John Marsh examines what human society tells us about human nature. Are human beings essentially good or bad?
There is no original evil in the human heart. There is not a single vice to be found of which it cannot be said how and when it entered.
My belief in the goodness of the child has never wavered.… a child is innately wise.
A.S. Neill founder of Summerhill School
Why are we so good to each other?
The seemingly airy ideas of Enlightenment philosophers have entrenched themselves in modern consciousness, and recent discoveries are casting those ideas in doubt.
One of liberalism's core beliefs is that human nature is essentially good. In this chapter I present the evidence against this belief.
Rousseau maintained children are wholly good, so there is no need to discipline them. How did he come to his conclusion? From years of close observation of children? He fathered five children by an illiterate servant girl. After each birth he at once took the baby down to the local orphanage, left it there, and had no later dealings with any of them. So his theories were not based on personal experience. Perhaps it is easier to believe that children are innately wise and good, if you have as little contact with your own children as Rousseau.
The British educationalist A.S. Neill, was a follower of Rousseau. He was headmaster of Summerhill School and his book on it sold over one million copies; it was on the syllabus of 600 American universities. In it he wrote, "I cannot believe that evil is inborn or that there is original sin." He maintained human beings are good and want to do good. He thought that all crimes were frustrated attempts to be good and claimed that a burglar, who leaves a turd on the carpet after burgling a house, is leaving something he values, as recompense for the theft!  He summed up his approach as follows:
We set out to make a school where children were free to be themselves. In order to do this we had to renounce all discipline, all direction, all suggestion, all moral training, all religious instruction. … We had a complete belief in the child as a good, not an evil, being. For over forty years this belief in the goodness of the child has never wavered.
These ideas can be traced back three hundred years to the Enlightenment, which brought a new understanding of human nature. Lord Shaftesbury argued mankind is innately benevolent and Morelly dismissed the view that, "Man is born vicious and wicked." The French thinker Condorcet wrote:
Is there any vicious habit, any practice contrary to good faith, any crime, whose origin cannot be traced back to the institutions and prejudices of the country.
Sir Isaiah Berlin wrote:
What the entire Enlightenment had in common is the denial of central Christian doctrine of Original Sin, believing instead that man is born either innocent or good, or malleable by education, or capable of radical improvement by education.
The German historian Ernst Cassirer observed:
Original Sin is the common opponent against which all the different trends of the Enlightenment join forces.
And in the words of the English historian Lesslie Newbigin:
It [Original Sin] was regarded as the most dangerous and destructive of dogmas, which had perverted human reason. The first essential for liberating human reason was to destroy the dogma.
Rousseau also thought that in primitive communities, uncorrupted by civilisation, natural man lived in harmony with nature, with others and with himself – a contented being. This gave the theory of inborn human goodness its name – 'The Noble Savage'. Bougainville's account of Tahiti in his Voyage Autour du Monde of 1771 portrayed life on the Pacific Islands as one of blissful harmony, and helped to spread the gospel of the Noble Savage. In reality, he had fled from various islands whose inhabitants were violent. Later Margaret Mead in her book Coming of Age in Samoa depicted an idyll in the Pacific. The Samoans, she claimed, were naturally good: at peace with themselves, with others and with nature. However later anthropologists, such as Derek Freeman, studying the same Samoan society, found that daughters were beaten or killed if they were not virgins on their wedding night and that rape was commonplace. The young girls, whose accounts had been the basis of Mead's book, when interviewed again later by Freeman, said that her version was untrue. She had simply projected onto Samoan society her preconceived image. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, commented that "white liberals" have a "sentimental reverence" for the culture of native peoples before the arrival of Europeans. It is part of what he calls the "mythology of the goodness of the inner self."
So is the Noble Savage true or a myth? Are we innately good and rational, or flawed and irrational? My wife and I organised a birthday party at a local swimming pool for one of our boys. Afterwards in a nearby room there was food and drink. The boys arrived at different times after changing. A large chocolate cake had been cut up rather quickly with the pieces of different sizes. The boys were invited to help themselves. Each in turn looked at the various pieces and took the largest. Our human nature is self-centred. Babies are selfish and this is necessary for their survival. Civilisation is a veneer beneath which lurks a selfish human nature. In the words of Thomas Sowell, the leading African-American philosopher:
If you have ever seen a four-year-old trying to lord it over a two-year-old, then you know what the basic problem of human nature is.
