Are Humans Inherently Evil? Essay Example
Atrocities Committed by Psychologists: Are Humans Inherently Evil?
Stanley Milgram’s shock experiments and the Stanford Prison Experiment aroused my curiosity about some of the atrocities committed against human beings in the name of science and psychology. Scientists and psychologists remind people of the accomplishments made since the 17th century. Still, no one talks about the disturbing, cruel, and dehumanizing human experiments that had to be conducted on innocent civilians to achieve these results (Manrique et al., 2021). Millions of human lives have been taken or damaged by psychologists and scientists in an attempt to explain skin abnormalities, masturbation, desperation, diseases, and mental illnesses, among others. It saddens me that psychologists and scientists have committed some of the most unethical human experiments that have violated the principles of medical and human ethics.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
The Stanford Prison Experiment led me to question how much human beings can be cruel regardless of whether they are manipulated to act hostile or not. Zimbardo set a three-cell mock prison constructed in the basement corridor at Stanford University (Oleson, 2020). He randomly chose 24 healthy university men to act as guards within the prison. Nine offenders were arrested from their homes and taken to fake prisons. During arrests, police officers perpetrated dehumanizing acts and initiated procedures that made suspects feel confused and fearful (Oleson, 2020). For instance, they blindfolded them to lose the sense of direction and become confused regarding their whereabouts. In addition, they locked them in basements such that they would not tell whether it was day or night.
Zimbardo’s experiment almost convinces me that human beings are inherently evil. During this mock experiment, the police guards were allowed to deal with the prisoners whichever way they saw fit. The guards did not hesitate to dehumanize the prisoners by stripping them off their clothes, spraying them with cleaning solvents, making fun of their genitals, and forcing them to wear extremely, really short uniforms (Mcleod, 2016). Moreover, the officers ignored their actual names and branded them with numbers, making the prisoners feel they had lost their identity. What is more, the inmates were placed in isolated cells to alienate them and to break any cohesiveness between them.
Besides, they locked the convicts in dark rooms and banged on the doors to instill fear in them. More so, they made them clean the toilets with their bare hands and woke them in the middle of the night for physical activities in case they misbehaved (Drury et al., 2012). These are very dehumanizing ways of dealing with human beings, given that they are inherently valuable. To maintain law, order, and respect, Zimbardo allowed the correctional officers to deal with the prisoners as they saw fit and implement whatever laws they deemed necessary to keep the inmates in order (Drury et al., 2012). The guards tied chains chances around the prisoner’s ankles to make them feel helpless and powerless. The prisoners were only to refer to the guards as “Mister Correctional Office.”
The university students assigned the responsibilities of police guards thought that the experiment was meant to revolutionize the correction system. As such, they acted arrogantly, just like real agents. My biggest question is whether this cruelty existed in their hearts before the experiment (Le Texier, 2019). These guards tormented prisoners and insulted them with total disregard for human rights. On the flip side, the prisoners were scared and endured abuse from the moment they were arrested. Initially, the participants thought that the experiment would be exciting only to realize that it resembles an actual jail in every aspect. They, therefore, tried to revolt against the system by pretending to be mentally ill and going on hunger strikes, but the overzealous “officers squashed their efforts.”
I tried establishing some of the reasons why the good guards did not object to the unethical practices perpetrated by the bad officers. I have tried to convince myself that fear must have stopped the good guards from objecting to the orders issued by the evil guards, which is usually the case in real prisons (Oleson, 2020). Some of them feared that if they protested the actions of the ruthless police officers, they would be forced out of the system. In addition, they anticipated that the evil guards would retaliate and harass them just as they did to the prisoners. Zimbardo’s experiment was intended to prove that social environments, as opposed to innate traits, lead to prison tensions. This experiment seemed to prove that humans are inherently wicked, weak, and can quickly learn helplessness.
Stanley Milgram’s “shock experiments.”
Stanley Milgram’s “shock experiments” was another inhumane experiment that does seem to prove nothing positive apart from the fact that human beings may be inherently wicked or weak. Teachers are naturally supposed to nurture children, correct them reasonably, be their cheerleaders as they learn new things, and celebrate them for every step they make in education (Yükselbaba, 2017). However, in Milgram’s shock experiment, some teachers administer an escalating series of electric shocks to “learners” whenever they choose the wrong answers in a memory test. Milgram intended to establish the effect of punishment on learning (Hollander, 2017). However, instead of using humane punishment and reinforcements, Milgram experimented with electric shocks that run up to 450 volts (Grzyb & Dolinski, 2017). What worries me about our systems is that there is evidence that such capital punishment methods have been used in boarding schools attended by Indian children in the past.
