To what degree is human behavior either genetically determined or established by culture? This point is strongly contested because it has political implications. If human behavior is entirely a consequence of culture, than bad behavior such as violence, greed and competitiveness is a consequence of bad culture, and humanity can be arbitrarily perfected by altering culture somehow. If humans are instinctively selfish, greedy, competitive and violent, then perhaps we live in the best of all possible worlds. A “nature” stance is seen as conservative and a “nurture” stance is felt to be progressive or liberal.
Since 1900, a view widely promoted by intellectuals is that (in effect) there is no such thing as human nature. That is, if there are any human behavioral instincts, they play so little role in modern life as to be irrelevant. The view that human behavior is entirely socially constructed peaked during the 1970's. Since then, threads of research have come together to make clear that the human mind is not a blank book at birth. For some aspects of mind the innate structure is sort of a first draft, while for others it may only be an outline.
So it does make sense to say that humans (in general) naturally behave in certain ways and that each individual differs from others in how they naturally behave. Furthermore, behavioral researchers in psychology, anthropology and economics have developed theories about these human universals and individual differences that clearly show these ideas are extremely important for human self-understanding. They are important because evolution offers scientific narratives relating to basic human behaviors that concern every living human, issues such as cooperation, selfishness, competition, and the conditions that can be expected to promote mutually beneficial cooperation, and the many faces of social inequality. See Cheating, Social Conflict, Cultural Evolution, Individual Differences and Fairness and Hierarchy.
We now know that the theories that all humans have equal mental potential and that pretty much everything is determined by the environment are wrong. But…