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Dominic Fairfax Forum

What on Earth is the Cause of Evil?

Evil exists because human beings exist. Without humans there wouldn't be any such thing as evil. If human beings disappeared off the face of the earth so would good and evil since as far as we are aware, no other earthly creature possesses enough self-awareness or consciousness to form complex abstractions or to define or imagine what constitutes good or evil. Even if we think that animals preying on other animals or hurricanes and tsunamis causing death and destruction are evil, they could not be defined as such if we did not exist. Nature does not have a conscience and animals of prey do not possess the ability to moralise. It is stipulated that a human baby is neither moral nor immoral. Morality is learned. With the exception of very basic biological drives and traits, everything about becoming human is learned via socialisation and symbolic interactionism. Unlike other life-forms which are mainly 'pre-programmed', human beings are mostly tabula rasa [blank slates] onto which virtually anything can be written. Similarly, we are likened to biological computers, without the software, they cannot 'know'. It is stated that if a human baby was clinically fed and cleaned but kept in total isolation until grown, he or she would know no-thing and certainly neither good nor evil. He or she would not have a 'personality' since personality is formed by interactions, memory and the decisions made by those memories. Symbolic interaction, socialisation and language acquisition are imperative factors and the child must have adults to emulate. Cases of feral children whose only companions were animals will emulate the behaviour of the animal but that is not the case for animals that never see another of its type. A rabbit or a kitten always retains the programmed behaviour of its kind; they cannot emulate the behaviour of a human or a kangaroo.

 

 

If we consider that human beings are not born fully fledged and have to learn everything from scratch, the stance that we are tabula rasa or initially devoid of software is indisputably feasible. From that viewpoint, it is likely that human beings who seem inherently evil were not actually born evil but evil has come into their hearts and minds by way of things they have heard, read, seen or directly experienced. Humans are absorbers of information. The combinations of things they have heard, read, seen and experienced via adults, media and peers are as numerous as mathematical equations or software programmes and will differ according to the way they are sifted, sorted and interpreted by their previous perspicacity. The child takes everything in. He is hard-wired early. How he is treated and what he learns from others as he grows and interacts with the world greatly affect his thoughts, his memory and emotional stability. Since it would be unethical to deliberately conduct an experiment whereby one group of toddlers were subjected only to evil and another group only to good to see if both groups acquired the opposite traits we may never know whether evil is an innate part of the human condition. Many point to William Golding's novel, Lord of the Flies, in support of the idea that some human beings will manifest the worst aspects of themselves when not repressed by the veneer of social civilisation. Others claim that the fictional boys had already been influenced by adults prior to their isolation on the island. To reiterate, we will never know since it has never been put into effect in reality. But one thing of which we can be absolutely certain is that people who commit evil are not happy.

 

Evil individuals are disturbed and disturbances must have causes. I think it is a result of childhood-trauma: lack of love, emotional pain, cold-hearted, neglectful, abusive or weird backgrounds. They have been criticised, ridiculed. Bad memories hurt and haunt them. They have witnessed violence, and heard cruel words. They have often been brutalised by their environment. They have felt distanced, lonely, betrayed and unloved. Young children think that humankind is like themselves: sincere, truthful, compassionate, loving, of each other and all creatures. They loved and respected others and assumed that others respected them but they have learned to devalue life in the same way that they too, learned to feel devalued, unwanted, humiliated and objectified. They have not become altruistic beings; their development has been thwarted because since early childhood, all of their experiences have been negative. They have never conversed with an insightful person in whom they could trust; in whom they could convey their thoughts and feelings and help set them on a balanced road.  Without counsel, without real love, they become detached from humanity, increasingly cut adrift, even from themselves. Unless they can somehow find a positive outlet, they cannot neutralise their anger or contempt. Without guidance they find it difficult to learn self-mastery of the emotions and often gravitate towards, or even become absorbed, by people of dark mind-sets or they become loners preoccupied with the same. Psychological research into the personalities of those deemed criminally insane reveals a high number of peculiarly disturbing backgrounds. Moreover, judging by the fact that the greater proportion of people in prisons come from deprived backgrounds, poverty is also likely to be contributory factor. Others disagree, usually by citing the fact that many people are unhappy and poor but they do not commit evil, even when they have had the most appalling childhoods. Then again, perhaps it depends on certain combinations of influences that form the psychology of the child. If the neglected or abused child manages to retain his or her equilibrium in adulthood, their disturbances must have been counterbalanced by people or events which steered them in more positive directions. If it is the case that everyone is affected differently due to biological differences, hormones and brain chemicals then perhaps certain combinations of external experiences will trigger evil in some but not at all in others. Many people believe that we should forget about the soul; it is all to do with the millions of combinations of biological and environmental 'ingredients' that were thrown in by peers, partners, parents, grandparents and theirs, and so on, on both sides of the family over centuries.