Moreover, if mankind is wholly good, why is there so much evil in the world? If the answer is that mankind was corrupted by society, where did that evil come from? In the last century it is estimated that over one hundred and twenty million died under communism and six million in the Holocaust. Recent atrocities include: the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, the Serbian atrocities in former Yugoslavia, the current slaughter, pillage and rape in the Congo and Sudan. Today there are an estimated twenty-seven million slaves around the world: more than all the slaves taken from Africa in the transatlantic slave trade. The newspapers and TV news bulletins record numberless examples of human greed, cruelty, violence and selfishness. Domestic violence and cruelty to children also reveal a dark side to humanity. So the belief in innate human goodness is contradicted by plenty of evidence of evil. Yet the idea persists and the evidence to the contrary is ignored.
Steven Pinker and the Noble Savage
Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate and Professor of Psychology at Harvard, lost his faith in humanity as a teenager in Montreal in the 1960s. A police strike was planned. At the time he was young, idealistic and liberal, confident that human beings were good and so it would be a normal day. By contrast his parents forecast bedlam and anarchy. He wrote:
I laughed off my parents' argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test on 17th October 1969 when the Montreal police went on strike.
The outcome: 100 shops were looted; 6 banks robbed; 12 fires started; 40 shop windows smashed; $3,000,000 worth of damage to property; most downtown stores forced to close because of looting; taxi drivers burned down a rival cab firm; a rooftop sniper killed a policeman; rioters broke into hotels and restaurants; and at the end of the day the army had to be called in to restore order. Pinker described his loss of faith in liberalism in these words, "This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters". [Incidentally Richard Dawkins comments on this story in his book The God Delusion; he thinks more of the looting and arson would have been carried out by believers rather than by atheists. He admits he has no evidence!]
Pinker refers to the popularity of the Noble Savage theory: "Many intellectuals embraced the image of peaceable, egalitarian and ecology-loving natives." But he argues it has been undermined by scientific discoveries: especially modern genetics and evolution. Evolutionary psychology points to a human nature shaped by the evolutionary struggle. Pinker wrote:
It is the doctrine of the Noble Savage that has been most mercilessly debunked by the new evolutionary thinking. A thoroughly noble anything is an unlikely product of natural selection, because noble guys tend to finish last. Nice guys get eaten. Conflicts are ubiquitous, since no two animals can eat the same fish, or monopolise the same mate. Social motivations are adaptations to maximise copies of the genes and one way to prevail is to neutralise the competition.
Modern genetics has shown how genes influence – but do not totally determine – our behaviour, including our defects. So our flaws are partly hard-wired. There is a nasty and ugly side to our natures. Pinker wrote:
Many of the personality traits affected by genes are far from noble.… including such sins and flaws as being rude, selfish, uncooperative and undependable.… Study after study has shown that a willingness to commit anti-social behaviour, including lying, stealing, starting fights and destroying property is partly heritable.
Many psychopaths are anti-social from birth and bully other children and torture animals, even when they come from good homes. Pinker goes on to say that a person who is "introverted, neurotic, narrow, selfish and untrustworthy is probably that way partly because of his genes." His conclusion is: "Genetics and neuroscience are showing that the heart of darkness cannot always be blamed on parents and society."
The discoveries of anthropologists have also undermined the myth of the 'Noble Savage'. They have found primitive societies more violent and blood-thirsty than our own. Lawrence Keely compared the death rates from violence of different societies where there is available data. Some South American tribes like the Jivaro have death rates from violence of 59%, the Yanomamo 39% and most tribes between 20% to 30%. For example a tribe would slaughter an entire village – men, women and children – in revenge for the death of a member of their own tribe. Tribes with plenty to eat and plenty of land and women, will attack other tribes unprovoked. However the Noble Savage lives on in the media: eg. BBC programmes such as Bruce Parry's Tribe and Tribal Wives portray the lives of primitive tribes as a peaceful idyll.
Pinker claims these scientific discoveries have undermined the worldview of many intellectuals, who have propagated falsehoods in order to protect primitive societies. To those who are shocked by the cruel, selfish and nasty side of human nature, Pinker answers, what do you expect after millions of years of evolution? We are the outcome of millions of successful slaughters. However the picture Pinker paints is not wholly bleak: as well as the nasty and selfish side of human nature, we have a kinder side, especially in relation to our kin group.
