Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nature or nurture

This question has been looked at closely before: which things are born into a human being, and which things do they learn? Is there a difference between instinctive behaviour and learned behaviour? It actually matters, because there are ways in which it might be good to change learned behaviour in a person, if they're inclined to be violent or prone to criminal acts like thieving. But there seem to be things in a person's character that can't be altered just by 'messing with their head.' That might be just as well, because if people could be programmmed like computers then the hidden persuaders could make puppets out of us.
The Marxists made this mistake when they set out to create the 'New Soviet Man' who would grow up in a socialist society and take on a different nature to people brought up in the societies of the West. The plan was to nurture people from childhood into dyed in the wool communists who would not question the system or dissent from the orders of their leaders. The upside of this, they claimed, was to stop people from living by greed and hostility to others. All members of a society would work together for the common good. The downside they did not like to admit was that it stopped people thinking as individuals and using some initiative of their own. They should simply follow their leaders. But all that aside, they did not see the distinction between learned behaviour and 'wired-in', instinctive behaviour.
The difference might be things like this. It is instinctive to drink when you're thirsty. You do not need to learn. What you do need to learn is to be careful what you drink. Avoid water that might carry infections or be polluted. In the same way, it is instinctive to eat when hungry. What is learned is, eating with cutlery instead of with the fingers, and not over eating. Also, we need to learn what is good to eat and what to treat with caution, such as too much fast food or junk food.
In trying to change human behaviour, the left-wing social planners failed to see what is instinctive in people. Marx critisised the family as a unit, and felt that family allegiance and attachment should give way to allegiance to the state. It didn't work, because among humans a bond with your family is a deep seated instinct, not just something learned. It is natural to feel protective towards your children. Even if you feel protective towards all children, your own are stil special. It is natural to want the protection of your parents when you're still young, and need adult help to deal with life. When people like Marx, Stalin and Lenin tried to teach people loyalty to the state instead of their own kin, it failed. A particular horror was the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. In the 're-education' camps set up after the communist take-over they called on children to turn against their parents and be loyal instead to the political leaders of the state. It led to one of the most abominable atrocities in history. Likewise, in the Soviet Union and Maoist China, thousands or millions of people suffered murder or imprisonment because they could not simply do as the leaders told them, as though they had no minds of their own.
So human nature is not just what other humans mould it into, like a piece of clay.
Human beings cannot live up to filling the role of God, being perfect leaders in whom we can put all our faith. When they try to do so the results can be Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong, or Jim Jones or Charles Manson. Each of those individuals caused utter horror in their failure to be what they tried to make of themselves. A close study of history might show that female people are just as prone to fail if they attempt to assume the role of God.
Human nature will show through attempts to change and programme it. Another example emerged when a feminist teacher gave her senior high school girls a psychological test intended to reveal their attitudes to life. This teacher did the test herself, and found the results revealing.
Each of the girls tested had a subconscious longing for a 'Prince Charming' or Knight in Shining Armour to come into their life, rescue them and be their hero. The teacher admitted, wryly, that according to the test she did too.
This is NOT to say that women are all helpless, needing a man to give them a life. It IS a revelation that women and men are made to have a certain type of relationship. By Christian teaching, God made the man first, then the woman as a companion; and directed the man to CARE for the woman, love and nurture her, not exploit her. If the themes of the gallant knight and the damsel waiting for him feature so much in folklore and literature, it might show that the male and female are meant to care for and need each other. Hostility between them and competition between them are not the way it should work. Social programming that teaches either of the genders to view each other the wrong way has a distorting affect on human nature. It attempts to change it in a way that goes against the grain. It is a perversion of the Maker's plan for men to exploit women and use them in a predatory way. It is also a perversion of the Maker's plan for women to see men as an enemy who have to be fought and overthrown. In that respect just as Marxism failed having first done much damage, hostile feminism will fail after first causing great damage. Too many attempts have been made to replace God and try doing things another way. Each time they crash and burn, and cause a lot of hurt in the process.
Come again, Lord Jesus.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Irony abounding.

