Series featuring great minds of the 20th century using film from the BBC's archive, including Sigmund Freud, Margaret Mead, Benjamin Spock and Richard Dawkins.
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The 20th century, according to Sigmund Freud,
would see man's capacity for both destruction and technology
bring us close to extinction.
As his prophecy came close to reality,
a new breed of thinker emerged
who would try to steer humanity away from disaster.
What is there is human nature that allows an individual to act
without any restraints whatsoever?
In this series, we'll dig deep into the BBC's archive
to look at how thinkers used broadcasting to fight for humanity.
And we begin with those scientists and psychologists
who put human nature itself under the microscope.
The only real danger that exists is man himself.
They would strip bare our subconscious...
..revolutionise the way we bring up our children...
Lucy knows Linus, doesn't she?
..look to other cultures for guidance...
You studied the tools people used, the lullabies they sang...
..all in the hope of building a better future.
It isn't enough to bring up our children happy
and secure - you've got to have a decent world for them.
In 1938, as Europe stood on the brink of war,
a refugee from Nazi-occupied Austria
arrived in the leafy suburbs of Hampstead.
Already viewed as one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century,
he had spent decades looking into the secrets of the human mind.
His name was Sigmund Freud.
Before Freud, humans had been seen as logical, intellectual beings.
But Freud saw an irrational side to humanity,
which he was determined to put on the couch.
He believed each of us has a powerful unconscious,
shaped in our childhoods,
manifest in our dreams
and ruled by sexual motivations.
Freud made it quite clear
that man was not master in his own home.
He was always at the sway of these instinctual forces,
these desires, wishes and unruly aggressions
which toppled him because they were unconscious.
I think Freud revolutionised the way we think about being human.
We think of ourselves now as having an unconscious.
We think that our dreams have meaning,
we think that our childhoods are terribly important
and how we care for children is therefore much more important than we ever did before.
These are huge changes in the way we see things.
Nobody in the world of psychology has had a bigger effect.
In December 1938, a BBC radio crew visited Freud
and captured an interview with him
just months before he succumbed to throat cancer.
In this, the only voice recording of Freud ever made,
he modestly describes his achievements.
These were the early days of home movie making,
and this family film is the only moving footage of Freud that exists.
The movies show Freud relaxing with his family,
but towards the end of his life, he grew increasingly concerned
about the troubles in society.
Over the course of his career,
he built his theories into an all-encompassing work.
The idea in Civilization And Its Discontents
was that the sexual repression of individuals in the Western world
would lead to the collapse of our society.
Freud died in the month that the Second World War began.
This war saw humanity sink to its lowest levels of violence and destruction.
Freud's warnings had done nothing to avert the catastrophe.
One man was convinced he knew where Freud had got it wrong.
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist 20 years Freud's junior.
Although they would go on to have a bitter break-up,
their relationship began with mutual admiration.
In 1959, Jung was interviewed at his home on the shores of Lake Zurich
by John Freeman for the BBC's legendary Face To Face programme.
He described his initial meeting with Freud
and their subsequent relationship.
I went to Vienna for a fortnight
and then we had a very...
..long and penetrating conversations
and that settled it.
And this long and penetrating conversation was followed by personal friendship.
Oh, yes. It soon developed into personal friendship.
What sort of man was Freud?
I liked him very much
but I soon discovered that
when he had thought something,
then it was settled...
while I was doubting all along the line.
it was impossible to discuss something really full.
So from the very beginning,
there was a discrepancy.
Revealing though this conversation was,
Jung had explained more about the break-up with Freud
in a BBC interview conducted four years earlier.
For unknown reasons, this footage was shelved,
and remained buried for decades.
When you're ready.
I am all right.
In it, Jung describes how,
after five years' collaboration, he split from Freud.
By 1912, I had acquired a lot of my own experience
a great deal of...
I learned a great deal...
HAD learned a great deal from Freud
and then I saw certain things in a different light.
So you dissociated yourself from Freud.
because I couldn't share his opinions or his convictions any more.
Whilst working at the Burgholzli mental hospital in Zurich,
Jung had formulated his own ideas.
He believed that each of us has an individual destiny
which we can achieve through a process of individuation.
Individuation is very much about how we become the whole self,
so it's about the integration of the conscious and the unconscious
and how we manage that, to be us.
As each plant, each tree, grows from a seed and becomes in the end,
say, an oak tree,
so man becomes what he is meant to be,
at least he ought to get there.
