Does evil exist? Neuroscientists Say No

From Slate, Neuroscientists say that “evil” does not actually exist:

That is the real “problem of evil” (or, to use the technical term philosophers employ for conscious, freely-willed, evil-doing: “wickedness”). We tend to believe it exists: Popular culture has no problem with it, giving us iterations from Richard III to Darth Vader; politicians use it promiscuously (“the axis of evil”). But even religious thinkers continue to debate what it is—and why a just and loving God permits evil and the hideous suffering it entails to prevail so often, or even—if they shift the blame to us (because God gave man free will to sin)—why God couldn’t have created a human nature that would not so readily choose genocide and torture. (For the record, I’m an agnostic.)

via Does evil exist? Neuroscientists say no. – Slate Magazine.

  • dopderbeck

    My doctoral work in theology is centering on the relation between Christian theologies of moral agency, neurobiological science, and theories of positive law.

    Thanks for posting this — it’s quite a well done article, even though its title is misleading. Note this from the article:

    A number of papers in Neuroethics pour cold water on the triumphalism of the giddy new pop-sci brain books. It makes clear there is a debate within the neuroscience profession about what exactly all those impressive-looking fMRI images tell us. And these “neurocritics” or “neuroskeptics” warn about the consequences for acting too quickly on these claims. (There is a valuable British website called Neuroskeptic that offers the general reading public these critiques and correctives from the point of view of someone within the profession. People need to know!)

  • Curtis

    And a physicist will tell you that “cold” does not exist. There is no cold, only the absence of heat. In my mind, there is surely nothing more evil than the absence of God. So while evil may not exist in its own right, maybe “evil” is shorthand for what we experience when God is absent.

    • http://emarkthomas.wordpress.com/ Ethan

      Oh, bravo! I absolutely love this. Excellent. I really can’t think of anything to add; it stands very well on its own two feet. Well done, Curtis.

    • http://computingforpsychologists.wordpress.com/ Matt

      So by that logic all atheists are ‘evil’? I’m an atheist and don’t feel myself to be evil. Some of the nicest people I know are atheists…

      • Scot Miller

        I think traditional theists (like Augustine) would argue that lack of belief in God is not equivalent to the absence of God. Whereas most atheists would say that the existence of God depends upon belief (i.e., God “exists” in my mind the way that unicorns “exist”… as figments of my imagination), theists hold that the reality of God is mind-independent (i.e., God exists objectively, independently of my beliefs). To the extent that an atheist exists, and to the extent that being is good (i.e., to be is better than not to be), even atheists manifest goodness. Lack of belief in God does not entail the non-existence of God.

        It would also be helpful for theists to differentiate between the absence of God and the non-existence of God.

  • http://finalinsurrection.blogspot.com/ Lock

    I like Curtis’s response.

    What about debating the structure of THC in the cannabis from the Space Shuttle looking down to Earth through a telescope. That is the equal to this debate currently.

    For those of you not old enough, the Space Shuttle was the United States transport ship into space unit we stopped from a decision by BOB to pay Russians 50 million buckeroos to fly one US astronauts into space.

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  • http://zaakistan.com Zaak

    Been listening to a lot of Eastern Orthodox podcasts. I heard a priest say that there was no such thing as evil as it’s described in your paragraph; what does exist is “the evil one.”

    The Lord’s Prayer should read: “… but deliver us from the evil one…”

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