Monday, June 29, 2009

Human Nature Today

Human nature is perhaps one of the most complicated and most disputed topics in human history. As columnist David Brooks asserts, everyone has his own opinion regarding factors that shape human nature and individualism. Some of the most highly regarded opinions come from evolutionary psychologists. These scientists believe that most human traits are innate and have existed since the beginning of human subsistence. They claim that men are automatically programmed to be attracted to thin women, women are hardwired to prefer slightly older men, and all other human choices are essentially predetermined by millenniums-old genetic traits. Individuals who argue the opposing viewpoint, such as the author, contend that much more influences human nature, including socialization. They also argue that conditions for humans were vastly different thousands of years ago, and through the process of evolution, human nature should and does change with the circumstances. Opponents say that if the theories of evolutionary psychologists were true, every individual would share the same beliefs, would make the same decisions, and, in effect, would have the same personality.

Brooks uses the opinions of the evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller as the counterargument for his view. Brooks describes Miller’s philosophy, and then goes on to write several original examples of Miller’s principles with pop culture references. These examples are humorous, although slightly ridiculous, and show a lighter side to the argument. Perhaps Brooks’ goal in including these references is to show the insensibility and preposterous aspects of the evolutionary psychologists’ arguments. Brooks own argument, however, does not have the humor and charm of his examples for Miller’s opposing viewpoint. Because of the lack of wit in his own argument, Brooks’ opinion does not have quite as much impact as Miller’s beliefs. Nevertheless, Brooks accomplishes his goal of making Miller’s philosophy seem outdated and unrealistic, and to ironically go against the process of evolution. The topic of the dispute, as the title austerely states, paradoxically does not seem relevant to the present, as the piece does not connect any of the arguments to current events or poplar news topics. Brooks successfully challenges Miller’s argument, but his own claims do not leave as much of an impression as Miller’s philosophy.

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