But most get stuck by unfavourable external conditions,
by all sorts of hindrances,
or pathological distortions, wrong education.
No end of reasons why one shouldn't get there, where one belongs.
For individuation not to occur,
in a way that's successful for the individual,
would be then why that individual may go on to have
emotional psychological mental health problems, may need therapy,
and the task of therapy to some degree
is to help that person individuate.
In order to reach our full potential
Jung believed each of us must face up to our own dark side.
An unconscious element of weakness and evil.
The only real danger that exists is man himself.
He is the great danger and we are pitifully unaware of it.
We know nothing of man.
Far too little.
His psyche should be studied because we are the origin of all coming evil.
Whilst Jung thought that to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past
we must recognise the evil in each individual,
another thinker would go on to find wickedness,
not in the individual, but in the very structure of society.
Stanley Milgram was born in New York to Jewish parents
who had emigrated from Eastern Europe in the '20s.
In his childhood he was deeply affected
by the plight of European Jews.
Later, as a professor of psychology at Yale University,
he began to ask unprecedented questions
about the human capacity for cruelty.
He brought these questions to the attention of the British public
when he presented a BBC Horizon programme about his work.
In 1944, in the town of Oradour in France,
all the residents of the town were taken into the village church.
The church was doused with gasoline.
It was ignited and everyone was killed.
Another tragedy, you say, another newspaper headline.
But it's more than that, isn't it?
They were real people who actually carried the gasoline to the church.
A real person ignited it.
What is there in human nature that allows an individual to act
without any restraints whatsoever?
So that he can act inhumanely, harshly, severely,
and in no way limited by feelings of compassion or conscience.
These are questions that concern me.
Milgram wanted to know if there was something uniquely wicked about the Nazis.
In the early '60s, he devised a cunning experiment to find out.
He planned to conduct the experiment in Germany,
but first he recruited some ordinary Americans to test it out.
When they got there they were told
it was an experiment on memory and learning.
They were paired up and told one would be the teacher,
and one would be the learner.
Would you open those and tell me which of you is which, please.
As this original footage shows, the learner was left in a separate room.
The teacher was then asked to test them on a memory game.
If the learner made an error,
an experimenter told the teacher to punish them.
There was this great big bank of electric shock sizes,
going from 15 volts right up to 450 volts and it said "danger" on that,
and the idea was that they were told,
as they taught them, if they carried on getting it wrong,
they should go higher and higher up the scale.
The electric shocks were fake but the teacher didn't know that.
The point was to find out how far people would go before turning
to the experimenter and refusing to deliver any more shocks.
Let me out of here, please! >
< Continue, please.
I refuse to carry on, let me out. >
I wanted to know how people thought they would behave in this situation
so I asked them to predict their own performance.
When people are asked to do this,
they give a rather consistent answer.
I'd like to believe that, as soon as I felt the person was in pain,
that I would probably stop.
I don't think I could go to the end.
It's another man, and I wouldn't want it done to me.
I'd go to 180, but no higher.
I'd definitely walk out after 180.
-I'd like to think I wouldn't do it.
You've got a choice in life to do whatever...
You can't have people telling you what you can and can't do
when it comes to something that vital.
But I am not interested in opinions.
I'm interested in how people actually behave.
Milgram's results would stun the scientific community.
It says danger, severe shock here.
< Continue, please.
All right, 435 volts.
Next one. Brain, woman, soldier, dog, horse.
Answer is woman.
What was amazing was that 65% of people who took part
did go all the way and do the 450 volt electric shock,
even though it said "danger".
So conclusive were his results
that Milgram never bothered to take his experiment to Germany.
He had found a key to some of the evil in human nature.
The main thing is that the person does not see himself
as responsible for his own actions.
He sees himself as an agent executing the wishes of another person.
We saw in the experiment how frequently subjects
turned to the experimenter saying, "Am I responsible?"
And as soon as he told them they were not, they could proceed more easily.
What have I learned from my investigations?
It doesn't take an evil person to serve an evil system.
Ordinary people are easily integrated into malevolent systems.
The idea that most of us are capable of performing acts of cruelty,
simply because someone tells us to,
has forced us to ask key questions about how we structure society.
In Britain, a radical Glaswegian psychoanalyst, R D Laing,
was using television to speak out
about his views on the sickness in society.
