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.


jeleasure said...

Hi Andrew,
First, I want to acknowledge that I was born a Pittsburgh Steeler fan. Pittsburgh is in the Superbowl vs. The Arizona Cardinals. I will be watching the game in less than an hour from now; 5:15pm Sunday, February 1,2009.

I understand that you are not from the United States. So, forgive my passion and my inability to be anything other than a Steeler fan. It was born into me. Probably when the egg was fertilized. You know, Pittsburgh water?

Also, one of the charachteristics identified in "Men Are From Mars, Woman Are From Venus" is that all woman want to be taken care of and protected. So, I'd say an overwhelming majority of girls who took the test want a "Prince Charming".


JMMEE said...

What a well-written thought-provoking article. I will look forward to reading future postings.

Let me say thank you for visiting my blog this morning( I am again surprised by the "distance" from which visitors arrive at my postings.
I will check the book excerpt you mentioned. As a consummate reader, I am always looking for smoething new to read.

The blog you visited is more of a diary to help keep our family (siblings, nieces and nephews, etc.)updated as they all live on the otherside of the United States from us (we moved here due to my husbands employment shortly after we married). My "writing/reflections blog can be found at

the_thinking_frog said...

Greetings Andrew,

I appreciate the thought provoking development of you posting. If altering behavior was as easy as Communism had hoped, my wife would have me much better trained than I am now.

Joyfully Serving,

Kermit L. Welty

Bria said...

Thank you for commenting on my blog Mr. Clark! I agree with you on what evolution has done to people. I have wanted to be an author for the past three years. I am an avid reader and I guess that inspired me.

I am writing two books and am in the process of starting two ebooks. My mother was an english teacher for two years. And she got stressed with it, wanted to be home with my brother and pull me out of school as well. I now have six soon-to-be seven siblings.

I love homeschooling and wouldn't trade it for anything. You learn so much more at home! And I wasn't even learning truth in school. Just out of curiosity how did you find my blog?

Sorry for my rambling!

jeleasure said...

Hi Andrew,
Thanks for having stopped at my blog today. I am very busy with just trying to make money to pay the bills. And, my place of employment has been changing my schedual on the fly. I'll be visiting your blog as it shows it has been updated on my side bar.

Anna said...

Mr. Clarke,

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I enjoyed checking out your book excerpt, and your blog is interesting as well.

God bless!


Gabriela said...

Hi Andrew interesting subject.

I was reading how women are failures when assuming the role of God. But I disagree. There are some women who where the closest to God, there was Mother Theresa ofcourse, and many others like her. Amy Carmichael. These women never gave to violence. This is authentic Godly behavior. Could you think of men who lived like these women?

Marshall Art said...

As you say, Andrew, the debate over nature/nuture is an old one and of course it is raging between a certain 2% of the population and the rest of us. But there is no such concerns in Scripture regarding our behavior. There is only "do this" and "don't do that". Likewise, I think the best civil laws encourage better behavior more so than discouraging bad behavior. But either way, the law doesn't concern itself (or hasn't until relatively recently) with such things, either.

Of more concern is what we do and how what we do moves us toward ideals on which most people agree are beneficial to each individual as well as groups. Those ideals more than not require sacrifices of some kind of everyone.

Farrah said...


I've been thinking about you with the fires over in Australia. I hope and pray you and your family are well?