Challenging old and new theories about man's nature

Guest writer

Humans are by nature attracted to shocking or violent news! At least that is a claim made in studies on the neurology of human behaviour. Any basic review of media statistics seems to bear this theory out: the more violent or outrageous the headlines, the more sales a newspaper apparently makes. Some retail companies also recognize this tendency, manipulating this attraction to the offensive by creating shock ads that cause instant outrage on social media, but increase sales. The French fashion company Benetton is one company known for this type of advertising. And the latest Twitter ad by makeup giant Urban Decay is currently causing outrage. Even some politicians down through the ages have exploited it - knowing it brings extensive free news coverage every time.  

So why do we seem to have such a fatal attraction to the scary, bizarre and horrific? Increasingly, many behavioural scientists are promoting the theory that this is a primeval instinct,and therefore natural and inescapable.

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These “scientific theories” are merely the latest efforts to find a cause – in this case, biological – as to what makes humans tick. Thousands of years ago, before modern neuro-social theory came into being, our behaviour was ascribed to beliefs that the deity (or deities) was both good and bad, and, therefore its creation could also be inherently bad. And, while many people in our society have thrown off these theological views, we still allow them to influence how we see ourselves. Whether it comes from an ancient creation story or modern neurology or social theory, the result is the same – the perpetuation of the belief that we are inherently violent and therefore attracted to evil and its attendant outcomes, including repeated violence, pain and tragedy.

But we can challenge these theories and beliefs.  

The underlying issue at the centre of this particular human paradigm goes right back to how we see ourselves. If we view ourselves either through the ancient lens of a faulty or evil creator and creation, or through the modern biological lens of being simply hardwired to be inherently violent and attracted to evil, we have accepted models from which we cannot escape and to which we are forever drawn.  

To change this, we can turn away from these educated beliefs about humanity and adopt a fresh spiritual model that discovers man as a child of God, attracted only to what the Divine would cultivate in us – a model that inherently reflects the divinely good.

If we consider Jesus as the Way-shower and reflect on how he viewed himself and others, this statement by Mary Baker Eddy seems good counsel:

“Let the perfect model be present in your thoughts instead of its demoralized opposite.”

Impossible to do? No. One example of a man who changed his own model and influenced an entire nation was Nelson Mandela. In the biography, Invictus, author John Carlin describes the reasoning that Mandela engaged in and the progressive shifts in his thinking that took place during his 25 years in prison.

Fairly early on in his incarceration, Mandela realized that his model for the liberation of South Africans through violence and anger was not going to liberate anyone. It was actually only escalating the problem. The description of Mandela’s journey and his personal transformation from terrorist to nation builder is remarkable. Bishop Tutu’s writings referred to Mandela’s time in prison as a spiritual journey.  

Mandela proved that we can challenge old theories and teachings regarding the violent nature of man. We can choose a better model, such as Jesus offered, that has a spiritual foundation that cannot be taken from us – even by modern neurological theories. In Mandela’s own words:

“Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” 

Anna Bowness-ParkAnna Bowness-Park is a Christian Science practitioner, who writes frequently on the relationship between consciousness and health, and how prayer can play a role. You can follow her blog at anna-bownesspark.ca 

You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, The Spiritual View, HERE

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