Pinker's conclusion is that a liberal view of human nature is inconsistent with modern science: in particular genetics, evolutionary psychology and some aspects of the cognitive neuroscience. Liberal humanism – the creed of our intelligentsia – has been undermined by science; and what they devalue – the family, religion and moral codes – in fact play an important role in dealing with our defects. In Pinker's words:
Traditions such as religion, the family, social customs, sexual mores and political institutions are a distillation of time-tested techniques that let us work around the short-comings of human nature.
Some traditional institutions, like families and the rule of law, may be adapted to eternal features of human psychology.
He cites in support the philosopher Peter Singer, who believes those on the left, like himself, must abandon their liberal views and admit that human nature is self-centred. Singer wrote:
It is time for the left to take seriously that we are evolved animals, and that we bear the evidence of our inheritance.
The romantic view of mankind which has been dominant over the last 40 years is false. Science has upset the apple cart.
Reviewing Pinker's book, John Morrish wrote that in evolution:
No prizes were awarded for good behaviour.… We are not stardust. We are not golden. And we are not going to get back to the Garden of Eden. Now get used to it.… The point Pinker is making, is that morality, fairness, sex equality, racial tolerance and nice table manners don't come easily to a species with genes like ours. This is dynamite among Western liberals, but it wouldn't raise an eyebrow in most of the world.
It is only in the West that a misty-eyed sentimentalism prevails. Morrish also notes that the weaker the theory, the more fiercely people fight for it. Hence liberals' intolerance of non-liberal opinions and their bullying of opponents.
In contrast to Pinker, Richard Dawkins thinks we emerged unselfish and philanthropic out of the long bloody struggle for survival in evolution. He offers what he calls a fourfold Darwinian explanation of our goodness: firstly, kin share genes and so support other members of the kin group; secondly, reciprocal altruism, "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours"; thirdly, seeking a good reputation; fourthly, demonstrating your superiority. He wrote: "We now have four good Darwinian reasons for individuals to be altruistic, generous and moral to each other." Dawkins believes that our brains 'misfire'. So human beings love everyone, not just their kin. Is there any scientific evidence for his theory that human brains misfire to produce unselfish behaviour? Dawkins admits, "Perhaps I am a Pollyanna." (The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'Pollyanna' as "naively cheerful and optimistic".) He has led the life of a don in the groves of academia, and lives in North Oxford. Perhaps his conviction that human beings are naturally good needs to be put to an empirical test – as Pinker's was. Maybe he should experience more of the ugly side of life – spend a day answering the phone at Childline, where children suffering abuse and bullying ring in for help; or with the NSPCC, which deals with cruelty to children; or with case workers dealing with domestic violence; or stay for a week in Mogadishu.
Incidentally, although Pinker is not religious, he claims that the Biblical understanding of human nature has been vindicated by science. He wrote:
The theory of human nature coming out of the cognitive revolution has more in common with the Judeo-Christian theory of human nature and with the psychological theory proposed by Sigmund Freud, than with behaviourism, social constructionism and other versions of the Blank Slate.
Human nature is flawed: Freud and Jung
Freud and Jung challenged the belief in inborn goodness and rationality. Freud wrote:
No one who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human beast, and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed.
And: "The ego is not master in its own house." In other words the conscious mind is unaware of the powerful influence of the unconscious. According to Jung:
My experience with human beings taught me anything but a belief in man's original goodness. I knew I was only gradually distinguishing myself from an animal.
Jung maintained man is less good than he thinks he is.
Freud's standing is not as high as it was: nevertheless some of his insights remain important in our understanding of the human psyche. He analysed the psyche into three parts: the ego (the self), the superego (the conscience) and the id (the instincts). Before him the mind was understood as wholly conscious, rational and integrated. He discovered in treating patients suffering from hysteria (a functional disturbance of the nervous system), that consciousness is only a part of the mind. He observed:
We found to our great surprise that each individual symptom immediately and permanently disappeared when we had succeeded in bringing the memory of the event clearly to light … and when the patient had described that event in as much detail as possible.
