Friday, April 20, 2007
The Oatibix have worked their magic. I have something to say. Responding to my post Virgin Tech 2: Sanctity, Ian Russell and River of Deceit said they didn't think evil exists. I have heard this said many times and it always puzzles me. The same people don't say love doesn't exist or, indeed, goodness, why is evil singled out for non-existence? One answer is River's remark, 'It's just a label that helps us cope with reality. The truth - that 'monsters' like Adolph Hitler and Cho Seung-hui are more like ourselves than we care to imagine, is probably too disturbing to contemplate.' This is not an argument against the existence of evil, merely against the labelling of individuals as evil. The Christian concept of original sin makes it clear that we all have the capacity for evil. Good Christians are, therefore, completely accustomed to the idea that they have something in common with Hitler or Cho Seung-hui. But I think the more general reason for denying the existence of evil is the postwar desire to reject all forms of biological determinism. After Nazism, people did not want to label others with inherent characteristics, they wished to say that nurture, not nature, was all, that, therefore, humans could fix themselves and evil could be conquered. Latterly this orthodoxy has been damaged by evolutionary psychology which suggests that nature is, in fact, highly influential if not actually dominant. Personally, I don't think the nature-nurture debate is strictly meaningful or resolvable, but that is another matter. What is clear is that both naturists and nurturists must be aware of the capacity for bad behaviour which, in extreme forms, can be called evil. Evil is thus just a word for 'very bad', a word we need since doing 40 mph in a 30 mph zone is clearly not the same as slaughtering 6 million Jews. The rejection of evil is also a rejection of metaphysics and religion. It is like saying God does not exist. Evil is singled out there because it seems more absolute and real than 'good'. It is as if the very word has a metaphysical presence so that saying 'Evil does not exist' is a much stronger statement that 'Love does not exist.' Anyway, just to say - evil exists.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:33 am