 

 

It is purported that the ability of human beings to construct complex abstractions evolved due to the development of the cerebral cortex and language acquisition. However, the effects of wrongdoing or kindness towards others would have been observed by our ancient ancestors. If they were to survive they had to adjust their behaviour accordingly or be ousted from their social group. A high level of consciousness is often described as both a blessing and a curse for humankind because it provides us with choice. We can choose good and benefit humanity or choose evil and cause suffering. Unintentional evil is not evil although we can certainly witness its results. Therefore, judging by the state of the world we can easily ascertain that having the ability to choose is more of a curse than a blessing considering the abominable amount of evil committed. An extraordinary thing about humankind is the way definitions of evil are changed when it suits - depending on the context in which it occurs. For example, most 'crimes of passion' and premeditated murders of individuals are regarded as evil but the murder of thousands of innocents in war situations are 'collateral damage.' There are so many theosophical justifications born from language acquisition over the centuries. For example, contemporary deontology advocates that doing harm is permissible if it is 'for the greater good.' Consciousness, facilitating the ability for language to precipitate thought or vice versa, has made the ethical viewpoints, dichotomies, and searches for the problem of evil vast, exceedingly complex and inexhaustible. We are of course, aware that there is a great deal of good in the world but it is not the goodness that is causing the problems.

 

Psychopaths or sociopaths are notorious for their lack of empathy and remorse regarding the evil they have committed. They seem unable to feel any emotion although they are often able to feign a sociable and charming exterior. Studies of psychopaths purport that there may indeed be biological or brain chemical reasons for evil. Data reveals that some experts fervently believe that certain individuals are predisposed to violent or twisted personalities due to certain combinations of genes. Others wholly support the idea that evil is entirely attributable to the imperfections of the organic human brain. The cause of evil may be due to a tumour or a vascular malformation pressing against the amygdala, a small, almond-shaped, primitive region of the brain which houses emotion. If that is the case, the evil-doer does not have a choice. It is as simple as that. Many believe that the coming of the Technological Singularity has the potential to rid the world of evil depending on the initial programming. Supporters of biological determinism assert that the analyses of complex evil behaviours are more sophisticated now than in previous decades. Many pertain that there might be something amiss at the neurological level.  In other words, their brains are wired differently and, "...no amount of therapy will alter that. Where scientists have shown short films of violence to severe offenders, there is no emotional reaction in the area of the brain where we experience compassion and sorrow. There is little point in trying to rehabilitate them by trying to instil guilt or by ‘adjusting their thinking’ as years behind bars have verified. Their personalities are programmed by their genes, hormones, brain chemicals and signals. If it were possible to 're-programme' such individuals to feel guilt about their evil, they would never be able to live with themselves .".

 

Millions of people think that evil is inherent in the human being; a sort of throwback to our ancient ancestors. Many anthropologists and laymen think, ''Our nature is controlling, short-sighted, territorial, warmongering, far worse than any 'lesser' animal. Evil things are happening on a gigantic scale every minute of the day." The degree of sexual perversion is astronomical. A researcher created a computer-generated little Filipino girl, Sweetie, aged ten, to see how many men would visit the internet site to abuse her. They thought she was real. Within moments, twenty-thousand men visited the site including over a hundred from the UK and thousands from the US and Canada. They have all been tracked and caught. Take a look at the daily News. "It's taken millions of years for the human species to reach even this level of barbarity." Evil is apparent in both sexes but much more manifest in males, particularly regarding warring and the sexual abuse of children. Some individuals state that, "It is our primitive state of predatory animal. It is 'built-on' ideas of hunting practices adapted to the modern world." Some believe there is not as much evil in the world 'as there used to be.' They assert that there was probably less evil in primitive societies and certainly less evil and unhappiness in the hunting and gathering bands still around today. The armies of developed nations have more 'sophisticated' ways of delivering evil and even boast about their inventions. The astronomical accumulation of weapons of violence is achieved via taxation. Tentatively, the laws of free enterprise enable powerful nations to buy and sell weapons, to use against each other, or to facilitate the aims of factions within nations, each believing they are trying to quell the other's evil. Big money is made in weaponry. The West in particular, wants to usurp lands that have resources useful for its purposes. It strategically places its weapons in those lands lest it should be denied access to trade routes or usurpation threatens.  The West wants the world. The greater the world population the more we move away from natural living. The more cosy, materialistic, and 'civilised' we become due to industrial, medical, agricultural, entrepreneurial and technological innovations, the greater the desperation to retain such artificial life-support machine lifestyles; the greater the comforts perhaps but contrarily, the greater the potential for evil, especially in the military sphere.