This revealed an unconscious mind which exerts a powerful influence on people's lives and of which they were totally unaware. So our minds are not totally rational. Experiences, which are emotionally charged and threatening, are repressed; and what Freud called "half-tamed demons" lurk in our unconscious minds. The superego and the id fight for control of the ego. So conflict lies at the heart of our psyches. Far from being good and rational, Freud saw mankind as aggressive, irrational, suffering from illusions and with an urge to dominate. As the English psychiatrist David Stafford-Clark commented:
Freud had struggled to help man find a way to elevate himself above the savage beast, which through no fault of his own, is always part of him. The doctrine of Original Sin found no opposition from Freud, though his explanation of it was biological rather than religious.
Freud's discoveries helped to undermine the belief in the goodness of human nature and the notion that the mind was wholly rational. Jung declared the idea of inborn human goodness nonsense; rationalism a disease; idealism an addiction; and science partly diabolic. He said the dark side of man, which he called his shadow, had been ignored. Evil is real. We must learn to deal with it. Jung set out to liberate western man from arid rationalism. The intellect had tried to dominate, but life is more than the rational. Jung wrote: "Rationalism is the disease of our times; it pretends to have all the answers." In his view modern man feels uprooted and alienated because he has been cut off from his historical and spiritual roots.
The American psychiatrist Scott Peck, who wrote the best-seller The Road Less Travelled, came to the conclusion that some people are evil. This was contrary to his training as a psychologist, which had taught him evil did not exist. Peck concluded that some of the patients he encountered were not simply muddled, or misguided, or confused by their upbringing, but were in the grip of a powerful force of evil. His book, The People of the Lie argued that our conventional thinking refuses to acknowledge the reality of evil, and the fact that some people are taken over by it.
Are we altruistic?
In his book The Price of Altruism Oren Harman asked whether human nature displays altruism. Bees and ants are social insects, and both deer and wolves show mutual aid. However animals' help for each other depends on the closeness of the genetic link. So their apparent altruism is self-interested. The more remote the genetic connection the less altruism applies. In short, altruism depends on kinship. So we can't turn to nature for evidence of inborn human goodness. But aren't some people good? I believe most of us are socialised out of some of our selfish behaviour by parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and society. In this way our self-centred behaviour can be modified. We do not remember all the moral instructions in the past, but we internalise them; they become our values. The mistake is to think that we are naturally unselfish and kind.
I was struck recently when helping out at a summer fair by the barrage of moral urgings, cajolings and tellings-off given to young children: "No, it's Susan's turn", "Remember to share", "That's good", "Don't snatch". Rather than children naturally acting in an unselfish way, they were constantly being prompted to act in a social way. The outcome is that some adults, who as children were socialised by loving and strict parents, find it second nature to lead unselfish lives, and wrongly conclude that this behaviour was inborn. They have forgotten the thousands of moral commands they were subjected to as children. Richard Dawkins was brought up in a Christian home and sent to an Anglican school. Perhaps the moral values of his parents and school were internalised. Maybe he no longer remembers what he was told as a young child, and so he assumes his values were inborn.
The reaction against the belief in human goodness
World War Two led to a reaction against the rosy view of human nature and faith in progress. After Auschwitz it was hard to believe in human goodness, and amid the rubble of post-war Germany the idea of progress seemed a sick joke. Two German thinkers, Horkheimer and Adorno, asked how Europe could have behaved in this way after the Enlightenment? How could the belief in human goodness and reason have led to National Socialism in Germany? The Enlightenment had promised to free mankind from darkness, superstition and ignorance, but had led to a world where millions died in genocides and where science devised weapons of mass destruction. The authors blamed the idea that human beings were entirely rational: "For the Enlightenment anything that cannot be resolved into numbers is illusion." They wrote: "On their way toward modern science human beings have discarded meaning." Any deviation from the scientific paradigm was punished "and carried a heavy price for the offender." The great British scientist Lord Kelvin said: "If you cannot express your knowledge in numbers, it is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind." The non-rational aspects of life – beauty, tradition, the arts and the spiritual have been neglected and this led to "the disenchantment of the world."
