On Human Nature: Thinking, Believing, and Seeing

What is our very nature as human beings? Philosophers, poets, psychologists  and other human beings ad nauseam down through the ages have addressed that question. Is it presumptuous or arrogant of me to chime in with my two cents? Or make it three cents since I will “only” tackle three attributes of human nature; thinking, believing, and seeing. To be sure, though, they comprise a big chunk of our human nature.

Before continuing to read the rest of this article ask yourself what you think or believe you will see. The more knowledge you have about the subjects of human nature, seeing and believing the more you will see is what you thought or believed you would see.

On Human Nature

The biggest chunk of human nature comprises human abilities. In the 1970s I became an expert about them because the indisputable authority on them was a superior of mine at a non-profit research firm where we worked. He had developed a “handbook” for using in determining which ones of 37 abilities would be needed by applicants for any given job opening. ((Fleischman, E.A. & Reilly, M.E. Handbook of Human Abilities: Definitions, Measurements and Job Task Requirements. Consulting Psychologist Press, Palo Alto, CA, 1992.)) In writing this article I reviewed that handbook. Here are the 37 in the handbook’s order without defining them: static strength, explosive strength, dynamic strength, stamina, extent flexibility, dynamic flexibility, speed of limb movement, gross body coordination, gross body equilibrium, verbal comprehension, verbal expression, ideational fluency, originality, memorization, problem sensitivity, mathematical reasoning, number facility, deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, information reasoning, category flexibility, spatial orientation, visualization, speed of closure, flexibility of closure, selective attention, time sharing, perceptual speed, choice reaction time, reaction time, wrist-finger speed, multilimbed coordination, finger dexterity, manual dexterity, arm-hand steadiness, rate control, and, finally, control precision.

Whew! I don’t blame you if you are thinking, “psychologists and their argot!” But hold on, that argot when applied can make the difference between life and death. If a surgeon is operating on you, you’d better hope he/she has, e.g., good finger dexterity! Or, if you live in Florida, as I do, with scores of senior citizens driving on the highway, and the Florida Department of Motor Vehicle and Safety Administration does not include tests of reaction time and choice reaction time in administering driver’s license exams, let’s hope at least you are not deficient in those two abilities whenever you are driving on a highway or on a street!

On Thinking

Thinking is not a self-contained human ability. It is represented in several of the 37 human abilities. And perhaps that is why thinking is so important in our lives. We could not go through life without thinking; whereas, we could do so without having many of the abilities listed.

What and how we think can obviously affect what we do. What I think, for instance, about the risk to humanity being daily caused by America’s power elite has made me a rabid armchair activist for peace and socioeconomic justice.

On Believing and Seeing

To me, this is the most portentous part of the article because of the implications for humanity. People, whether powerful or powerless, who see what they believe rather than believe what they see, and the former must surely number in the billions worldwide and hundreds of millions in the U.S., are a real threat to the survival of humanity. How so, you might ask?

Let’s first consider the less powerful who hold what I call two “death wishes for humanity” because they see what they believe: “Things must get worse before they will ever get better,” and, “I can’t do anything about it.”

Hardened beliefs become ideologies, and the most dangerous ideologues who inhabit the earth are the power elite who believe because of their attained, sustained and expanding power that it is their manifest destiny to rule and exploit the world’s resources. Such an ideology is guaranteed to lead to the end of humanity later this century if not successfully countered. The Doomsday Clock, created 23 years ago by atomic bomb scientists, is now only “90 seconds to midnight,” the closest it has ever been.” “We are living in a time of unprecedented danger” reports the president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. ((Borger, J. Doomsday Clock at Record 90 Seconds to Midnight Amid Ukraine Crisis. The Guardian, January 24, 2023.))

Before moving to the last section of this article, I must comment on the role of religious beliefs, one of the primary if not most dominant causes of seeing what is believed. When you think about it, “seeing what is believed” could be an excellent operational definition of religion’s role in a society, an oversized role when the source if organized religion. Just think about it for a moment. There has never been a war that organized religion did not start (e.g., the crusades, the “thirty-year war’), promote or tolerate.

On Other Species

From what I have read and observed is that the behavior of some other species such as dogs, for instance,  indicate to me that they can think. As two asides on other dimensions, other species are more moral than are own and, sadly, they are the victims of what I call “creeping extension” caused by America’s power elite. ((Cowie, R.H. et al. “The Sixth Mass Extinction: Fact, Fiction or Speculation?” Biological Reviews, January 10, 2022.))

In Closing

Readers, what do you think, see and believe about what you have just read? Do you think it is much to do about nothing or do you see it as much more than just a string of words? Do you believe in the Doomsday Clock? If you think the Clock is a real warning sign about the collapse of humanity, do you think you can avoid these two “death wishes for humanity”?  “Things have to get worse before they get better,” and “I can’t do anything about it.” If you don’t wish these, what do you think you might do to be more active and a good ancestor of the future, especially if you have any descendants?

Gary Brumback, PhD, is a retired psychologist and Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. Read other articles by Gary.