 

Most of these innovations have been facilitated by oil; hence, the preoccupation with The Oil Weapon and the Balance of Terror. It is stipulated that the human race per se, is still primitive in many ways otherwise we would have learned that evil is senseless long ago. "People are not really evolving in any peaceful or harmonious way. Ruling elites are competing to create production and consumer master races and using the 'ordinary folk' as tools for that end." Collectively, we have a consciousness the size of a golf ball rather than a universe because we are being held back by the obsession with greed and economic growth irrespective of the waste and destruction of our beautiful planet. Paradoxically, it is making many people insecure and fearful.'' Humankind does not have to choose evil. It is said that "..we have 'evolved' to create a materialistic, technological world; a gigantic artificial life-support machine from which we cannot escape and nations will fight to the death to retain it, ultimately, by nuclear war. Nothing has ever been invented that hasn't been used. Human beings are hell-bent on war and seem reluctant to learn. "They are intent on destroying the planet and indeed themselves. At least that will be the end of evil."

 

 

I think it is likely that if we are blank slates, different kinds of evil are due to copy-cat behaviour, childhood disturbance at the developmental level, cold-hearted influences and unhappiness. In the wider, political sense the evil that causes oppression, poverty and misery for many is due to the inheritance of astronomical wealth by elites, the power which accompanies it and the politicians who support it. It is caused by conflicting ideologies, fundamentalism, global corporatocracies, greed and the discontent caused by inequality.

 

As tabula rasa human beings are compelled to make meanings.That is definitely innate. We create reality by language, thought, actions and symbolism and cannot create reality by any other ways. If the created reality causes emotional unhappiness in the individual or en masse, people become alienated, twisted, cut adrift from themselves, warped by the evil they already see and to which they have been subjected. It causes them to feel contempt and disgust for the human race, themselves included. They are hurt. They hate it and want to hurt back. Children trust adults. They can become distressed when they catch snippets of information from News images about war, famine, perverts, child abuse, femicide and serious crime. They are happy when they see the good work undertaken by child and animal protection agencies but confused and distressed when they hear about cruelty to children and pets, the culling of badgers and the slaughter of animals for the meat market. Until they were gradually socialised to perceive historical battles as 'normal' many adults recall being disturbed as children when they began school history lessons.The hypocrisy and perceived betrayal understandably scares young children. They wonder what on earth human beings really are. It turns their innocent worlds upside down. Children do not like being told that we are 'just another animal' or that we are 'the top of the food chain' because they think that people are so much more than that. They also become acutely aware that 'lesser creatures' cannot commit calculated evil.

 

We could easily ascertain that the combination of having consciousness and being blank slates is the cause of evil simply because high levels of consciousness facilitate the ability to choose it. With regard to fascism or 'ethnic cleansing', it only takes a leader to point the finger at a certain creed and the rest bow to herd mentality.  As tabula rasa, as long as the circumstances dictate or the process begins early enough, people can be psycho-socialised into justifying and believing in virtually anything: voodoo, fundamentalism, apartheid, sexism, racism, idolatry, classism, nationalism, Islam, Christianity, martyrdom, Buddhism,depending on the country, culture, era, parents, environments into which they happen to be cast.  We act the parts in the peripheral frameworks. We create anything the pre-existing scripts and influences teach, especially if confined in a given culture or social strata. The more knowledgeable and well-travelled in the world, the more we can see the bigger picture.

