Medaka Box – Human Nature

Apologies for the lack of posts this week. The fact that a bunch of shows aren’t being aired doesn’t help, but that’s still no excuse. In any case, let’s get back to the topic at hand. The recent episodes of Medaka Box have definitely been packed with non-stop action, but they also bring up an age-old question: “Are humans inherently good or bad?” Before we can answer this question, though, we must first address another more fundamental issue: nature versus nurture.

Well that was a rather large jump, wasn’t it? Why on earth would we be discussing nature vs. nurture if we want to determine whether humans are good or bad? The important thing to realize here, is that any talk of human nature depends first and foremost on exactly what its name suggests; nature. So just what is more important: nature or nurture? For those of you unaquainted with these terms, it may be useful to define them first. Nature refers to the innate qualities of an individual; the genes, if you will. On the other hand, nurture refers to the personal experiences that an individual gains through the course of life.

The debate of nature vs. nurture is also one that has been around for a very long time, and is most typically considered in the context of behaviorology and genetics. The question posed is: “Do the genes or the environment pose greater influence on the development of an individual?” Elaborate scientific studies aside, we can cut straight to the chase for the purposes of this post. I would say that the environment actually has a greater effect on an individual than the genes. Despite our genes literally dictating how our bodies should turn out, there is actually a surprising amount of environmental factors involved in triggering the expression of said genes.

Ah, but what about identical twins? Aren’t they a perfect example of the importance of genes? It’s true that identical twins are more alike than the average siblings, but the similarity is only superficial. When we get down to the nitty-gritty of it, saying that genes have the final word on development would suggest that identical twins have to be literally identical. As I’m sure you’re well aware, this is not the case. For instance, say one of the twins gets cut when (s)he is young. As a result, (s)he will have a scar in that location when (s)he grows up while the other won’t. That, in an of itself, is an example of the power the environment has over genetic expression.

Now hang on, isn’t that a rather cheap way to put it? Perhaps. I’ll admit the example was rather contrived, but that doesn’t take away from any of its authenticity. We don’t even have to go about this “scientifically” if you want; simple probability will tell you that it is much less likely for two people to be exactly the same. Sure, twins may start the game of life with the same “load out”, so to speak, but that doesn’t necessitate that they make the same choices, and with different choices come different consequences. As the choices keep piling up, the potential difference between the twins will only keep on increasing.

But of course, it’s not as if genes hold absolutely no power over the development of an individual. It’s undeniable that your genes have quite a bit of say in how you turn out; it’s just that so much more can happen in the meantime to change you. I find it best to think of it this way; life is a card game, and your genes are the hand you’re dealt. Where things go from there ultimately depend on what you do, but your actions may be limited by what you started with. Alright, so then what does this tell us about human nature? Can we be left alone to do the right thing, or will we end up causing chaos and confusion if left to our own devices?

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m trying to suggest that this question is irrelevent. Humans are just about as inherently good as they are inherently bad. Besides, what is even meant by “good” and “bad”? Is it how we treat each other? Is it how we treat other animals? Is it how we treat the world we live in? Or perhaps is it all of the above? In the traditional debate of human nature, the main item of concern is that of society. Should the government strictly control the people so as to prevent general chaos, or should government involvement be kept at a minimum to allow people to do as they please? This starts treading dangerously close to politics, which I especially hate to comment on due to the stubbornly belligerant nature of most political discussion, but I will endure it to deliver some sort of conclusion to those of you who have come this far without tl;dr-ing.

That said, there is unfortunately no “right” answer. There really is no way to say that one way is better than another, short of any attempt at such a society utterly and completely failing miserably (ie Utopianism). Still, we can scrape some semblance of an answer from history. Objectively speaking, which type of government has become the most prevalently accepted? Why, that would be the democracy/republic. Other more “conservative” forms of government, such as communism for example, invariably fail as a result of too few attempting to shoulder the responsibilities of too many.

