Appeal to Inherent Nature

A subset of Appeal to Nature; if something is naturally predisposed to a certain act or state, it must be accepted. Snakes bite, bears maul, poisons kill, babies scream, sociopaths torture, and Nazis commit genocide; but those are their natures, so we should not hold it against them.

This is usually a fallacy, but there are cases where it isn't. The key is consistency: if someone/something always reacts a particular way to a situation and always will, then this is fundamentally correct. For instance, a computer will always do what you tell it to do (although not necessarily what you ''want'' it to do). Naturally, this is very difficult to do with people without implicitly denying that they are human or getting involved in tautologies: saying All Gays Are Promiscuous is offensive, but saying that all Portuguese speakers speak Portuguese is stating the obvious.

Used as one of the Jerk Justifications. For when a man is appealing to his sexual nature, see I'm a Man, I Can't Help It.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The God Hand of Berserk use this to convince Griffith to make a Deal with the Devil. Using illusion and metaphor, they convince him that he's been stepping over the corpses of his followers to get what he wants all along, and that it is in fact in his nature to do so.

    Comic Books 
  • In issue #3 of IDW's Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters series, the No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Lady Gaga said that humanity shouldn't hold it against giant monsters for rampaging and destroying cities; it's just what they do, and it would be wrong to kill them for it.
  • Cited numerous times in The Sandman. A good number of the series' deities subscribe to this, particularly the Anthropomorphic Personifications, since it's implied they might not have much identity beyond their jobs. Or do they?
  • Fables has multiple examples of this. Mr North (Anthropomorphic Personification of the North Wind,) is loathed by his son Bigby for abandoning his mother and causing her to die of a broken heart, to which Mr North replies that it is in the nature of winds to change direction. A generally very nice goblin named Mr Brump drunkenly eats a sentient squirrel and is put on trial for murder, during which his lawyer produces the scorpion (from "the scorpion and the frog" story under folklore below,) as a defence witness, and argues that it is in the nature of goblins to thoughtlessly devour any meat they can, regardless of who or what the meat comes from. In both these cases their interlocutors call bullshit; Bigby argues that Mr North may be no different from a normal fickle deadbeat and is just using his "nature" to make himself feel better, but even if Mr North is right, any entity with so little control over himself that he can't take responsibility for his own actions is a dangerous monster that should be put down anyway. Mr Brump's argument gets rejected by the judge in light of the fact that Brump is a fully sentient being who is thus responsible for his own actions, though in private the judge mused that his reason for condemning Brump had as much to do with setting a dangerous precedent that excused murder as Brump's culpability in that particular instance.
    • A more minor example of a character excusing his own dubious behaviour in this way is Prince Charming and his perennial lack of fidelity, though by the time of the series it's such common knowledge that he can't sustain a relationship that hardly anyone bothers to call him out on it any more.
  • The Transformers: Bludgeon uses this argument to strand the Autobots on a dying Cybertron, then go find a nice peaceful planet, and slaughter every living thing on it. After all, the Decepticons are conquerors. Why fight what's in their energon?
  • The Mighty Thor: Used to suggest why Loki is Loki, because he just can't help being bad (and Because Destiny Says So). In recent years, Loki took offense to the idea, since it makes him predictable, and has tried very hard to be good. Several characters have noted their belief that sooner or later, he'll go back to being the villain. For what it's worth being extremely rebellious and stubborn are also part of Loki's inherent nature so the more people question their ability to change the harder they try to (basically their approach to be good is the very same obsessiveness they used to try to conquer Asgard and/or defeat Thor with time and time again no matter how many times they failed).

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Lorax, the Once-ler has a Villain Song with the line "How ba-a-a-ad can I be? I'm just doing what comes naturally."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Natural Born Killers provides an alternate rendition of the below entry:
    Once upon a time, a woman was picking up firewood. She came upon a poisonous snake frozen in the snow. She took the snake home and nursed it back to health. One day the snake bit her on the cheek. As she lay dying, she asked the snake, "Why have you done this to me?" And the snake answered, "Look, bitch, you knew I was a snake."
  • In Carlitos Way, Carlito is confronted by his girlfriend Gail about leaving the criminal life behind, saying the only way that road ends is with her crying in an emergency room as Carlito dies. Carlito defends his adherence to the "code of the street" even as he goes clean by means of this fallacy, saying something to the effect of, "That's who I am. I can't change." It does not work out well.
  • The Crying Game includes a character telling "The Scorpion and the Frog" to discuss this topic, and ultimately tries to use it to convince his interlocutor that he's not a bad person.

