Human Nature: Reboot

This is a repost from May 0f 2001, or 30 months ago. Because I think it’s relevant now considering how war has busted out all over. Many people are shocked and can’t believe humans could be so violent and cruel. Or I should say, other humans, because they themselves insist they never could behave in such a manner. In other words, ‘those people are evil and I am not. I am a good person!’

Okay, if you say so. However, if you think there is such a thing as human nature? it’s worth considering what it is.

Robert Wright, a writer and independent thinker, in his Nonzero newsletter, spoke about the tendency for people: “… convincing themselves that they’re right and good and their enemies are wrong and bad.” Additionally, Wright invokes “human nature” as a “challenge” to the “resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.” Indeed.


have a lot to say about human nature. Many renowned ones have something to say about it – what it is and where it comes from. Of course, they all don’t agree. One divide centers around free will versus determinism. Is our nature animal, mechanistic (machine-like), or divine?

Carl Jung, considered optimistic (opposed to Freud’s pessimism) had this to say. He thought a third world war was likely if humans could not recognize and acknowledge their dark side (The Shadow). Which is hidden in their unconscious. Furthermore, there existed a collective unconscious. Here lay the animal instincts–immoral, aggressive, and passionate. These urges and thoughts were then projected outward onto others.

His remedy was psychoanalysis.

Doctor? How much will it cost?
Humanity needs a session

However, one had to be of a particular type for the treatment to work. Additionally, analysis is costly in time and money. I don’t disagree.

E.O. Wilson said this: “Altruism based on kin selection is the enemy of civilization. If human beings are to a large extent guided to favor their own relatives and tribe, only a limited amount of global harmony is possible.” I agree.


also have something to say. Of course. A current fashion is Enlightenment Humanism, and Moral Realism, coupled with Scientific Naturalism. Human nature is acknowledged to be a “struggle to survive and flourish in the teeth of nature’s entropy.” Alright.

I disagree with much of this thinking. I’d call it moral fantasy. It’s fundamental principle is “the Golden Rule”. Or, as Wright calls it, “cognitive empathy”. I disagree with this line of thinking because the Golden Rule has been around since forever. Yet, here we are, again, on “the eve of destruction”.

That said, here’s my post from two and half years ago. Because I’m an optimist, too.

Set Yourself Free: Twelve Books to Read on Human Nature

If you’ve a mind to understand human nature? non-fiction may not be the best way to understand it. Or, for that matter, human behavior in general. Fiction might be more accurate. However, there is some value in science and history – and reading.

However, be prepared to endure cancellation from your tribe.

Non-fiction books

just might be (in some cases) more fiction, fantasy, or delusion than fiction. Especially now in the current “Postmodern” age wherein everything is relative, subjective, and presented as “my truth”.

What’s a person to do? Read! Outside of your comfort zone. In other words, beyond your required reading. Outside of your tribe’s recommended list.

Educate yourself.

Evolutionary Psychology

is a much maligned Field of academic study. From its onset (from Darwin to Freud to Wilson to Buss) it has been labeled: Racist, Sexist, Xenophobic, and generally anti-progressive. Therefore it is not taught in any undergraduate curriculum. Because it threatens politically correct (progressive) thought – which dominates Western Civilization’s, and higher education’s self-concept.


Evo-psych (EP) also challenges the Protestant work ethic, and Christianity in general. Thus, it has no friends. Not Liberals or Conservatives. Certainly not almost all mental health providers.

[Yet, here I am – in a professional therapeutic relationship. Notwithstanding, a sometimes contentious one.]


Because, for some of us (humans), that’s our nature – to be curious.

The List:

  1. The Territorial Imperative: A personal inquiry into the animal origins of property and nations (1966) Robert Ardrey
  2. On Human Nature (1978) E.O. Wilson
  3. The Whisperings Within: Evolution and the origin of human nature (1979) David Barash
  4. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design (1987) Richard Dawkins
  5. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992) Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan
  6. The Third Chimpanzee: The evolution and future of the human animal (1992) Jared Diamond
  7. The Moral Animal: Evolutionary psychology and everyday life (1994) Robert Wright
  8. Survival of the Prettiest: The science of beauty (1999) Nancy Etcoff
  9. Evolutionary Psychology: The new psychology of the mind (1999) David M. Buss
  10. Why Sex Matters: A Darwinian look at human behavior (2000) Bobbi S. Low
  11. The Dangerous Passion: Why jealousy is as necessary as love and sex (2000) David M. Buss
  12. Election 2016: The great divide, the great debate (2018) Mark Jabbour
Some of my favorite books on human nature and behavior.
Ten from my bookshelf


of course, has costs. It’s not free. Today, as always, if you strike out on your own your survival chances diminish. One of my favorite lines from Game of Thrones is, “When Winter comes, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”

So if you choose to read “on your own” these branded books:

[as racist, sexist, xenophobic]

be prepared to endure “cancellation” from your tribe, be it Left or Right. Recall, at the end of GoT, Jon Snow was banished to The  Wall, even though he was the legitimate heir to the throne.


