The end of evil?

  (16 July 11)
  by Greg Spearritt

Is it time we consigned the idea of evil to the scrap-heap of confusing and unnecessary concepts? (A place some would see as the true home of the term ‘God’.)


No doubt most of those attending the biennial meeting of exorcists in Poland would demur. However, Simon Baron-Cohen has an interesting take on evil in his 2011 book Zero Degrees of Empathy: he says that empathy can usefully replace evil as a concept. The behaviour of someone who performs a cruel or repulsive act can be explained so much better in terms of lack of empathy than by simply calling them ‘evil’: there are hormonal, genetic and environmental factors at play which can be investigated and – who knows? – maybe even corrected.


Of course this doesn’t account for ‘natural evil’, the calamity and suffering wrought by Mother Nature. Even there, though, the term isn’t in common use. Natural disasters like the Christchurch or Japanese earthquakes are discussed in terms of ‘evil’ only by the far-right religious fringe.  


Has ‘evil’ has its day?




While trivial and perhaps superficial, we can note that "evil" is "live" seen backwards. To the English language reader there is a glimpse of poetic truth in this.

Posted by Garth Everson

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