There’s only so much a single person can do, so why not let everyone do as they see fit? Things may not turn out exactly the way you envisioned, but perhaps this may be for the better. After all, with people able to do more, there are more possibilities open for the future. And this is where the question of human nature comes in. Can we trust the people to use their newfound “freedom” to better the society as a whole? Again, there is no straightforward, black and white answer, but history (and current events) do provide proof of concept for the viability of giving humans free reign.

So that’s it, then. We’ve answered the question; humans are in fact inherently good. Or at least, they have acted constructively for the most part through the course of history; we’re not all dead yet, and World War III isn’t looming on the horizon. As a matter of fact, another world war is looking less and less likely as more countries start to get tangled in the mess that is world trade. After all, gaining a few resources isn’t really worth blowing up potential customers in the world today. But before you take this point to home, I’d like you to consider what I tried to get across before venturing into the question of human nature; are we really governed by some set of predefined qualities?

The answer to that is no. As a matter of fact, we are mostly governed by our experiences; we change with what goes on around us. That is to say, humans aren’t really “good” or “bad” because that’s who we are. We only seem to be “good” because everyone else around us isn’t desparate to screw everyone else over; there’d be absolutely no benefit in doing so. In the end, there’s really nothing stopping all of us from acting like the aforementioned assholes, but if that were to happen, we probably wouldn’t be around anymore, and then I wouldn’t be here to discuss the topic with you. That wouldn’t be fun, now would it?

Bonus pics for those who made it to the end:

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4 Responses to Medaka Box – Human Nature

  1. windyturnip says:

    The terms “good” and “bad” are too subjective to be using in the first place. The definition of those two words are constantly changing from place to place and time to time.

    When it comes down to it, I believe humans will do what provides them with the most benefit. This doesn’t mean that people are all going to selfish assholes because being ostracized by society generally doesn’t provide any sense of pleasure. The reason we help each other is simply because a well functioning society provides more benefits for everyone.

    Does this have anything to do with Medaka Box? I haven’t been watching it.

    • Smiley says:

      The debate of whether humans are inherently good or bad is mentioned in the most recent episodes. It’s really just about Medaka’s beliefs versus Unzen’s beliefs, and they settle it with fisticuffs.

  2. s2012k1993 says:

    I absolutely love it when one goes philosophically berserk. You made a good point indicating the importance of environment over genes, but I think you should give genes a much bigger break.

    You used twins to reveal to us the importance of environment, but can’t we also take two different persons and have them experience the exact same environment for their entire life (don’t ask me how that would work). I’m sure they would turn out quite different. The point I wish to make is that even our genes play a crucial role in how one experiences the environment around us. Does that mean genes determine how we experience our environment, thus leaving everyone at the mercy at their genes? Yes, but…

    Luckily, we do have a few amazing tools that makes sense of the differing perspectives caused by genes. Communication and Reason, for example, enable two persons, who experience the same thing, make sense of their differing perspectives. Thus we mistaken that environment shaped our views, when in reality, it is conformation to a single (may or may not be our own) perspective that shape who we are.

    To highlight this nuance, I will use the example of cockroaches (not to diminish their intelligence). Why have cockroaches survived for millions of years experiencing the different environments, when other animals perished? Their genes enabled them a unique perspective of their environment that kept their survival rate high. Because any differing perspective of the environment would kill the cockroach, it developed a set of genes to ensure it survival. Please forgive if I misrepresented the cockroach, I’m not an expert on cockroaches.

    I don’t argue that environment doesn’t play a role in who we become. Rather, I’m arguing that humans are uniquely placed among life on earth allowing humans to be affected by environment independent of our genes. I’ll let you ponder the subsequent implications, but for now, doesn’t that make you feel special?

    • Smiley says:

      You’re right that our genes do also affect our experiences; physical conditions and impairments such as blindness and deafness immediately come to mind. I would reason that the environment still has a greater effect because it is an ongoing change.

      Genetic expression occurs a limited number of times (you only have so many genes), possibly altering your future perception in each instance. But if you then take into consideration everything that can change your experience of the environment, there are many more environmental factors than genetic ones at play in general.

      Still, it’s definitely true that our genes are important. I guess my post kind of came off as belittling genes, but that wasn’t my intention. I was instead trying to promote the importance of the environment.

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