Postmodernists also challenge the optimistic humanism of liberals. They reject faith in science and regard the liberal view of man as naïve, holding that all truth is subjective and fallible. They note that it was a rationalist and secular ideology – Marxism, which committed so many atrocities in the twentieth century. Postmodernists argue that we all impose our worldview on reality, especially if we believe in master narratives like 'progress'. Those who claim there is only one truth are trying to coerce others. We can however free ourselves from master narratives by deconstructing them. Christopher Butler, Professor of English at Oxford, in his book Postmodernism wrote: "The Enlightenment reliance on universal principle and reason is always incipiently totalitarian."
Faith in progress
Richard Dawkins has faith in progress: "Over time the progressive trend is unmistakable and it will continue." By contrast the philosopher John Gray has no faith in progress:
Humanists like to think they have a rational view of the world; but their core belief in progress is a superstition, further from the truth about the human animal than any of the world's religions. Outside of science, progress is a myth.
Advances in some areas are counterbalanced by regress in others. Steven Pinker in a recent book argued that we are less violent than in the past. He produces a grisly catalogue showing that mankind was more violent, vicious and cruel in the past. But the atrocities under Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot are surely too recent for us to conclude that mankind has progressed.
By comparing what life was like in England 50 years ago with today, we can evaluate whether there has been progress. George Orwell in his essay entitled, The English People commented:
An imaginary foreign observer would certainly be struck by our gentleness; by the orderly behaviour of English crowds, the lack of pushing and quarrelling … there is very little crime or violence.
Geoffrey Gorer, a British anthropologist, wrote a book about the English called Exploring English Character. He was struck by the orderly, good-natured behaviour of the English and wondered why they were so gentle:
The English are certainly among the most peaceful, gentle, courteous and orderly populations that the civilised world has ever seen … You hardly ever see a fight (not uncommon in Europe or the USA)… Football crowds are as orderly as church meetings. This orderliness, good humour and gentleness, this absence of overt aggression calls for an explanation.
My mother, as a teenager in the 1930s, used to go to concerts at Manchester's Free Trade Hall. After the concerts she and her girl friends would walk home several miles through the streets of Manchester. "Was it safe?" I asked. She said there had never been any problems and she had never felt any danger. Would it be safe now? My step-mother, born in Huddersfield shortly after World War One, told me folk used to leave their doors unlocked and were never robbed. An old lady in Hampstead, when we lived there in the 1980s, told me that she had lived in the area all her life. She was then well into her 80s. She said that when she was a six-year old girl, she was told by her parents she could go and play on Hampstead Heath but to be back by 6 o'clock. She said that in those days it was safe to do so.
Crime figures tell the same story: in the 1950s there were about half a million crimes a year in England and Wales, today there are five million. Take robbery: there were 66 bag snatches in London in 1926, in 2003 there were 20,136. In 1898 there were 4,221 violent crimes in England and Wales, in 1998/9 there were 733,374 and in 2004/5 the total was 1,184,702. The increase in crime is much greater than the increase in population. But liberals argue there has been no decline in moral standards. It is just a moral panic. They explain the increase in violence, by saying crime is more reported now. However Professor Jose Harris says the opposite may be true, because in Edwardian England men and women were imprisoned for crimes like drunkenness and riding a bike without lights. In 1931 for every police officer there were three crimes; now there are 44. According to the UN Crime and Justice Research Institute, England and Wales now top the league table for the frequency of crime. However crime is not spread evenly throughout society. James Bartholomew in his book The Welfare State We're In observed:
The relatively affluent, which includes the vast majority of media people, politicians and other opinion-formers, do not experience crime as it is suffered by millions of other people. The people who suffer most from crime are the poor. The wealthy are insulated on the whole from what is going on.
Those who argue that there has been moral progress point to the improved status and treatment of women and of racial and sexual minorities. It is true that the lot of minorities and women has improved and there has been an increase in tolerance. However compared with fifty years ago, we are less polite, less orderly and live with higher levels of crime, especially in poorer areas. We are more selfish and dishonest; less trusting, less socially minded. There is a cult of celebrity and an obsession with materialism and consumerism, whereas in the past people were admired for courage and unselfishness. Today there are video games where you can play at killing and stealing. Progress in some areas has been offset by a decline in others, so overall there has been no moral advance, especially for those living in poor communities.
The new sciences of human nature really do resonate with assumptions that historically were closer to the right than the left.
 Jean-Jacques Rousseau Emile (New York: Basic Books, 1979), p.92.
 A.S. Neill Summerhill (London: Penguin, 1968), p.20.
