What Science Tells Us About Good And Evil

What Science Tells Us About Good And Evil.

During the past thirty years, moral, political, and legal philosophers have become increasingly interested in the concept of evil. This interest has been partly motivated by ascriptions of ‘evil’ by laymen, social scientists, journalists, and politicians as they try to understand and respond to various atrocities and horrors of the past eighty years, e.g., the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, ISIS, and killing sprees by serial killers such as Jeffery Dahmer. It seems that we cannot capture the moral significance of these actions and their perpetrators by calling them ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ or even ‘very very wrong’ or ‘very very bad.’ We need the concept of evil. Moral evil is what we mean here – that is, evil that results from the intentions or negligence of human moral agents, and the narrow concept of evil picks out only the most morally despicable sorts of actions, characters, events, etc. As Marcus Singer puts it “‘evil’ in this sense … is the worst possible term of opprobrium imaginable.” This National Geographic article by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee and Lynn Johnson is a long read, and it delves into the science of good and evil; what science has so far concluded as it peeks into the altruistic mindset and the psychopathic makeup of individuals – in both children and adults, and groups of people. It also reviews the manipulation by political and societal autocrats through groupthink in harnessing differential ideologies and hatred to garner political advantages and influence, and ultimately to commit genocide.

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