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Is evil a disease?, asks New Scientist

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Thoughts spurred by ISIS, apparently. From New Scientist:

What turns an ordinary person into a killer? The idea that a civilised human being might be capable of barbaric acts is so alien that we often blame our animal instincts – the older, “primitive” areas of the brain taking over and subverting their more rational counterparts. But fresh thinking turns this long-standing explanation on its head. It suggests that people perform brutal acts because the “higher”, more evolved, brain overreaches. The set of brain changes involved has been dubbed Syndrome E – with E standing for evil.

Yes, evil is an intelligent choice.

Not a “natural” one. As Aesop’s fable tells it, the scorpion doesn’t sting because he is evil, but just because he is a scorpion. That’s what he does.

But get this:

In a world where ideological killings are rife, new insights into this problem are sorely needed. But reframing evil as a disease is controversial. Some believe it could provide justification for heinous acts or hand extreme organisations a recipe for radicalising more young people. Others argue that it denies the reality that we all have the potential for evil within us. Proponents, however, say that if evil really is a pathology, then society ought to try to diagnose susceptible individuals and reduce contagion. And if we can do that, perhaps we can put radicalisation into reverse, too. More.

All that will really happen, of course, is that people diagnosed as “evil” will receive special privileges. That’s only bad news for those of us who are neither the perp nor the guy making a living off the perp.

See also: How can we believe in naturalism if we have no choice?

and

An evolutionary challenge: explaining away compassion, philanthropy, and self-sacrifice

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6 Replies to “Is evil a disease?, asks New Scientist

  1. 1
    EvilSnack says:

    Well, some of the people who are thus diagnosed will receive a get-out-of-jail free card. The others will endure an abridgement of their rights so that the Powers That Be may ‘cure’ them. And remember, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, the punishments a government may deal out are limited by law, but the ‘cures’ have no limit.

    The truly privileged will be those who are empowered to make the diagnosis and apply the ‘cure’.

  2. 2
    asauber says:

    Evil was generated as a one-cell organism in the primoridal soup and through deep time and gradual changes, it has become the monster we know today.

    Andrew

  3. 3
    Mung says:

    Evil is a disease, and your computers can catch it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  4. 4
    asauber says:

    Mung,

    Can’t the diseased computers just choose to be good, like all the rest of us do? 😉

    Andrew

  5. 5
    jimmontg says:

    Evil as construed by atheists or by the agnostics that so puzzles them would be funny if it wasn’t the #1 dilemma facing mankind. Just what is the worldview of the researchers of Syndrome E? That seems obvious to me or sadly oblivious to them. A simple walk down history, a cursory view if you will of Man’s Inhumanity to Man shows how positively ignorant so many liberal agnostic/atheist/Mother Earth worshippers/New Age pantheists are living in their Rainbow Farting Unicorn World. They are deluded by the fact that they do not see the evil that dwells within themselves. That they are evil as well. The myth of the Noble Savage is just that, a myth.

    The best explanation for it all is the account of The Fall in the Bible. The insight of some of the Biblical writers were right on the money.

    “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?” wrote the prophet Jeremiah long before the Greek philosophers came along.

    Just watch children and how they are raised will explain much. I raised my children with discipline and a sense of what is right. They turned out well, but I did lose a son when he was 24 because of the evil of greed. A landlord who was too cheap to fix electrical problems cost me a son. A minor sin, but it resulted in the death of a fine young man, but who also wasn’t perfect. I’m not perfect and neither is anyone else, the #1 excuse for one’s own indwelling evil. “I’m not perfect.”

    Evil comes in many different shades and I would dare say that the evil of greed has caused the majority of unnecessary human deaths and the destruction of much more. Do the researchers of this study take that into account? No, they are just researching the gross sins, the killing of dissidents from the Islamofascists theocracy, but greed is still the most deadly of sins that I have observed throughout society and our crumbling civilization.

    Something very unusual I have noticed about raising children. I never had to teach them to be bad or to lie, it came naturally and we have all experienced being around a “spoiled brat” kid. I understand that ISIS train their children to be like they are to the point of even kid’s have been suicide killers. People are Evil and are blinded by it and by the Devil as well. Inference to the best explanation, materialist evolution could never explain such a widespread phenomena nearly as well in all the parameters of the different evils. Indeed the evil of lying is rife within the Evolutionary community and politics too I might add.

    Believing in the solution that God provided is more urgent than ever. Christ came to save sinners and the one who goes to him will never be cast off. That is what he said using a double negative, it is translated literally as” The one who comes to me I will certainly not cast away”. I might add that the Apostle Paul added “that whoever calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” I do know that I need a forgiving God who made a Way for me as I cannot make my own way. Forsake the evil, renounce it and cling to Christ then what happens here will not affect you for no longer than a short lifetime as compared to eternity. I hope I’m allowed to talk about the Bible here.

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    Evil comes from humans choosing it , probably after prompting by Satan.
    the bible says this always.
    Why now? evil was more present in the old days, by the acts, then these days. rElative to population there is little serioys evil today.
    Yes it might be evil for western nations to forment people murdering the syrian leaders and army with a rebel army and in return its evil for people from those areas to murder French and americans.
    yet all involved don’t see it as evil but fair play called war.
    This paper is crazy. its saying you can figure out who is evil and take them out before acts. I don’t trust.

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