It is very startling to know that human beings have the capacity for blind obedience. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the Europeans and Americans took constant measures to wipe off minority groups, and particularly American Indians, from the face of the earth. Soldiers obeyed their superiors without question and ended up committing some of the worst atrocities against humankind. For instance, in 1643, their superiors instructed the Dutch soldiers to raid Wecquaesgeek Settlements and kill every man. The soldiers carried out the task and even overstepped by killing and miming every child and woman. Toddlers and children were burned, stabbed, bound to planks before being hacked, and others were dismembered. The soldiers had learned this kind of violence from their superiors.
In the 17th and 18th century also, Indian Americans fought very many diseases, including scarlet fever, smallpox, measles, and venereal diseases. More than 1500 million American Indians died from the constant epidemics of infectious diseases. It breaks my heart to learn that the American and European soldiers intentionally exposed this community to over 100 epidemics (Perry & Sutton, 2008). Records show army commanders such as Sir Jeffery Amherst giving orders to subordinates to infect Indian Americans with diseases. The subordinates “gifted” the American Indian with blankets and handkerchiefs that were infected with the virus. It scares me so much to know that human beings are capable of so much evil and can execute blind orders regardless of their consequences to humanity.
Like in Milgram’s shock experiments, teachers and educational authorities in Canadian schools were instructed to use whatever means necessary to deculturalize Indian Americans. Over 150,000 children from Inuit and Metis tribes among American Indians were forced from their homes and taken to the Canadian Indian Residential Schools (Perry, 2008). The school authorities, including teachers, were instructed to use whatever means necessary to destroy the indigenous authorities of these children. The motto used was “Kill the Indian and save the man.” The Europeans and Americans were heavily punished for using their native languages. They were denied medical attention for carrying out their cultural and religious practices, and they were maimed for whatever reason that the authorities deemed suitable. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, more than 6,000 children died in these schools. Sadly, these children were buried on unmarked burial sites with the schools, and the parents were not notified. Surely this must be the height of human cruelty.
Studies carried out by psychologists such as Milgram seem to have had a bearing on the capital punishment used against minority groups. Although the teachers did not know that the shocks, they administered were not genuine, most of them acceded to requests made during the experiment and showed a willingness to deliver shocks labeled 450 volts to helpless children. Haslam et al. (2014) argue that inhumanity springs from a mundane inclination to obey orders from individuals in authority. In my opinion, without law and social contracts, as explained by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, the earth would be the most inhabitable planet in the universe. According to the social contract theory, human beings are only willing to give up some freedoms and rights in exchange for government protection. This means that without the assurance of government protection, a human being can be very disorderly, violent, and dangerous (Da Costa et al., 2021). Between 1618 and 1648, Central Europe was marked by diseases, religious wars between Protestants and Catholics, unimaginable atrocities against humanity, shameless dynastic maneuvering, and famine.
Although these wars lasted for about ten years, their devastating effects were felt for the next few decades. Communities organized guerrilla wars against one another whereby they murdered each other due to ideological differences, political gains, religion, and material gains. The instability and suffering led people to question issues surrounding civil society, human nature, and governance. Locke believed that human beings possessed three fundamental rights; liberty, life, and property. These rights were innate and inalienable, meaning they can only be violated but cannot be removed. Hobbes also believed that human beings were ultimately rational and sought to avoid conflicts whenever possible and emphasized the idea of third-party interventions to solve disputes. Jean-Jacques Rousseau eventually used these ideologies to establish the social contract theory Rousseau. According to the social contract theory, there is a balance between freedoms concerning authority and how people willingly give up some freedom in exchange for political and social order in every stable society. Without social order, people would have insignificant concerns for human life.
