Hope for humankind

Are people essentially good or flawed? We review Rutger Bregman’s Humankind: A Hopeful History.

In 1965, six Tongan teenage boys were marooned on a desert island for more than a year. But they didn’t descend into savagery, Lord of the Flies-style, once civilisation had been stripped away. Instead, they worked together, grew their own food, and sang and prayed together each day.

In Humankind: A Hopeful History, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman draws on the story of those boys to argue that humans are essentially good. We are more cooperative than unrelentingly selfish and cruel, Bregman says.

It’s a case he builds by drawing extensively on the human sciences: psychology, social psychology and evolutionary biology. 

But not theology. In this episode of Life & Faith, we interview Beth Felker Jones, Professor of Theology at Wheaton College in Illinois. We ask her to explain the Christian take on the essential nature of human beings, and how Christianity holds in tension the better (and worse) angels of our nature.


Rutger Bregman’s Humankind: A Hopeful History