Nurture vs Nature – Are We all Born Good?

Posted: October 13, 2012 in peace and love
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I firmly believe that all humans are born good.  I know the nurture versus nature debate has been going on for ages, but I really do believe that the nurture element plays a much bigger part in whether or not someone stays “good” or becomes “evil” than birth.  I have had this same debate with people over and over again.  People who say that there are some people who are born evil.  Psychopaths, serial killers and paedophiles for instance.   Then, there are those that say it is all to do with the way you were raised, putting the blame squarely on the parents.  So is that it?  Let’s take a look at some of these issues.

Paedophiles, Psychopaths and Serial Killers

The people above, and some others, have a malfunction in their brain that makes it possible for them to do the horrific acts they commit.  That still, to me, doesn’t mean they are born evil.  What makes them evil is the fact that they act on these feelings.   We all have the capacity to kill and do unspeakable things.  This stems from the lower part of our brain, where we still have primeval feelings.  It is from here that our impulses come, but the rest of our brain stops us from acting out those impulses.  Imagine yourself in traffic and someone cuts you off.  The lower part of your  brain fuels your anger, making you want to get out of your car and smash the other person’s face in.  But you don’t do that.  Some of us have such well-functioning brains that we don’t even notice that impulse anymore.  What goes wrong in the people above is that their impulse control is not working.  They get these feelings and actually act on them.  And here’s where the nature versus nurture debate comes in.  Why do they act on feelings?  Because that is what they have been taught.

Blaming the Parents

It sounds so easy to blame the parents, doesn’t it?  Maybe the way you should look at it, however, is not as a question of blame.  It is a question of responsibility.  Parents have the responsibility to teach their children the right values and norms, to teach them how to behave, to teach them what is and isn’t acceptable.  Unfortunately, many of us go wrong in this.  There are a lot of things that ultimately boil down to personal choice.  Do you raise your child religiously, politically, freely?  There amount of parenting styles are all documented and well known and although there will always be parts in there that you don’t agree with, the basis of these theories is about giving children the best values in life.

With the paedophiles, the psychopaths and the serial killers, it is very rare to find one that has been raised in a loving, stable home.  I don’t mean to say that a single parent is unable of raising a child.  I don’t mean to say that someone who moves from one place to another is unable to raise a child.  The stability is in the love.  A child that knows they are loved and respected, a child that is guided to make their own decisions, that is the child that will turn out well balanced.

So Is It all Down to Parenting?

No, I don’t think so.  There are a lot of factors at play, which brings it back to nature versus nurture.  There are known factors, such as brain injuries, that can play a big role in how children grow up and whether they end up being “evil”.  You can’t dismiss this out of hand.  However, do brain injuries fit in with “nature” or with “nurture”?  I personally believe they are external factors, hence most certainly not nature.

There is also the fact that people from the exact same household, with the exact same parents, can turn out to be completely different.   I think, here, intelligence has a big part to play in it as well.  It is about being able to recognise when you have a choice to make and having the tools to make that choice and to choose the right decision.

So is anybody ever born evil?  I don’t think so.  Does that mean that anybody that had the exact same life as, say, John Wayne Gayce would end up being John Wayne Gayce?  No, it doesn’t either.  It is a culmination of lots of different factors and it is bringing all these factors together that determines whether someone chooses to be good or evil.

Interestingly, I believe, looking at it from that perspective could suggest that someone who is “evil” could also once again become “good”…


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