 Richard Dawkins The God Delusion (London: Transworld Publishers, 2006), p.252.
 Steven Pinker The Blank Slate (London: Allen Lane, 2002), p.13.
 Neill, p.12.
 Neill, p.159.
 Neill, p.20.
 Étienne-Gabriel Morelly Code de la Nature Premiere Partie. "L'homme est naît vicieux et méchant."
 Antoine-Nicolas de Condorcet Sketch for a Historical Picture of Progress of the Human Mind (USA Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, 1955), p.193.
 Sir Isaiah Berlin Against the Current (Oxford University Press, 1981), p.20.
 Ernst Cassirer The Philosophy of the Enlightenment (USA Boston: Beacon Press, 1966), p.141.
 Lesslie Newbigin The Other Side of 1984. Cited in Paul Weston Lesslie Newbigin: a Reader (UK Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2006), p.194.
 Derek Freeman Margaret Mead and Samoa (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983).
 Rowan Williams Resurrection (London: Darton Longman and Todd, 1982), p.11.
 Rowan Williams Lost Icons (London: Continuum, 2000), p.8.
 John Petrie Collection of Thomas Sowell Quotes, available at: http://jpetrie.myweb.uga.edu/sowell.html.
 Pinker, p.331.
 Pinker, p.331.
 Richard Dawkins The God Delusion (London: Transworld Publishers, 2006), p.261.
 Pinker, p.56.
 Pinker, p.55.
 Pinker, p.50. Pinker cites research by G.R. Bock and J.A. Goode The Genetics of Criminal and Anti-social Behaviour (New York: Wiley, 1996); D.T. Lykken The Anti-social Personalities (USA, N.J.: Mahwah Erlbaum, 1995); L. Mealy 'The Sociobiology of Sociopathy' (Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 18, 523-541, 1995).
 Pinker, p.50.
 Pinker, p.58.
 Pinker, p.284.
 Pinker, p.288.
 Pinker, p.299.
 Peter Singer A Darwinian Left: Policies Evolution and Co-operation (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1999) p.6.
 John Morrish in The Independent on Sunday 29 September 2002.
 Dawkins, p.251.
 Dawkins, p.261.
 S. Freud Complete Psychological Works 'Dora' (1905).
 S. Freud A Difficulty in the Path of Psycho-Analysis (1917).
 C.G. Jung Memories, Dreams, Reflections (London: Random House, 1963) p.88.
 C.G. Jung Psychological Reflections, p.240.
 S. Freud Studies in Hysteria 1893-5 (London: Hogarth Press, Standard Edition), p.6; D. Stafford-Clark What Freud Really Said (London: Penguin, 1967), p.29.
 D. Stafford-Clark, p.201.
 C.G. Jung Memories, Dreams, Reflections (London: Random House, 1963), p.330.
 M. Horkheimer and T.W. Adorno The Dialectic of Enlightenment (USA: Stanford University Press, 2002), p.4.
 Horkheimer and Adorno, p.3.
 Horkheimer and Adorno, p.19.
 Cited by Mario Livo The Golden Ratio (London: Broadway Books, 2002), p.1.
 Horkheimer and Adorno, p.1.
 Christopher Butler Postmodernism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p.46.
 Dawkins, p.307.
 John Gray Straw Dogs (London: Granta, 2003), Foreword p.xi. Gray was Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics.
 Steven Pinker The Better Angels of Our Nature (USA: Viking, 2011).
 George Orwell 'The English People' Collected Essays Volume 3 (USA New Hampshire: Nonpareil, 2000), p.2.
 Geoffrey Gorer Exploring English Character (London: Cresset, 1955), p.13.
 Criminal Statistics England and Wales plus police records www.met.police.uk/crimestatistics/index.htm.
 Office for National Statistics and Home Office www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/100years.xls [no longer available].
 Quoted in James Bartholomew in The Welfare State We're In (London: Politico, 2004), p.17.
 James Bartholomew The Welfare State We're In (London: Politico 2004), p.389, note 28.
 Grand Theft Auto.
 Pinker, p.284.
© 2012 John Marsh
This article is published on bethinking.org by the kind permission of the author.
A slightly revised version of this article forms part of Chapter 1 'Liberal Delusions: Human Nature is Good and Rational' in the author's book The Liberal Delusion (Arena Books, 2012).