Their realities are different, yes.
Laing's experiences in the psychiatric profession
led him to believe that the word "insanity" was an over-used and abused term,
often given to individuals
who simply didn't conform to the expectations of society.
Such people sometimes became inmates of mental hospitals.
As film from the time shows,
psychiatric patients could be subjected to brutal treatments.
Psychiatry is a very violent branch of medicine indeed.
Even in the text books,
treatment might be characterised as non-injurious torture.
Treatment was very seldom pleasant.
It usually involved inflicting a lot of pain on people
in the hope that this would get them to stop going on the way they are.
In those days ECT was quite common, straightjackets,
padded cells, early tranquilisers.
It's what people used to call "grug 'em, flug 'em, easy does 'em".
And leucotomies and lobotomies,
and so the whole range of treatments
which he thought were absolutely, totally barbaric.
Laing was a popular and persuasive lecturer who insisted that doctors
should listen to their patients instead of abusing them.
He believed that much of what we call "insane behaviour"
could be explained by family circumstances and life experiences.
To illustrate this, he cited the case of a 13-year-old girl
who had been diagnosed as schizophrenic.
Her mother was frightened that she was slipping away from her
because she had taken to spending two or three hours every so often,
not every day, but every other day, in her room alone
staring apparently at the wall
and not saying anything.
It's certainly one of the best ways that I can think of,
it might have been the only way that she came across
of getting out or in or away from,
for two or three hours,
her family scene when she wasn't allowed to go out.
Even at the height of her staring, she was staring at the wall
much less than her parents were staring at the television set.
Her mother was so alarmed
that she was slipping away from her that she arranged,
I mean, it was an arrangement that she made
with the psychiatric facilities,
that they would take her away and put her away.
Are you telling us that she's not sick?
In order to answer that question I would have to start again
and ramble on for another hour to convey that that word...
there are some words that in relationship to such people,
like sickness and madness and psychosis and neurosis,
have become in my mind so confused in their uses that I would prefer
to withdraw them from the currency of my own discourse.
I don't want to apply that attribution to that girl.
He was part of a movement that were trying to say, look,
schizophrenia is a label, it is a stigmatising label,
and if you slap this label on people,
you have a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You can actually drive people crazy
by treating them as if they're schizophrenic, if they're not.
At the height of his powers, Laing was feted as a visionary,
but in later life it seemed he began to struggle with his own dark side.
Accusations of drunkenness and womanising began to eclipse his work.
Though he had written about the dangers of uncaring families,
he himself had neglected his first family, leaving them in poverty.
It's not an unfair stance to take to say to him, "Wait a minute,
"you've written a book that seeks to tie in, on a very subtle level,
schizophrenic behaviour of individuals to the family
so it seems a bit rich coming from somebody who is perceived
to have treated his families in the way that he did,
and I think he has to take that on the chin.
But we went through that
and so I don't have any sort of great personal grudge against him
because I dealt with it with him when he was alive.
It's irrelevant, frankly, as far as I'm concerned,
that Laing was in some respects a disturbed individual himself.
It's just not the point.
The point is he wrote those books, and certainly
what we all take for granted now,
the abolition largely of psychiatric care in mental hospitals,
the acceptance of the idea that we must be very, very careful
about stigmatising or labelling people these are...
A big part of that change was with R D Laing's writings.
Across the Atlantic, amidst the turmoil of the 1960s,
a group of thinkers came onto the scene who believed
that society could be cured and that human behaviour could be improved.
One of these was anthropologist Margaret Mead.
Mead a was huge media figure in the '60s,
using television to promote her ideas.
But she had begun her research into behaviour 40 years earlier
when the study of human cultures was in its infancy.
The word "culture" in the anthropological sense
was hardly known then.
The new anthropological sense
was that you studied the whole shared learned behaviour
of a group of people and you called it "the culture".
The tools people used, the lullabies they sang to their babies,
the way they built houses and buried their dead,
and their religious beliefs were all part of their culture.
Like Laing, Mead suspected that Western anxieties
and problems were caused by the values of our society.
To explore this,
Mead decided to study the turbulent period of adolescence.
She travelled to the most remote place she could find, Samoa.
What Mead was interested in is
is it is always true
that adolescence is a period of turmoil in people's lives?
Does every society have young people
who behave badly or who are not controllable,
or should we always be worrying about adolescence?
