In this essay, I will delve into both morality and empathy. The question of nature verses nurture is a huge bone of contention in many societies across the globe and wars have been fought solely on the grounds of people’s beliefs. Man’s actions alone do not tell the whole story. In order to have a greater understanding of our own motivations and propensity towards violence and compassion, we must delve deep into the psyche and subconscious of both ourselves and others.
Humankind or Human-unkind
These days, you would be forgiven for thinking that the whole world has gone insane. With the aid of modern media, we are continually bombarded with stories and images of ...view middle of the document...
Until fairly recently, It was assumed and believed that early humans in the form of Neanderthals displayed animalistic tendencies far removed from those of modern man. Many believed that they displayed social characteristics more closely related to apes than man due to their brain size and outward appearance. Neanderthals and other variants that came before them were, and to a large extent still are depicted in movies and books as mindless, violent predators interested only in themselves and their own self preservation. Recent evidence found in caves and elsewhere tells of a different story. Archaeologists and paleontologists from York University who were studying emotions in humans have found evidence of compassion and the emergence of empathy as far back as six million years ago. Neanderthals were taking care of their sick, injured and elderly four hundred thousand years ago and extended their compassion to animals around them and their environment as far back as one hundred and twenty thousand years ago.
Since then, we have evolved into much more creative, critical thinking, complex creatures but an argument could be made about how far empathy and compassion for our fellow human being has progressed. Has empathy and compassion kept up with evolution or has that part of our brain long since reached its maximum capacity? These questions have given anthropologists and philosophers much to think about and no doubt will continue to provide them with food for thought for the foreseeable future and beyond.
Violence throughout the Ages
There is no doubting the fact that technology has made us more capable of mass destruction today than ever before. The evolution of weapons has depersonalized killing, especially in war, and made it possible for people to kill remotely from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. In terms of sheer numbers of people killed in war, the twentieth century seems to have been extremely violent with world war two being the worst of the worst. Or was it? Throughout the ages, the population of the world has been expanding at an astounding rate. When talking about casualties of war, it might be better to talk in terms of the percentage of the world’s population instead of the total number dead. During World War 2, the total number of deaths are estimated at anywhere from forty million to seventy two million. In terms of a percentage of the world’s population, this equates to approximately 1.7%-3.1%. A huge number by any standards but not the highest by far. In vast contrast, The Mongol Conquests of the 12th century claimed up to 17% of the world’s total population at the time. Unlike today, this type of warfare was ‘up close and personal’ as the weaponry in use then consisted of close range projectiles, blunt force trauma weapons and those used to inflict stabbing wounds. It seems that people in those times needed to put a lot more effort into killing than they do today.
In 2013, during the Syrian conflict, images...