 

 

Millions believe that evil exists as a supernatural, incorporeal entity which resides somewhere out in the nether regions of space and time. They personify such an entity as Satan. Others argue to the contrary by stating that such an idea is merely superstition; a figment of our over-active imaginations. We perceive evil as a transcendental force; something outside of ourselves in order to opt out of responsibility for our own actions. Others state that there is no such thing as evil. What we perceive as evil is simply lack of love, lack of God [as in A Course in Miracles], a book which received a lot of criticism by the Church because of its denial of evil.

 

In philosophy, the Problem of Evil is certainly the greatest obstacle to belief in the existence of God for many - especially when we consider the extent of suffering in the world whether due to man’s inhumanity to man or to natural disasters. Atheists state that there cannot possibly be a benevolent, all-loving God. If there were an omnipotent, all powerful God he would be able to do anything, including eliminating evil but since evil exists, there cannot possibly be one. If God and evil exist as opposing forces simultaneously, then God is not omnipotent. On the other hand, some theologians seriously question the attitude of non-believers. They ask, “How do atheists know that God doesn't exist?” Perhaps there is a reason why God permits evil in the world. Perhaps it fits into the grand scheme of things which we, as mere mortals, cannot possibly comprehend. According to the intellectual or logical philosophical theory, there is no contradiction. There is insufficient reason to believe that God and evil are incompatible or why God permits duality. To paraphrase Peter Kreeft, et al, we are limited in intelligence, insight, space and time. As a result we are ill-equipped to determine whether God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil. Our perception of time seems long but the Creator sees things from beginning to end merely as a flash in time. He orders history so that His purposes are ultimately achieved through free human decisions. If we were programmed only to do good, we would not be choosing. Good and evil are invisible opposing forces which pull in one direction or the other. We need to learn to do good. We need to possess free will, so that we can return to our rightful states, our Christminds, which we had at the very beginning before sin came into the world and fragmented us from the all-seeing truth. Individually and collectively, we have to return to the God consciousness and we can only do that through choice. Too many man-made, culturally induced identities are the problem. God is the only identity we truly have. Until we realise it, and return to it, God may think it plausible that we have to tolerate evils along the way. The brutal murder of an innocent man, a child’s suffering could produce a sort of ripple effect through history. God’s morally sufficient reason for permitting evil might not emerge until centuries later. Evil might seem pointless to us but not in the wider scheme of things.

 

Millions of people are not convinced. They feel that such ideas may only be words and thoughts born from theology; from a multitude of terms such as deontology, teleology as well as an anthropocentric notion that the universe was created with us in mind. Over the centuries, vast libraries have been written on the subject of God, morality and the Problem of Evil. Many people pertain that the idea that we are not in a position to judge why God permits evil since we do not possess sufficient intelligence is part of the God of the Gaps argument whereby theologians have to fill a void because they simply cannot supply a scientifically proven answer. The quest for the reason for evil also encompasses terminology such as moral absolutism, moral relativism and consequentialism to name a mere few, but our ability to create vast volumes of words and concepts still cannot get to the root of it. Once a biological organism possesses acute self-awareness it has the capacity to develop moral conscience and guilt, which in turn, presents human beings with a plethora of dichotomies and ethical paradoxes that cause entrapment in indecisiveness - the paralysis of philosophical procrastination. For example, what is the right course of action when both actions cause evil? Should the state murder people to show that it is wrong to murder people? Is revenge only justifiable in war? Under what circumstances is something immoral and when is it not? Shakespeare explored these themes in Hamlet: "Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all."

 

Another philosophical argument is that given the extent and depth of evil in the world it is unlikely that a God of love could possibly have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil. In philosophy this is known as the probabilistic stance which advocates that the co-existence of God and evil is possible but highly improbable. This is undoubtedly a more powerful argument. Do unknowing innocents really have to suffer as links in a cruel chain so that humanity may eventually return to the ultimate consciousness? If you or I were a creator, would we create fragile biological organisms to suffer with a multitude of horrible bodily afflictions and vile diseases? No of course not. What about emotional pain? Supposing an individual ends up homeless and broken due to multiple bereavements or down and out due to his or her abusive childhood. If we were creators would we say, '' Oh well, it is his own fault because those were the choices he made?" No, of course not, because we are aware that ‘choices’ are often made in ignorance due to immaturity, emotional pain, insufficient education, poverty, childhood abuse, neglect and lack of love. In order to make informed choices in life people need to know what they are and to acquire sufficient guidance to ensure equilibrium.  Moreover, to say that the emotional pain people suffer in life is ‘designed’ by a deity so that they might ‘learn lessons’ as part of an overall plan is cruel. Would we place intelligence, sensibility, tenderness, compassion, love and sincerity into a child’s heart only for such qualities to be abused in order that he or she might learn lessons for an overall plan? No. But again, the logical argument always comes back with the same familiar answer: we are not intelligent enough to know why God permits evil. They argue that the chief purpose of life is not happiness but knowledge of God.

