A curious coincidence. Last week a television programme from BBC1 phoned to check out what I thought about people being Good or Evil. Did I believe people were born Good or Evil?
What about the idea of Original Sin? Catholics seems to think that babies are born in the condition of sinfulness [inherited from Adam and his fall from Grace ] and that they must constantly atone for this. New-born babies may go to Purgatory before they are baptised. And of course, they are also liable to sin on their own behalf.
I have met a number of people who have done quite dreadful things, but none whom I thought was inherently Wicked. With all of them, I was able to trace patterns within their early years that had led to awful behaviour. [I have met people who killed people, but not people who murdered – as in intended to kill, and planned it. I have known people who raped and hurt people too].
So I told the researcher that I believed research showed that people were generally good – if they were allowed to be. And later he phoned me back to say that they were actually looking for a religious perspective not a psychological approach, but could they keep my name on the list.
And yesterday came news of research showing that babies are born kind and altruistic. A wonderful project in the U.S. has been doing experiments with babies from about 5 months to almost 24 months. The babies were held by a parent and shown simple videos. In the film, there were three shapes. One shape [perhaps the triangle] helped the second shape when it was in trouble. The third shape was mean. When the babies were given the helpful and mean toy to choose between, they always chose the good shape. Always. From the age of 5 months. As the babies got older, they became clearer in their thinking and one two year old actually smacked the naughty toy.
Babies are born altruistic. They want to help others, to be kind. When children and, later on, adults do unkind, malicious and hurtful things, they are reflecting things that have been done to them, intentionally or incidentally. These things happened and lead to consequences for all of us. Frightening, isn’t it!!!