In the U.K., the news says, atheists and 'free thinkers' have hired advertising space on buses to say: "There is probably no God, so relax and enjoy your life."
It is impossible to say in a few words how utterly self-contradicting and absurd that statement seems to me. It is meant to be wise and reassuring, 'freeing' people from worry. In fact, to think that there was no God would be one of the most terrifying things imaginable. To relax and enjoy life you would have to feel secure in the knowledge that help was available in certain situations.
If there was no God, who is there to turn to and seek help from? Would they care to tell me what they think about that? If they say 'human intelligence and people' they invite me to point out just how disastrously unreliable and wrong-headed human beings have shown themselves to be, so often through history.
I once asked a militant atheist who he put his trust in, what did he feel he could rely on for guidance and answers to problems in life. He said "Myself, and a select few others."
I could have told him that he was one of the people I would be least able to trust and feel safe in the hands of! Like so many hard-headed 'intellectuals' I've known, that man had quite a ruthless attitude to those he disapproved of. Given the chance, he would have run the world in a way he was sure was right, and look out any one who disagreed and got in the road. That was what happened in the regimes of people like Hitler, Stalin, Lenin and Mao Zedong. The leader and the little in-group round them made all the rules and everyone else had to just do as they were told. If the leaders got something wrong, no-one had better dare to critisize. And there is the irony. The ones who consider themselves fit to run the lives of other people are the ones who least inspire my confidence. To be that sure of themselves is a danger sign for a start. Note that I'm saying 'sure of THEMSELVES', not sure of what they believe. Such people feel they can assume the power of God to decide how life must be for everyone else.
It should be obvious that certain things are absolutely beyond human control and help. Can anyone prevent a tsunami? How about the emergence of new diseases, to which there is no cure? What about drought, or a collision between this planet and a meteor, or any other such thing that no human can prevent? It could be rather hard to 'relax and enjoy life' when there are so many uncertainties and dangers, that no human can protect us from.
It is an old saying, that 'there are no atheists on a sinking ship'. In other words, you can be complacent and think 'who needs God' when everything seems to be going well. When it all goes bad, and no human power can change the fact, how does the clever atheist handle that? If we live or die by blind chance, and there is no real fairness about life, how can you relax?
Atheists trying to sweep away belief in God make me think of ants trying to be elephants. They simply make themselves look ridiculous.
Of course, we all have a right to our beliefs. I won't start trying to persecute atheists. But do they know just how LITTLE they impress me with what they think is their cleverness?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What is 'Man'?....

I've never been good at New Year's Resolutions. It might be better to have some New Year's Reflections.
According to a news item, a study has showed this: that promiscuous men are better at perpetuating their line of descent, because they have more children than men who do not "sleep around."
That's not exactly news. I knew a man who had nineteen children (yes, that's right, nineteen) - by nineteen different mothers. That's a stark contrast to the Duggar family, who just had their eighteenth child, born to the same two parents who maintain a committed monogamous relationship.
It sticks in my mind, this reported study, because it compares human beings to animals, in describing something as "successful" behaviour. That men who recklessly take multiple partners, and leave them pregnant, might mean their genetic legacy is well and truly passed on the the future, but that is NOT the mark of a life well lived if they've been the proverbial 'dead-beat dad' to their offspring. I blogged once before about the danger of applying standards of animal behaviour to humans. Animals settle issues by fighting, their frequently kill their own kind and in other ways too, act in a way which is unlawful or unethical in humans.
One danger with these men who beget numerous children by different partners: the number of children who are half-siblings to others they do not know could lead to accidental cases of incest or inbreeding. If any one child of a man does not know who all his others are, they are at risk of meeting them unawares and forming a relationship that is biologically unsafe. That's not just speculation. A case of that was reported some years ago, too, in Australia. A woman found that her husband had the same father as she did. He had moved from relationship to relationship, or between one-night stands, and that was what came of it. Then there was the woman who had five children by five different fathers, and did not know where any of those men were now, or what other children they might have. Same risk! Not a clever way to do things!
It all tells me something. I was not always a Christian. Having made the commitment when I was nearly 25 years old, I see more and more evidence that God knows what He is doing making the rules for living that the Bible sets out. The world sometimes admires a 'stud' who is good at getting numerous women to mate with him. But the world can be terribly stupid sometimes. A woman might boast about having numerous partners. The problem could be visited on their children, who may not have a proper father figure to be there for them; and who may not realize who they are related to. So God's laws are not just a lot of kill-joy stuff. The way I heard it put, the Bible is an owner's manual for how to use your life. The man I referred to above, he of the nineteen children by nineteen mothers, had one daughter going to the school where I taught. His daughter did not want to know him at all. He attempted to be in contact with her and she vowed she would go where he would never find her. That girl was an angry, dysfunctional person; and her biological sire was an unemployed hanger-about living off social welfare. It would not be right to condemn the children for the way they came into the world. The point is simply this: having a lot of offspring is not in itself proof of some sort of success. Human beings are not a species of animal. Success for a man in begetting descendants, lies in making sure his children are well cared for and given the right sort of start in life. Part of that comes from having a proper father figure.
So it seems this prolific breeder of a man made junk of his own life by living it in a self-denigrating way. Rather than being a success story he became of victim of his own bad attitude, that to move between partners and build up his number of 'conquest'
was the way to go. People can be victims of their own bad habits.
In that vein, it's worth pointing out that a rapist may beget children, but only in a dastardly way, the same as a thief or con-artist who becomes rich. It is true to say that rape actually has two victims, although one brings it on himself. A rapist can destroy himself, not only by getting into serious trouble with the law but because his own bad attitude consumes him. Sex is not meant to be a predatory thing, like bagging a trophy or scoring a point over someone. To some wannabe 'studs' it seems to become like the Native American idea of counting coup: proving that you can get near to someone despite their attempts to stop you. If a person, male or female, starts to make their sexual behaviour predatory that way, to 'nail' a person as a sort of personal triumph, they can warp their own psyches and leave themselves unable to have a happy relationship. Bad habits can destroy a person. So without seeking sympathy for rapists, or serial seducers, or philanderers, it may be a certain poetic justice that they find themselves losers because they can't be anything better. I should add, the man with nineteen children has no partner. If he wanted to have a happy caring relationship with a woman, it may be something he no longer can do. Dumping women and moving on has left him unable to do anything better.