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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Are Humans Good?


Lately, I’ve chosen not to devote much attention to Lex Fridman’s podcast, because I’ve grown tired of hearing his naïve perspective concerning life. However, when I saw that he recently featured Michael Malice on an episode, I chose to push through discomfort by listening.


At one point in the conversation the two individuals discussed whether or not humans are good. This highly contentious topic has been examined throughout the ages and there remain stark divisions regarding the matter.


Raised under Judeo-Christian doctrine, I was taught at a young age that humans were sinful and that only G-d was good. As I veered away from religiosity in adulthood and towards a temporal understanding of life, I reasoned that some humans were good and some were bad.


As I’ve continued to evolve my worldview and understand morality and truth, I realize that the false dichotomy of good or evil isn’t an objectively provable consideration. Rather, I appreciate how Malice addressed this matter by stating:


So, you know, people ask, oh, “Are humans basically good? Are they basically evil?” I always say they’re basically animals. And I think people are, most people are almost fundamentally deranged and that there’s basically this veneer of civilization and decency. And when shit hits the fan, and we see this over and over, they do things that would’ve been completely unthinkable even to themselves five years ago.


With an unfalsifiable claim such as, “Humans are inherently good,” there remains no legitimate instrument with which we can assess this assertion. Group X may say it’s morally desirable to kill “around 1,200” members of group Y that is perceived to be oppressing group X.


Group Y may in turn say it’s morally acceptable to kill “about 18,000” (and counting) members of group X in retaliation. For members of group Z—those people not directly associated with groups X or Y—the actions of groups X and Y may be considered undesirable and unacceptable.


While people may take issue with Malice’s assertion that humans are “basically animals,” I think it isn’t inaccurate to suggest that the “veneer of civilization and decency” addressed by Malice has clearly eroded and people within group Z around the world are now supporting actions which may’ve been completely unthinkable perhaps only five years ago.


Though predictability of group Z’s behavior was previously unforeseen by me, I was able to anticipate Fridman’s response to Malice’s suggestion. In typical unsophisticated fashion, Fridman disagreed by stating, “The deep ocean of the human mind is good.”


This is the sort of unicornia perspective I’ve come to expect from Fridman. Therefore, I appreciate Malice’s response as he stated, “I’ve seen literally no evidence of this.” That’s because Fridman’s suggestion is unfalsifiable and there is literally no evidence to support it.


Malice then correctly reminded Fridman, “Humans are tribal beings” which form in- and out-groups irrespective of what groups X, Y, or Z have to say about what is good or not. Similar behavior can be observed in chimpanzees, dogs, and other animals.


Malice later suggests, “I think [humans are] essentially civil and amiable, but that’s not really being good.” I concur.


And given observed human behavior in relation to the COVID-19 response and the 2023 Israel-Hamas war, as well as what I anticipate will be a tumultuous 2024 presidential election, I doubt there’s much “good” surrounding these events. Rather, I suspect civility and amiability has been and will be sacrificed—which isn’t necessarily good either.


If only matters were as straight forward as an angelic being casting out humans from garden, then the clear distinction between human good or evil would be easier to determine. However, the complexity of life as it actually is doesn’t afford us such luxury.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW





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