Deep Conversations, Part 2

Hello! Last week I answered eight Personal Questions from this list of Deep Conversation Topics. This week I’m answering the following questions about Human Nature.

Human Nature Questions

Are humans better at creation or destruction?

I stand with those who believe humans are better at creation than destruction. Destruction is the lowest common denominator. Creation requires more care, skill, and time. As they say, it takes seven times the effort to make the glass than it does to break it.

What are the best and worst parts of human nature?

I think the best parts of human nature are our innate compassion and desire to help one another. These desires seems to be hard-wired, and are not easily ignored save for self-deception. As Charlie Chaplin said in The Great Dictator, “We all want to help one another; human beings are like that.”

I think one of the worst parts of human nature is the desire to dominate others. Another is the drive to “righteousness” in all its nefarious forms.

What aspects of humans have made us a successful species?

Collaboration! When we share knowledge and resources, everyone benefits and there is plenty to go around. This is the awesome promise of the Internet. Sacrifice is another aspect – all around the world and in all eras of history we can see people sacrificing so that their kin, their neighbors, or the next generation might have it just a bit better.

What makes people believe absurd conspiracy theories?

First, conspiracy theories offer relief from a frightening world. They offer access to “the real narrative, the narrative they don’t want you to know,” which eases the anxiety of the unknown, which in truth we all experience.

Second, as many have noted, conspiracy theories can be crucial to personal identity and group identity; see the communities that form out of phenomena like Area 51 (to pick a benign example). While the theories themselves are often harmful, the communities that spring from them fulfill important, affirmative functions for believers.

What’s something terrifying that we’ve all come to accept as a fact of life?

The idea that we should all be comfortable with multiple listening and monitoring devices around us (or on us) at all waking and sleeping hours. There is simply no need. The greed of those who collect and manipulate our data is astounding to me.

If you had to sum up the whole human species in 3 words, what would those words be?

Innovative. Kind. Wild.

What is the best way to explore human nature: psychology, philosophy, or biology?

Philosophy, IMHO. Biology and Psychology are concerned with the “What?” and the “How?” Only Philosophy is concerned with the X-Factor of human existence: “Why?”

Is human nature constant or is it molded by culture? Can human nature be completely changed by culture or society?

I think human nature is constant, and constantly growing in a way that resists imposed “culture.” The “culture” of institutions is always several steps behind where we are as people. The “culture” of art does a much better job of showing who we really are. Human nature can be temporarily changed by a culture (e.g. clothing edicts, dietary laws) but these efforts always fail to mold us in the long run.

Is what we perceive reality or just a construct of our minds? Can our minds correctly interpret reality or is reality subjective?

Well, movies, books, and video games can be experienced in such a way that the mind perceives them as “real,” even when we know they are fictional. So perhaps the “real world” we experience is not the real thing either. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave…

Is tribalism and people separating themselves into “us” and “them” groups, a learned or genetic trait? Can it be overcome? If so, how?

Hmm. Maybe there are some genetic factors, but I suspect tribalism is learned. Optimistically I believe that tribalism (and all our other -isms) can be overcome. The “how” is the million dollar question.

How does tribalism and creating in groups and out groups (e.g. race, religion, sport team fans, people with a hobby, etc.) help and hurt society?

I’m glad the question mentioned sports, because that’s probably the limit of where “us and them” dynamics can be helpful in society. In most other settings, tribalism hurts society and prevents people from seeing others as equal, worthy of love, etc.

If pressing a button meant you received 5 million dollars but it also killed 5 people somewhere in the world, would you press it? What if it killed only 1 person or killed 20 people? What if the people were people you knew?

What? No. There is no price or qualifier that would be worth pressing that button.

This has been fun! Looking forward to answering more questions next week!

M.C. Haile

2 thoughts on “Deep Conversations, Part 2

    1. Agreed. So far that’s been the most shocking question on the list. There’s three more sections to go on the list, so we’ll see what other surprises are lurking. Hope you’re well!


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