Why Do We Focus On Our Negative Sides?

A friend of mine wondered: <I am always struck by how poorly developed our theories of human empathy and altruism are compared, for example, with theories of human aggression.> This does not surprise me at all. If we were to judge humanity (including Americans) by what we read in news head-lines and what we watch on CNN, it is difficult not to form a very low opinion of humankind (and Americans), ourselves excluded of course.This overall impression is reinforced by history books which glorify wars and victories, narrate conquests  and colonies, and keep reminding us of the slave trade and casteism, the Crusades and the Inquisition, both Spanish and Roman.  Then there is the theological view to the effect that we have been sinners from Day One, just preparing for Day Omega when we will be judged for all our evil thoughts, nasty words, and awful misbehavior; and the idea that we are constantly accumulating bad karma and will be shoved back to earth to go through more suffering. In this framework, the focus of attention of scientists is naturally on the negative side of humanity.If our media and minds were replete with the actions and achievements of great philosophers and poets, scientists and saints, musicians and mathematicians, architects and artists, then psychologists would probably wondering what makes humans so special and great and creative and good, and all the rest of it.It is a piece of ancient wisdom that we are somewhere between angels (in the mythic sense of the word) and beasts (in the pre-scientific connotation of the word). I rather think that we are a blessed blend of the two, with the strange feature of manifesting one capacity rather than the other, depending on what the circumstance warrants or prompts. Most of the time, we are just neutral, carrying on the chores and challenges of normal existence. 


Published by:

Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.

Categories MiscellaneousLeave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s