I don’t know about evil per se. Certainly some people are amoral, and others work by a moral code that may be considered evil. I don’t know that being evil is an intrinsic human attribute, but the sociopaths and fanatics of the world come damn close.
I do know that some people never quite “get” the concept of “there are other people in this world and they deserve respect and consideration.” Some don’t even get the concept of “there are other people in this world and, since some of them are good at their work, mine would be easier if I used them.”
Whether that makes them evil or not, depends on your definition of evil. Whether it can be an inborn limitation or is always a consequence of their environment, remind me to ask God when I see Him.
I think Der Trihs pretty much nailed it in one, and especially made one point that I think is interesting:
One might take that thought one step further and wonder if anyone born ‘evil’ or influenced during life to *become *‘evil’ can be blamed for their actions. So some fucker like Albert Fish is evil by a dictionary definition, but if everything from his genetic makeup to his environment and developmental experiences conspired to make him so, kinda makes you wonder if he had any more choice in the matter than a leaf blowing in the wind. Everyone acts in their self interests, and if I’m not a mass murderer, it’s only because for a number of reasons I ultimately do not want to be one. Somebody might give to charity for the warm fuzzies it gives her or any other reason, but that’s only because what she gets out of it is worth more to her than the dollars/effort she puts in. Somebody else might spend money on prostitutes and then kill them for the exact same reason, the only difference being that their innate preferences have been set differently, for I guess genetic and environmental reasons (I assume one can’t choose to be aroused by murder any more than one can choose to be gay). One is unluckier than the other I would say, but evil?
Maybe that was the problem. Personal tragedy and trauma aren’t the only things that can twist someone. And that’s part of what gives me pause about labeling someone innately evil–we are all too often molded by things out of our control.
Yes. Just like some people are innately tall or innately blue-eyed.
Nature vs. nurture (heredity vs. environment) has been argued for centuries, but one thing is certain: We do not have a way to give a person a conscience. If they don’t develop one by the age of 4 or 5, they are scarred for life.
Evil is when you know that what you are doing is wrong, but you just don’t give a damn.
There was a European adoption study out years ago that showed adoptees having similar criminal records to their biological rather than adoptive parents. I found a Science article from 1984 about it; they saw a correlation in non-violent criminal activity between biological parents and offspring, and between siblings adopted to different families, but not with the adopted parents. I can’t find whether anyone’s done a follow-up. Of course, that’s non-violent, rather than violent crimes (where they saw no correlations). It’s also a very old (but very large, at 14 thousand people) study. I don’t know how rigorous it is, as I only skimmed it, but I thought it was interesting.
My belief: “Evil” usually isn’t a genetic trait, but a social one. However, a lot of the temperament factors that make someone more or less prone to “evil” behavior (risk taking, fearfulness, empathy) may very well be genetic. I do, however, think that similar environments are going to affect different innate personal traits in different ways. I also think there exists a small percentage of the population who, through some combination of nature and nurture, are never going to be able to function peacefully in society, no matter what we try to do to help them. I guess that might count.
Nice job of summarizing, there, Vihaga. I agree with you.
I find it weird how many people are saying that they don’t believe in evil because they don’t believe in the supernatural. I don’t believe evil is supernatural. It’s entirely man-made.
I’m not religious but I believe if there IS a Satan he’s not the evil fire-breathing demon portrayed by modern Christians, I think he’s more a freedom-loving Libertarian.
Yes. I was. MWAHhahahaaaaaaaa!
But seriously, no. I don’t believe anyone is absolutely good or absolutely evil. Actions can be good or evil but not people, and even then one’s judgement of whether an action is good or evil depends on one’s moral frames of reference.
Genes might dictate to a certain extent how prone someone may be to being irritable or quick to anger or strong-willed but human behaviour does not occur in a vacuum. We learn how society expects us to behave, and we decide whether it is in our best interests to go along with this or not. We make a choice.
Saying someone is innately evil absolves them of their ‘evil’ or cruel deeds. Unless they are seriously mentally retarded I believe everyone should be held accountable for their own actions.
I appreciate your curiosity, but it’s extremely personal and what she did to me is still a very sore subject. Suffice it to say, she thought I was in her way for reasons I still don’t understand, and she was able to manipulate literally scores of people, who were smart enough to know better, to get me out of the way. It had an extremely negative cascade effect on the rest of my life, and I had started out in a very bad place already, but she didn’t care about that. She kept going for more than a year.
She had told me, and I believed her, that we were friends before all this happened. She’d been pulling the strings on all this for more than three months before I found out it was her – she’d been “being my friend” the entire time. It was a huge betrayal. I’m still absolutely appalled at the power she had over other people. They weren’t stupid, but they bought what she said without question.
This young gentleman is trying to make the case.
So when my six-year-old kid died, where was his angel?
You can’t be serious. When Grandma wants to go to the pit, she’ll ask for your hand.
Looking over my earlier post, I think you may be reading it as my describing my son as evil. I am not. I am saying that the pointless, purposeless, entirely unjust suffering of children is one of the many things that militate against the existence of a beneficient god.
Fine, just don’t pick your fights with grandparents; it’s beneath you.
I have no idea what you are talking about.
Stop Picking On Sarah Palin…! Mwaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!
I’ve studied serial killers for years, and I’ve never read about having two in the same family. Even a folie a deux is rare among relatives.
Obviously it has to be more than just environment.