    Literature 
  • In Jingo, "71-hour Ahmed" points out that if this is a valid excuse for people to do bad things, then it's an equally valid excuse for those with a sense of justice to punish them:
    Oh, no doubt the man would suggest there were mitigating circumstances, that he had an unhappy childhood or was driven by Compulsive Well-Poisoning Disorder. But I have a compulsion to behead cowardly murderers.
  • Akma from "Earthbound" of the Homecoming Series teaches his followers that the way God wants them to act is whatever way they feel compelled. If you are hungry, it is because God wants you to eat. If you want to have sex, it is because God wants you to produce children. Therefore, if you feel repulsed by the company of "diggers" (a species of rodent-people used as an allegory for an oppressed race), then you have every right to exile them from the empire.
  • In The Dark Tower series (the book Wizard and Glass), Eddie uses a combination of Appeal to Audacity and Logic Bomb to disable a malevolent AI with silly and nonsensical riddles. Roland, a very serious and straightforward Straight Man who had previously derided this tactic, is forced to apologize. Eddie waves it away saying that "you can't help your nature."

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a crossover between media and real life, this fallacy often shows up on reality shows, with at least one contestant each season declaring proudly "That's just who I am," when called out for acting like a bigot, an asshat, or a bitch.
  • When Aeryn in Farscape says that John Crichton is obsessed with sex, he says, "I'm a guy!"
  • In the ITV series Primeval, a character who has been raising an orphaned sabretooth since it was a cub insists that the now fully grown cat would never attack her. Which, naturally, it does. This is Truth in Television for the caretakers of dangerous wild animals.
  • Summarized quite nicely in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine by the 217th Rule of Acquisition: "You can't free a fish from water."
  • Mary in Downton Abbey, who argues that she's inherently contrary and that it would be against her character to want to marry anyone who anyone else wanted her to marry.
  • The general Family-Unfriendly Aesop of Malcolm in the Middle, that "Life is unfair", is really only possible because of this trope. The sub-Aesop is that there will always be authority figures in your lives that are unfair, and there's nothing you can do about it...nor should you, because that's just who they are. This, of course, means that the authority figures on this show can behave like jerks and use this justification as an excuse to avoid having to change their behavior; after all, it is in authority figures nature to be unfair, so they are not to be subject to criticism when they behave so. (Also, when Malcolm calls out the various adults on using this excuse, the show wants us to think Malcolm is being an Emo Teen.)

    Music 

    Myths & Religion 
  • In the form of The Tale of the Scorpion and the Turtle, it dates back to an ancient Sanskrit collection of folklore that was first translated into English in 1570.
    A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on his back across a river. "Are you mad?" exclaimed the turtle. "You'll sting me while I'm swimming and I'll drown."
    "My dear turtle," laughed the scorpion, "if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you. Now where is the sense in that?"
    "You're right!" cried the turtle. "Hop on!" The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly said, "Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there'd be no sense in your stinging me. Why did you do it?"
    "It has nothing to do with sense," the drowning scorpion sadly replied. "It's just my nature to sting."
    • This trope does get a twist in Legend of the Five Rings, however, as Shinsei the sage tells Bayushi of the Scorpion clan a version with a different ending (it also used a frog rather than a turtle): "Little frog, I can swim."
  • A similar tale about a jackal and a camel uses this trope twice. The jackal wants to get at some tasty crabs on the other side of the river, but he's not a strong enough swimmer to beat the current. A camel comes along to get at the sugarcane that's also across the river, and agrees to ferry the jackal across. So the jackal eats his fill, but being much smaller than the camel he finishes before the camel has a chance to get more than a couple of mouthfuls; and, being full and happy, he prances about, yipping at the top of his jackal lungs, alerting the farmers to his presence and that of the camel. As the camel is swimming back across, he demands, "What the hell was that?!" "Sorry," says the jackal, "when I'm full I just feel like dancing around and yapping. It's just how I am." So the camel starts rolling over and over in the river. "What are you doing?!" cries the jackal. "Oh, sorry," says the camel, "But whenever I finish eating something I just feel like rolling over and over and over. It's just how I am."