So she went and talked to lots of young people,
particularly young girls,
and got them to talk about what they were feeling,
what they were experiencing,
what they were hoping for, and how they saw Samoan culture and society.
After observing these young girls,
Mead concluded that Samoan adolescents
did not seem to suffer the same angst as American youngsters,
as she later explained on the BBC's Horizon programme.
They were not asked to work very hard yet, or make any choices.
They were allowed to pick their lovers fairly freely.
The Samoan children had peeped through the blinds of houses
and seen birth
and they'd watched lovers and they knew what was going on in the world.
So that most of the things that are hard on adolescents
in modern society,
all sorts of conflicts about sex and marriage,
ignorance about life,
these things that made it hard for adolescents here weren't there.
If the confusion and turmoil of adolescence
were not evident in other cultures,
then Mead concluded they were not necessary in Western culture either.
Her description of a Samoan paradise of free love
fuelled the 1960s sexual revolution in the West.
By the time she died, she was an American icon and it seemed
she had answered a key question about how to build a peaceful society.
But shortly after her death, her theories took a terrible blow.
A younger anthropologist called Derek Freeman,
who had also visited Samoa, published a book which challenged her views.
He got much closer to the people in one sense,
in that he learnt to speak Samoan much more profoundly,
much more skilfully than Margaret Mead had done.
And he was told by one informant, by Margaret Mead's informant,
a woman, an elderly woman at that stage,
that they had just told these stories to this curious American lady
who'd arrived because she clearly enjoyed dirty stories,
and that it was just for fun.
Mead had been roundly debunked.
Though some still think her theories have merit.
What we feel about the Mead-Freeman controversy now
is that perhaps Mead had made some errors in her data,
perhaps she had indeed even been lied to by some of her informants,
but that essentially her argument is correct
that the way in which cultures deal with adolescence varies
and consequently the experience of adolescence itself varies.
And Mead's work lives on in another great arena of life.
When she became a mother, Mead chose not to conform to the traditional parenting model of the day,
which demanded a rigid childcare regime.
Instead she imitated the easy-going approach used by Samoan mothers.
She passed these ideas on to her paediatrician,
little knowing that he would become the world's first ever child care guru.
His name was Dr Benjamin Spock.
Later, Spock wrote a book
which changed forever the way we relate to our children.
I think what's profoundly important about Spock
is that he basically said to parents,
you know more than you think you do.
He actually empowered parents to be instinctive in their parenting,
and to feel able to nurture their child in a loving way,
without worrying that it was going to somehow spoil them or make them
lack any sort of moral fibre.
I urged parents not to be intimidated by the rule
that had existed in paediatrics up to that time,
you must never feed a baby off schedule,
not a minute early, not a minute late.
I was one of the first paediatrician to say that's nonsense.
That rule made babies cry but it was even harder on mothers.
They bit their nails in anguish waiting for the clock
to say this is the minute you can feed.
With his straight-talking charm, Spock was a natural broadcaster
and he understood the power of television.
On the BBC's Tonight programme,
he explained that the reason his philosophy had caught on
was because it contradicted the standard childcare guidance.
The general attitude was, "Look out, stupid!
"If you don't do exactly what I say you will kill you child."
You'd be interested that the fan mail I get all is along the same line.
They all say it sounds as if you were talking to me
and as if you thought I was a sensible person.
This makes me almost weep to think that's all parents want,
to be treated with a little respect and friendliness.
In later life, Spock turned his attention from paediatrics to politics.
He fiercely opposed the Vietnam War,
and in 1968 he was prosecuted for assisting draft dodgers.
What's the matter with the government and what's the matter with the war
if they have to go after a 66-year-old paediatrician
and try to throw him in jail?!
It isn't enough to bring up our children happy and secure,
that you've got to have a decent world for them.
This is why I've expanded my horizon.
The people who disagree with me politically say,
"You old goat, why don't you stay in paediatrics where you belong?"
But the people who are on my side say,
"I see what you are talking about, I agree with you."
For Spock's generation, society could be cured
by improving the way parents brought up their children.
Ideas like this would be taken to extremes by a contemporary of Spock.
BF Skinner believed he had found an all-embracing antidote
to the ills in society.
I think today we have reached a point where,
not only can we dream about a better way of life,
but we can make specific proposals
and that's where my own work comes in.
I have been, for 35 years, concerned with behaviour.