In Conclusion

I wish wishing made it true; but that just isn’t so. Is it? Like the Golden Rule there are a lot of moral truisms that have been around since before we had the means to record them. If only … . But here we are on the brink of a catastrophic world war. This time, it’ll be the war to end all wars.

Does therapy work? Sometimes for some. I think Jung was right. Freud, too. Robert Wright is right, also. I’ve been in psychotherapy for over six years now. At one point Psych-girl suggested I read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. I did.

I wanted to suggest to her she read Chris Hedges’s War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. But I didn’t. Somewhere between those two books is a shaky balance. She’s got a bookshelf full of books she’s read, and I’ve got mine. Are you what you read?

I could go on and on. But what’s the point? We are who we are and changing is, well? Can a leopard change it’s spots? “A wolf is a wolf.”


4 thoughts on “Human Nature: Reboot

  1. Update, November 13, 2023.
    Day by day, “Things” get worse. Election 2024 is upon us, two wars have erupted. Inflation is raging out of control, and the general mood of most people is trending toward despair.
    On the positive side: Elon Musk bought and privatized Twitter, now X. This has manifested in a counter balance to the progressive bias of news, journalism, higher education, and subsequent cancellation culture. He’s brought back free speech, and thus free thinking.
    Will it work? I don’t know. We humans may have raced passed our evolutionary “designed” disposition and nature with the internet and social media.
    Hang in there. And take care of yourself.

  2. Synchronicity – another concept that Jung wrote about – just occurred (as it often does with me). I thought I’d add it (= A piece I just read on WordPress regarding LONELINESS.) here because it is related to the subject of HUMAN NATURE.
    Loneliness seems to be something that is a part of human nature. It can afflict anyone; but some more than others. And for still others it dominates their life. “Whoever is alone will stay alone.” Wrote the poet Rilke.
    With the Internet, it appeared at first, that we would be MORE connected and thus less alone. Paradoxically, the Internet seems to have the opposite affect. Not only for individuals, but for nations as well.
    No way with such a tool for connectivity should we be this alone, isolated. Nor nations so disconnected that war is the only solution. Unless there is something else going on?
    I’m working on this, just thought I’d add it here as I’ve posted about loneliness before. Trauma. the Internet. War, Lying. etc. and so on.

  3. Hey bro,
    First, loneliness… someone came by the other day to visit Linda and admitted how lonely she is, and they quickly decided to meet once a week for quilting and conversation. Not a “cure,” but moving in a positive direction.
    Second, are you what you read? Goodness, I hope not, but okay. Because I’m so immune deficient, I don’t go in to libraries any more, but check things out on line or Linda just picks up a book for me — I like series and big, fat books because they last a little while; currently re-reading Pillars of the Earth, but I’m not really into medieval power struggles between the pope and nobility. Also reading, “Why I Love Baseball.”
    Third: short grammar lesson. Use “it’s” when you mean to say “it is,” and “its” for possessive (as you would distinguish between he’s and his). Sorry, it’s the editor/old English teacher in me.

  4. The IT usage always requires a double take. Sometimes I miss it. Punctuation is important! Especially in writing. Another reason that nothing beats face-to-face communication. The best antidote to loneliness. Additionally, gentle touch. Primal/fundamental human needs. Which evince that there is, indeed, such a thing as HUMAN NATURE.
    I’m binge watching JAMESTOWN on Amazon Prime. It’s a great study in HUMAN NATURE. The real/true event more so than the show. The event happened 400 years ago, 1619. which is similar to PILLARS’s time frame. The show begins when bought and paid for wives arrive from England. Of course, it’s the showrunner’s interpretation of how “things” night have played out; but it’s based on true events. Fascinating!
    I do love the bookshelf reference for discerning who a person is. Because reading requires a commitment. Moreover, there is the arrangement of the books, the physical shelves and their placement. Furthermore, books suggest what’s important to a person (values). Additionally, what influences might have snuck into their mind. All of that.
    Of course, the formative years have an impact. Were books and reading a part of one’s childhood experience? Roger Kahn, in the book I’m reading, writes frequently about the relationship between athletes and books – RARE! They are a distraction from what’s important – fame, money, women, etc. and so on. Good stuff! A great read, imo.
    Thanks for reading my blog and commenting. 🙂 “Book it.”

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