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the most universally despised yet virtually ubiquitous excuses for bad behavior in role-playing games is "I'm just doing what my character would do" (and its little brother "I'm just acting my alignment"). As if once one has written "Chaotic Neutral" on his character sheet (through no fault of his own, presumably), it would be a sin against role-playing not to do something random, disruptive, and, if possible, stupid every now and then. Because that's what Chaotic Neutral people do! And it's not just players - more than one party has been betrayed and attacked by an NPC they were currently in the process of helping simply because the GM noticed its race's alignment was evil, and why would an evil person pass up an opportunity to do something nasty?
    • The most infamous example would have to be the Paladin class in Dungeons & Dragons, holy warriors who were required to be Lawful Good. So many players - many of whom were perfectly capable of playing non-paladin Lawful Good characters as reasonable individuals - felt that the only acceptable characterization for a paladin was the aggressively evangelistic Knight Templar whose only possible reaction to any situation was to demand everyone share his beliefs and kill anyone who didn't immediately fall in line, so that the phrase "Lawful Stupid" was coined to describe the class as a whole. The 4th Edition of D&D removed the alignment restriction, but many players familiar with earlier editions still act that way, because "that's just how paladins are."
    • The obvious problem with applying the trope under these particular conditions is of course that a tabletop RPG character is simply a figment of its creator's/controller's imagination with no independent existence or "inherent nature" in the first place. There are few if any claims of "I can't help it, it's my character's fault!" that cannot be countered with a variation on the question "Well, who wanted to play him/her that way?".
      • There's also the standard counter of killing the person and stating "It's what my character would do if he's being harassed by an insane person."

    Theater 

    Video Games 
  • Used in the Extended Cut ending of Mass Effect 3, whereupon Shepard argues against the logic that the Catalyst chose to solve the problem of the Robot War by building robots that specifically start Robot Wars. The Catalyst refutes this statement by saying that its creations are only doing what they were programmed to do, and thus are not truly interested in war. Of course, seeing as they are his creations, the Catalyst is basically saying that the war occurs because organic civilizations refuse to sit back and allow themselves to be annihilated. Shepard can call him out on this.
    • But the Catalyst has a justification to being called out on, as well: his logic is that his machines aren't actually killing organics, they're preserving organics by grinding them into goo and preserving them in machine form, so their civilizations can live on in the form of knowledge. So, the Catalyst argues, it's not hypocritical to prevent synthetics from killing organics using these methods because he doesn't violate his own principle: he preserves organics, which, to him, isn't quite the same thing.
    • It's rather poignant that Shepard can convince a Reaper that they are the same thing. It shuts down when it realizes it is nothing more than a twisted mass grave.
  • Often used in World of Warcraft on role-playing servers by trolls. "I am role playing. My character is a jerk!"

    Web Comics 
  • A Sinfest strip illustrates the problem with this type of thinking when Fuchsia kicks dirt on Monique's shoes.
    Fuchsia: You deserved it, walking around like you're all that!
    Monique: It is my nature to be all that. It can't be helped.
    Fuchsia: Well, it's my nature to torch things!
    (they fight)

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of The Powerpuff Girls involved around an Animal Wrongs Group defending Mojo Jojo against the titular girls because they believed it was his natural instinct to do everything he did (including acting human, building complex machinery, and trying to conquer the city). According to the DVD commentary, this whole episode was a Take That against people in real life who actually did think it was cruelty to animals to have Mojo get the crap kicked out of him every few episodes.

    Real Life 
  • Often used by people who want to excuse their own bad behavior rather than admit that maybe they crossed a line somewhere. "It's just the way I am." Not a 100% fallacious argument in that it's got some basis in fact when taken on the level of a single person, but fallacious enough that it usually comes off as lame and immature when people use it.
    • This has often come up in discussions on bullying. People who see bullying as being "no big deal" (and believe that the victims need to "toughen up") will often invoke this fallacy, along with Appeal to Tradition.
    • An easy counter: "No, that's who you're deciding to continue being."
  • Often used to imply that the person objecting to the behavior is prejudiced or overly sensitive.
  • This is also a trope in certain religious/spiritual teachings, where it is assumed that value is subjective and not inherent to the thing in question.
  • In his confession, Serial Killer H. H. Holmes (who killed several dozen women around the time of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair) "justified" his murders this way.
    "I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing."
  • Used by traditionalists and conservatives all the time: all men are this way, all woman are that way...
    • Radical liberals do this too, just with a different set of stereotypes. Really, anything that adheres to a strict Us vs. Them mindset tends to abuse this fallacy.
  • The biggest flaw with this reasoning in humans is that we possess the ability to choose what we do, up to and including overriding instinct to do so. Some choices are very difficult to make, but people are not ruled by their own urges. Having said that, its not necessarily wrong to follow one's instincts if those instincts are moral, or at least not against morals, with morals being a subjective issue dependent on the person and society.
  • This article plays with this trope. It starts by showing evidence in favor of determinism (that is, the idea of people not having free will and indeed behaving in their inherent nature). The article also goes on to show studies that prove that people who are exposed to such evidence will also start behaving like jerks. So the very nature of people is not "immutable" can end up being changed by external stimuli. The article even presents an argument by some scientists: even if it is true that free will does not exist, people should not be exposed to evidence disproving free will, and thereby changing people's natures to be more bad.