A Pennsylvanian psychologist,
Skinner was the most radical practitioner of "behaviourism".
He believed that each person starts out as a blank slate
and is moulded purely by their environment.
He began his work, not with humans, but with pigeons.
He trained them using a system called operant conditioning.
He could get them to display the behaviour he desired
by conditioning them to respond to rewards.
They would peck on the little button
and, if they pecked the right number of times,
they would get a reward, i.e. some seed,
and so they soon learnt that they must peck six times
and very fast and they'd get the seed.
They would do that again and again.
He could train them to do all sorts of things.
He trained pigeons to play ping pong.
No wonder then that Skinner thought
he could also train humans of any age to behave better.
In the early '70s, Skinner set up an experiment at a youth borstal
and the BBC followed his progress.
Here, Skinner describes the inmates at the start of the project.
'Few of them have had families they've lived with closely.
'Almost all have dropped out of school with little or no education.
'Few have held a job for any length of time,
'and all have violated the law so often or so violently
'that it has been necessary to lock them up.'
In the borstal, basic food and accommodation were provided.
Skinner's master stroke was to introduce a reward system.
If the youngsters behaved well and attended lessons,
they could earn points and improve their living conditions.
Your room was dirty a couple of days, and you went out improperly dressed.
-See if you can't do better next week. All right?
-I'll really try, sir.
-Try a little harder.
'Points could be exchanged for more delicious food at meal times,
'admission to game rooms,
'the rental of a private room or television set,
'or even a short vacation away from the school.
'The results were dramatic.
'Boys who had been convinced by the school system they were unteachable discovered that they were not.
'They learned reading, writing and arithmetic and acquired manual skills.
'They did so without compulsion.
'The hostile behaviour characteristic of such institutions quickly disappeared.'
Skinner's successes were seen as momentous achievements.
And his work lives on in every child's star chart
and employee rewards scheme around the world.
Skinner believed he had found a catch-all explanation
for every facet of human behaviour.
But when he turned his attention to language,
he was to come very publicly unstuck.
What's that there?
At this time, many scientists were asking
where our remarkable ability for learning speech comes from.
That's a kangaroo.
Skinner's answer was relatively straightforward.
He said language is acquired by a system of operant conditioning.
That is to say, children come into the world and they cannot speak.
They have no language and they acquire it
by imitation from their parents,
and it is reinforced by a system of rewards and punishments.
The kind of rewards that operate in daily life
and which parents give them without even knowing that they do so.
This idea, and it's a persuasive idea, was challenged.
Linguists of the day thought this was too simplistic
and that more subtle forces were at work.
In the early '70s,
the BBC's Horizon programme decided to settle the debate.
First the old lady will talk...
Skinner was asked to sit in on a language experiment
designed to show that copying and rewards are not enough
to make young children absorb complex grammar.
Here an older child is tested to see if she can copy what she has heard.
So the dragon goes first.
Lucy knows Linus, doesn't she?
Lucy knows Linus, doesn't she?
But in another test a younger child can't do it.
You say whatever I say.
Lucy is on the box.
Lucy is on the box.
Lucy's being on the box pleases me.
Lucy's on the box pleases me.
That Linus is lying down pleases me.
That Lucy's is...
That Linus is lying down pleases me.
I'm getting everything mixed up.
OK. Very good. Very good, dragon. The little boy can fly an airplane.
It appeared that small children could not copy everything they had heard,
no matter how rewarding the experience.
And now the old lady says...
I am willing to admit that I can not account for
all the verbal behaviour of a child.
But I don't feel it's accounted for either
by inventing some fictional explanation.
I'm not suggesting you do, I don't think you do.
The best thing is simply to say there are still areas in which we're ignorant.
What Skinner seemed to have missed
was that humans are not simply blank slates.
Each of us is born with innate qualities which affect our behaviour.
In the latter part of the 20th century
a group of British thinkers emerged
who would offer radical new ideas about what makes humans tick.
These thinkers would take their cues not from humans,
but from animals.
Enter Desmond Morris who started his career as a zoologist.
But it was through his books and his TV programmes that he became famous.
What are the chances they won't like each other?
Very slight, I should think.
Chi-Chi is extremely sex-starved and An-An seems a very friendly animal
so my hopes are high.
Here in the Mediterranean, about seven years ago,
I was sitting talking with a friend
and I was pointing out to him the way in which people behave.
I said, "Look at that woman over there.
