. We rely so heavily on each other to survive and thrive.
English philosopher Thomas Hobbes first proposed this belief during the 17th century. He argued that human beings have an inherent need to work together because they are too weak to survive alone. But, unlike Rousseau’s theory which views competition as inherently wrong or unnatural, Hobbes believed it could be harnessed positively if people worked together rather than against one another.
While Hobbes’s theory has been forgotten, biologist Richard Dawkins rediscovered it in the 1970s. He argued that cooperation is an essential component of our species’ success. It allows us to outcompete other animals and spread throughout the globe. He went one step further. He suggested that empathy was an evolutionary advantage because those who were more willing to share with others would have been better equipped to survive than those who preferred not to cooperate or participate in charitable activities.
Is Humanity Civilized?
We are all aware of the atrocities that happen in our world daily. Whether it is for money or power, we see and hear about people doing terrible things to one another every day. It has become so typical that we don’t even bat an eye when we see headlines like “7-year-old girl kidnapped and raped” anymore.
Civilization can be debated either way, depending on how you look at it. Culture is not about the physical appearance of society but also how its people behave. Civilization has many factors that make it what it is today, and whether these are still intact can be debated.
One major factor to consider when looking at Civilization is technological advances made by society. And an organized social structure with laws for governing behavior within that structure.
Civilization emphasizes education. The ability to gather data, create new ideas based on this data, build technology from those ideas and other skills required for creating advancements all comes down to knowledge. Suppose you have no access to schools where teachers know more than you do about specific subjects. In that case, your chances of becoming educated enough to spread your knowledge through teaching others to decrease.
Another factor that is often looked at when it comes to Civilization is the arts. Civilization has always put importance on creating and appreciating beautiful things. This can be seen in the various art forms that have been developed over time and how they are still enjoyed today. From paintings to music to fashion, civil societies have always found a way to express themselves artistically.
One area where there seems to be a lot of debate about Civilization is morality. What is right and wrong? How do we determine this? There are many different viewpoints on this matter, and it can be challenging to come up with a consensus. But, one thing that all civilized societies agree on is the need for laws to maintain order within the community. There are different laws for different cultures, but their condition is universal.
All these factors make up what we call Civilization.
But because society has all these things doesn’t mean that it is perfect. No community is, and people will always try to break the law or find ways to get around it. Civilization needs to be worked on and improved to make life better for everyone within that society. It’s not an easy task, but it’s worth fighting for.
Which school of thought do you think best describes human nature? Have we always been selfish beings driven by self-preservation? Or have we always cooperated and been helpful to each other? Are we civilized?