 

It is asserted that we must not respond with anger and bitterness toward God but turn to Him in faith. Rather than rebelling we should submit to worshipping Him, otherwise, we are groping in spiritual darkness. It is said that spiritual alienation is the reason why evil abounds. God does not interfere to stop it but allows human depravity to run its course. On the other hand, many people point to religion itself as the cause of evil. They assert that it has been instrumental in causing bloody conflicts and that it capitalises on people's fear of oblivion - of  suffering and death. Animals are also very afraid but only in the chase or in the moment. They cannot philosophise about the subject. Once a human being becomes aware of his inevitable death it becomes his biggest fear and his chain. It renders him exploitable in his need for food, shelter, warmth and security by his own kind. Some humans are wealthy because many are poor. Ruling elites will use the 'subordinates' to secure wealth. Religion provides hope of a bountiful reward for the oppressed's acceptance of exploitation and poverty. He is comforted by the promise of an eternal afterlife for all the suffering he or she has endured. Religion tells the subordinate that the meek shall triumph. "It is a comfort but also a means of social control."

 

The Problem of Evil has been puzzling philosophers for centuries, not least because neither Nature nor God appear to have a conscience. Only humankind endeavours to help alleviate suffering. As far as we know, only humankind possesses empathy and compassion to any deep, lingering degree. Nevertheless, many of us get the feeling that there is something but not necessarily a something encompassing benevolence. The Argument from Design undoubtedly has much credence, especially when delving into the realms of quantum physics and mechanics but Anthropic Principle criticisms of variants of the Design Argument such as Fine Tuning and the First Cause [Cosmological Argument] are equally plausible.  Most of us feel that humanity is one, and our tenderness and compassion naturally extends to other animals. We are aware if we do something horribly wrong. Is it therefore, feasible to assume that a sense of morality is innate? Or is it socially induced? Unless we are devoid of feeling, when we hurt someone, we hurt ourselves. If we abuse someone, we abuse ourselves. The idea of people being exploited, objectified, used as commodities, especially in the sex trade, is a result of a sick societies and individuals hell bent on corruption of the human spirit. Moreover, society has become a treadmill where the financially powerful are controlling the speed. It is a lovely idea that the body is a temple which houses the soul. The child is more in touch with his or her soul than the adult. Anything an adult has to conceal from a child is generally because the adults' higher consciousness knows that it is wrong. It is said that if we deny the soul, we deny and hurt our selves. If we refuse to confront our shadow, we deny love and can only keep adding dark dimensions to our dissolution. It is undoubtedly true that most of us know when we have committed a moral wrong and it has to be something more than what psychologists refer to as our culturally induced ‘inner policeman’ or superego. It is stated that our collective consciousness in the Jungian sense knows everything about love and harmony but we are half asleep. It is buried deep within our consciousnesses, encrusted over by the society we have inherited. Until we wake up, there will always be evil in the world.

 

When all is said and done, we have to admit that we do not really know why some people are evil and some are not, or even why evil exists at all. Some think it is because we are organic and full of insatiable desires and needs. "Knowledge of evil causes evil." Other creatures are organic but cannot consciously commit evil. Is the cause of evil due to a combination of possessing heightened consciousnesses upon empty minds that are compelled to be filled with whatever they are taught? Is morality simply a social contract to ensure survival? Is evil due to faulty neurotransmitters and synopses? Is is in the genes? If a child of ten or eleven-years-old commits evil, is he or she aware? Is it due to damaged childhoods? Is it part of a grand plan by a transcendental being in an extra-dimensional realm? Is it simply lack of love? With regard to warring, is it the xy chromosome? There are more questions than answers. We may never know.  The problem of evil is endlessly circular. It takes us right back to the opening paragraph in that all we can be certain of, is that evil exists because human beings exist. If we disappeared off the face of the earth, so would evil since without human beings, there would be nobody here to commit it or define it.

 
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