Human Aggression Essay
Genetically inherited or environmentally learned? The question has been askedfor years. Is human aggression genetically linked or is it the environment thatdetermines our aggressive nature? Over the years there have been many theoriesproposed supporting the idea that aggression has a genetic link in humans.
“A century ago, Italian physician Cesare Lombroso claimed that slopingforeheads, jutting chins and long arms were signs of born criminals” (Toufexis52). More recently, claims have been made that “Man is a predator whosenatural instinct is to kill with a weapon”(Leakey 23).
Again, there havebeen quit a few ideas presented proclaiming mans’ genetic link to aggression.
Some, looking in hindsight, have been ridiculous while others have been morethought provoking but all have lacked sufficient proof. Likewise, there havebeen several theories suggesting that the environment is what determines ouraggressive nature. One psychologist expressed that behavior is changed bylearning. It is not genetic in humans to be aggressive (Montagu 183). Manystudies have shown this to be true. When humans are subjected to aggressiveenvironments they are significantly more likely to be aggressive themselves.
Inaddition, when these studies were put under scrutiny they were verified. Inlight of this only one obvious conclusion remains. Human aggression is a learnedtrait resulting from the environment. It is not an embedded characteristiclurking deep within the genetic make-up of all humans. A large portion of thescience and psychological community would like us to believe that humans areinescapably aggressive. Psychologist Sigmund Freud expressed that humans are notloving creatures rather they are creatures who wish to engage in aggression(Donahue). This statement refers to underlying instinctive urges that hebelieved motivated aggressive behavior. That has yet to be proven. Some otherscientist have looked to the past attempting to explain the present human stateby using our so-called “violent history” as a basis for their claims.
Claiming that, man has killed in all forms throughout history. Violence andaggression are as much a part of today as they were hundreds of years ago (Dubos42). “The sombre fact is that we are the cruelest and most ruthless speciesthat has ever walked the earth” (Storr 17). These concepts and statementsbest represent this type of thinking. This segment of the science community hascontinued to use this fallacy explain mans’ behavior. The writers who presentedit this way expressed it best; man is a killer because man kills or man killsbecause he is a killer. It is circular reasoning with no basis in fact (Parens13). “There is no genetic coding that inevitably results inaggressiveness-” (Dubos 42). Other theories, though more scientific,still fail to justify the hypothesis that humans are innately aggressive.
“In the 1960’s scientists advanced the now discounted notion that men whocarry an XXY chromosome pattern rather than the normal XY pattern, werepredisposed to become violent criminals” (Toufexis 52). It seems that everytheory concerning mans genetic link to aggression has been disproved or leftunproven. They simply just do not have the evidence to back the idea. Perhapsthey are victims of their own beliefs. Psychologist Ashley Montagu sums this upbest. He expressed that when discussing the cause of human violence we mightfind that most people do not look at the facts and then make their decisions butrather they choose the facts that best support what they already believe (23).
“It’s tempting to make excuses for violence” (Toufexis 52). Certainlyno one will accept responsibility for thousands of years of human aggression.
Rightly, no one should be asked to do so. However, we do need to be willing toaccept responsibility for ourselves as well as our actions. That is why it isimperative that we no longer attempt to use the genetic crutch to justifyaggression. In other words, “behavioral genetics is the same old stuff innew clothes… It’s another way for a violent, racist society to say people’sproblems are not their own fault, because they carry ‘bad’ genes” (Parens13). We must look for a more suitable and consistent way of thinking. Because,while it is true that many humans are killers, it is equally true that many arenot (Dubos 42). The best explanations of man’s aggressive behavior have beenthose presented by Scientists and Psychologists looking for answers in theenvironments we live in. Studies of violent crimes in different cultures havegiven insight about whether or not the environment influences aggressivebehavior. In one study, it was found that America has more killings per yearthan any other country by far, suggesting that there are environmental factorsworking which influence aggressive behavior (Toufexis 52). In addition, thestudy found that murder among the African-American community was significantlyhigher than any other ethnic community in America. In fact, murder was thenumber one cause of death among black men and women between the ages of fifteenand twenty-four (Toufexis 52). Attempting to explain these facts using thegenetic attribution seems almost silly. Are you willing to accept the idea thatAmericans are more genetically inclined towards aggression than people in othercountries? Those other countries from which we all, but the Americans Indians,immigrated from. Furthermore, since African-Americans have a higher violentcrime rate than other Americans, does that mean African-Americans have genesmore strongly programmed for aggression. Again, it sounds silly. The answer liesin the environment and culture we are raised in. How a person is brought up andwhat type of stimuli is present is what determines how they will behave (Storr19). Africa for instance has a very low violent crime rate when compared toAmerica yet native Africans and African-Americans share the same genes. Whythen, does the level of aggression differ so much? The answer again, is in theenvironment and what we learn from it. Aggression is a learned characteristicthat is influenced and sometimes even nurtured by the environments we are raisedin. “One learns to be unaggressive simply by not being aggressive” (Montagu183). In conclusion, science has not proven humans to be genetically inclinedtowards aggression. In fact, many of the theories presented concerning innatehuman aggression have been disproved. Leading one to believe that the geneticlink to aggression is, at best, a scapegoat for a long history of violence. Onthe other hand, there have been many studies performed concerning the effects ofenvironment on aggressive behavior and the results proved that the environmentdoes influence aggressive behavior. Also, when this research was scrutinized theoutcome was the same. The results were repeatable and the research was proven.
If the facts speak for anything it is that human aggression is a learned traitinfluenced by the environment, not a characteristic embedded in our geneticmake-up.