"She's folding her arms in an unusual way,
"and that couple over there, the way they're gesticulating
"could only come from this part of the world.
"And the way that old lady is clasping her hands."
And as I was talking he said,
"You know, you look at people the way a birdwatcher looks at birds."
I said, "Yes, I suppose in fact you could call me a manwatcher."
The book that made Morris's name was The Naked Ape
and it had a shocking new claim at its heart.
Much of our normal human behaviour is derived from our animal ancestry.
Despite mankind's great advances
with abstract ideas and manufactured objects,
we remain nonetheless creatures of vigorous animal action.
So he looked at human beings as if, as a zoologist would do
as if they were a strange animal
and they didn't listen to what they said, what did they actually do.
And that produced some extraordinary insights into human behaviour
which a lot of people resented.
They felt it was actually reducing human beings to the status of animals.
For some people,
direct comparisons of this kind are insulting to human dignity.
To others, they're merely amusing.
But the manwatcher is quite serious when he sees people as animals.
For him, this approach is in no way degrading.
Whether we like it or not,
we are animals and should be studied as such,
but this doesn't mean we're the same as other animals.
Every species is unique.
Morris made the first of his numerous appearances on Parkinson
and explained there what he believes we can learn
from studying humans as if we are simply another animal.
We learn, I think, that we are animals.
People get insulted if I say "you are an animal".
I hate the way judges always say "behaving like young animals",
it's one thing they are NOT behaving like, usually,
they are behaving very much like people.
Animals don't go around torturing and murdering.
And what we do learn, I think, by looking at us as animals
is that we have predispositions to behave in certain ways,
and that those cultures that have lost sight of the fact
that we have certain animal qualities...
which are not bad qualities, they are good qualities most of them,
they have helped us to survive for millions of years.
If we deny those qualities too much, we are pretty flexible,
but if we deny them those qualities too much then we're in trouble.
Morris showed that insights
into human behaviour could be gleaned
by looking at humans through the eyes of a zoologist.
And the study of animals themselves would also reveal to us
how our own nature works, as another of our thinkers would show us.
Jane Goodall fulfilled a childhood ambition
when she travelled to Gombe in Tanzania
to study the behaviour of wild chimpanzees.
I remember the first day I arrived at Gombe,
going along the shore of the lake in the little boat.
And I looked up at the hillsides
with the thick valleys of forest in between.
And I remember thinking, how will I find the chimps?
I felt so tiny.
Despite having no zoological training Goodall did find them.
Day after day, often alone in the jungle,
she studied their behaviour,
as she told to Valerie Singleton on Blue Peter in 1971.
Were you ever really very frightened?
Sometimes I was frightened, especially of things like leopards
but it was the kind of life I had always dreamed of myself living
and it was so fascinating that nothing could deter me.
-You weren't put off at all?
-How long did it take you before you got really close to the chimps?
It took six months before I could get to within 100 yards
and it was two years before I could make really close up, detailed observations
without them being scared.
Goodall's patience paid off.
High up in the ancient African forests, she made a startling discovery
which would revolutionise how we view the origins of human behaviour.
Archaeologists in trying to define the difference between a human being and an ape
had said in years gone by that human beings
actually made tools
and people thought that that was
a defining characteristic of human beings.
Goodall's revelation came when she observed, for the first time,
chimps making and using tools.
I remember so vividly walking through the long, tangled vegetation.
It had been raining.
And I suddenly saw a black shape hunched over
this beautiful golden colour of a termite mound.
I peered with my binoculars
and it was a male chimp with his back to me
and I could see his hand reaching out
and picking pieces of grass and poking them at the heap.
And that in one stroke demolished the old definition
that archaeologists had of what made a human being.
And Goodall noticed other human traits in chimpanzees,
like affection and grief.
But it was her observations of the darker side of chimpanzee life
that would be most controversial.
Goodall discovered chimps with violent behaviour patterns.
Not everyone was pleased when she announced her findings.
When I first began describing brutal aggression,
there were certain scientists
who actually criticised me for publishing it.
They said that if these kind of facts were published
then certain irresponsible scientists and journalists
would seize upon that information and say, "Ah, that means aggression
"is deeply rooted in our human phylogenetic ancestry,
"if we concede a common ancestor six million years ago or so,
"and therefore aggression, warfare, violence
"in our own species are inevitable."