There is a long list of inhumane experiments conducted by both scientists and psychologists in the past centuries. Psychologists Steven Maier and Martin Seligman experimented with helplessness. The two psychologists conditioned dogs to expect an electrical shock after they heard a particular tone. The dogs were initially placed in a shutter box. One side of this shutter box was electrified, and as such, the dogs would quickly jump over to a low barrier to avoid electrocution (Maier & Seligman, 2016). Next, the psychologists would strap the dogs into a harness where they could not avoid the shocks. After conditioning them to expect a shock that they could not avoid, the dogs would again be contained in the shutter box. After being conditioned to electrocutions, the dogs did not make any efforts to escape from the shutter box and lay down as they whimpered and whined. The dogs had learned that no escape was possible and, as a result, made no efforts to try and escape the circumstance. According to Seligman and Maier, this kind of behavior was learned helplessness.
This form of helplessness can be equated to what the prisoners in Zimbardo’s experiment felt. Due to the harsh treatment, prisoners occasionally broke down into tears and broke into a hysterical range because they had nothing else to do about their situation. For instance, a prisoner numbered 8612 was taunted by Carlo Prescott, who acted as one of the guards. He told him that, unfortunately, he could not leave or quit jail. The prisoner was so helpless that he began to cry and fell into a rage. The prisoner cried, saying, “I feel so fucked up inside. I feel really fucked up inside. You don’t know—I gotta go, to a doctor, anything. I mean Jesus Christ I am burning up inside! Don’t you know? I can’t say it—I am fucked up. I don’t know how to explain it. I am all fucked up inside. And I want out! I want out now!”
Dr. Lauretta Bender carried out another inhumane in the 1960s. As an employee at Creedmore Hospital in New York, Dr. Lauretta spent most of her time subjecting young children to electroshock therapy. To determine if a child showed early signs of schizophrenia, Dr. Lauretta applied a small bit of electric pressure on a child’s head in front of a big crowd of people (Connolly, 2018). If the baby moved its head during this process, that was a sign that the child would have schizophrenia. Dr. Lauretta held that this inhumane therapy would be revolutionary and would help people with social problems. According to her attendants, this doctor never showed any form of compassion to the children she treated. It beats my understanding how bright people such as Aristotle, Plato, Nightingale, and Albert Einstein existed in the same era with Dr. Lauretta, who was not fit to be a doctor.
The Monster Study
Another torturous experiment conducted by psychologists was The Monster Study. In this study, Mary Tudor and Wendell Johnson from the University of Iowa conducted speech research on 22 orphans. The researchers divided the children into two. One group received proper speech therapy and was reinforced for using proper English. The other group received negative speech therapy, which involved belittling them for the slightest grammar mistakes. Children in the second group ended up having significant problems with speech, and research shows that they retained these problems for the rest of their lives. Tudor and Johnson did not publish the results of this experiment because they feared it would be classified as one of the human experimentation experiments conducted by the Nazis. These researchers ruined the lives of eleven orphans in ways that we cannot even fathom, given that they completely shattered their self-esteem.
Drug Addiction Experiment
The list of these inhumane experiments is endless. At some point, psychologists taught a considerable number of monkeys how to inject themselves with cocaine, alcohol, morphine, codeine, and amphetamines. The main aim of conducting this experiment was to investigate drug addiction (Beck et al., 2009). They then disposed of a large number of drugs where the monkeys could access them. The monkeys injected themselves with large doses of these drugs. In a while, most of these monkeys were dead, others tore the skin off or removed fur, and others broke limps as they tried to escape.
Another experiment that I am sure every psychologist knows about is the Little Albert experiment. Watson, a psychologist who came to be known as the “Father of Behaviorism,” used orphan children for his experiments (Packer, 2018). In some of his experiments, Albert was introduced to all forms of stimuli, including rabbits, monkeys, different sounds, and burning paper, among others (Beck et al., 2009). He was also conditioned to fear white things by being introduced to white rats. Watson made loud noises every time Albert touched the rat until he became fearful of every white thing he saw.
A deep dive into some of the inhumane experiments that psychologists and scientists conducted show that human beings have a massive capacity of being evil. In my opinion, human beings are curious beings and tend to seek answers for all the things they fail to understand. Sadly, incredibly inhumane methods have been used to conduct these research experiments, leaving many people hopeless, mentally disturbed, and dead. Animals have also been treated treatment inhumanely as psychologists sought to establish and explain reasons for certain behaviors. Sadly, most governments have denied any participation or knowledge of the experiments. Most people, especially the Indian American communities, are still seeking justice for atrocities committed against them. I support the idea that these communities deserve justice and those severe actions should be taken against psychologists experimenting inhumanly with animals or humans.
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