When it comes to human nature, there is often a definition that includes nature and nurture. Humans also tend to create and form ideas about what is natural and acceptable in terms of being human. In the article “Busting Myths of Human Nature” by Agustín Fuentes, he says that we need to “look beyond popular assumptions, which are often influenced by some misrepresentations of science, and our own, often limited, life experiences”.
The idea of nature versus nurture really obscures our view of the reasons why people do what they do and why they behave a certain way. However, we need to look for facts of what is true, instead of looking for what we expect to find, in terms of human nature.
In terms of myths about human nature, Fuentes names three: Race, Aggression, and Sex. The race myth says that there are distinct different races (black, white, etc.). However, this is just a myth: “If we accept this as true, and let it remain unchallenged, it acts a baseline for how we act toward and perceive others. This then shapes what we expect, and what we think we can achieve, as far as human equality, and whether or not we can build community in an increasingly diverse societies across the globe”. By viewing race in this manner, we are supporting Richard Dawkin’s idea of “tyranny of the discontinuous mind”. Also, we are finding a way to create an in-group and out-group which then allows for racism to take hold. “But what if race is not biological but a social construct? It still matters, but its underlying reality and the ways in which issues can be approached and ameliorated become radically transfigured”.
The aggression myth says that we all have a primordial instinct to be aggressive in our cores. If this myth were true, it would mean that our nurture would be the one thing that controls or tames our inner aggression. “It also follows then that this beast emerges whenever the grasp of civilization weakens, times of social crisis, riots and even sporting matches. If we believe that this is truly the nature of humanity then we accept a wide range of violence as inevitable, and we will see war, rape and murder as just part of the nature of being human”. The aggression myth, coupled with the race myth, makes for a deadly combination. These two myths together could explain why some people think black people are more violent, or why it’s acceptable for some people to kills others. These myths also lock in stereotypes which then lead to more racism, sexism, etc. However, “what if these expressions of aggression and violence are actually one part of our potential, and not our nature? Well, then a broader range of perspectives, scenarios and ways of living together become possible”.
Lastly, the sex myth says that males and females are completer and total opposites, and that our behaviors, internal wiring, and desires are also completely different. “The relationships between, and within, the sexes and genders are constrained if we accept the natural opposites view. The possible range of ways to be and become human and express our sexual and social selves is extremely limited by such a perspective”. Now, imagine a world where the sexual differences still exist, but aren’t as harsh and extreme. Imagine the new ways in which males and females would interact, and the possibilities that would open up for both males and females.
Overall, if these myths listed by Fuentes can be busted, then the possibility to live more harmoniously and create better and stronger relationships with other humans would improve greatly. However, busting these myths will be no easy task because it would require a change in mindset of a majority of people, and that can be a very tricky thing to do.