Goodall did publish,
and some did draw the conclusion that violence in humans,
and chimps, is impossible to avoid.
But the question remains, is that true?
Are we slaves to our natural instincts
or can we master our behaviour?
Freud and Jung told us we are prey to innate drives
buried in our unconscious minds.
Mead believed our cultures mould us.
Skinner proved that elements of our behaviour can be altered
if we change the environmental conditions.
Morris and Goodall showed us how aspects of our behaviour are driven by our animal ancestry.
But it would take a great thinker at the end of the 20th century
to bring forward a theory which seemed to many to offer
an all-encompassing explanation for why humans are the way we are.
My name is Richard Dawkins. I'm a zoologist from Oxford.
In 1976 Dawkins published one of the most successful science books of all time.
The Selfish Gene, was a radical updating of evolutionary theory.
It was a view that we are just vehicles for our genes.
It's the genes' interests that matters, it's not us.
And that he showed has all sorts of new consequences
for the way in which we view human behaviour.
And it was a wonderful, radical new vision set out in sparkling prose
and above it all this wonderful metaphor...
The Selfish Gene.
That title though has had serious implications.
Dawkins was accused of providing a justification for a greedy, selfish, ruthless society
where the law of the jungle rules.
But Dawkins says that the book is not advocating selfishness.
According to him, genes often stand the best chance of survival
if, rather than fighting it out,
individuals cooperate and look after each other.
In the late '80s Dawkins appeared on the BBC's Thinking Aloud programme
and he explained his ideas.
Individual human beings are there as machines
for propagating their genes.
That is a kind of quasi purpose.
The language of purpose works in evolution as you look at nature
you can see organisms as purposeful machines.
They look as if they have been constructed for a purpose of reproducing, passing on their genes.
That is precisely what we are here for.
And Dawkins faced up to the charge that his book
was about humankind's selfish nature.
The Selfish Gene made very extravagant claims,
at least to a general reader,
about the selfish coding of our biological inheritance.
The Selfish Gene never made claims about the selfishness of human psychology
or any detailed claims about human psychology at all.
To be sure misinterpretations of The Selfish Gene have made just such claims.
What precise claims do you make... Why did you call it that book,
why did you give it that title?
Because I was wanting to conjure up in the mind of the reader
the image of the organism including ourselves
as a machine for passing on genes.
It is the selfish gene but not the selfish individual.
For Dawkins then, humans are not simply selfish individuals
who will do whatever it takes to reproduce our genes.
Evolution has also given us big, complex brains
which means we can override our inbuilt genetic compulsions.
In humans the brain has taken over,
in such a big way,
that it becomes positively misleading
to try to attempt to explain human behaviour
in a simple-minded naive vehicle for the genes kind of way.
So you're not going to get anywhere if you say,
"Well, what good does it do your genes
"to compose a symphony or write a book or score a goal in football?"
What governs how humans behave
is an extremely complicated mixture of our genetically-provided brains,
overlain by a massive infusion of culture.
And if you try to understand human psychology and human behaviour
in terms of either culture on its own or genetic evolution on its own, you're going to fail.
Because they're both there, they're both extremely important.
This is where a century of enquiry into human behaviour,
fought out on the airwaves, has brought us.
We are undoubtedly products of our biology
and the potential for human failing will always be there.
But that doesn't mean we're slaves to our nature.
The sophistication of the human brain
and the ways in which we live together have given us
the power to recognise and master our worst impulses.
This, after all, is what being human is all about.
Make the connections between Great Thinkers
and discover some surprising new ones with The Open University at:
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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The 20th century was a time of unprecedented change and conflict. Violence and war spread across Europe and the world, and as new technology trumped old it became possible to harm others on a previously unimaginable scale.
In this turbulent age, a new breed of thinker emerged who would examine what drives humanity. And the advent of television gave psychologists and scientists the chance to preach their ideas to the world
This programme mines the BBC archive to hear the great minds of the 20th century in their own words - the likes of Sigmund Freud, Margaret Mead, BF Skinner, Benjamin Spock and Richard Dawkins. The film also reveals some unseen gems, such as unseen footage from Panorama of the psychologist Carl Jung discussing his torturous relationship with Professor Freud.
Featuring contributions from modern-day scientists such as evolutionary biologist Professor Armand Leroi, broadcasting legend Sir David Attenborough and psychologist Oliver James, this is a unique opportunity to hear some of the most famous thinkers of our times.