To say evil does not exist explains nothing. The secular argument about the nonexistence of evil stems from attempts to reify something to which objectivity cannot be applied. The effects of evil can be observed even as they occur, but their cause can be any of many things. So, many people on both sides of the issue get confused about this because of attempts to reify this abstract concept, and then the conflation of the reified version with the abstraction. We must stop doing that. Just because evil has no objective existence does not make it meaningless nor is it an illusion. We recognize good and bad when we see them and most of the world agrees about the straightforward basics. Most people would present the same short list of bads and goods. In the middle of the good/bad scale, agreement falters and emotions may push the meter beyond its range.

To understand a feature of reality with no objective existence we must take a different view of reality by seeing it as a result of processes that originate in events. If we can accomplish that, then we can learn to understand how abstractions result from efforts to identify features of certain kinds of processes. Without delving into details (click here if you insist), a process can be defined as a parallel and sequential combination of events that lead to a recognized end. To list all the steps, for example, required to bake a cake would describe a process of a kind most people would consider harmless. For a fat person to gorge himself on the cake could understandably be labeled ‘evil’ by any observer thinking about the effects on his or her own body, including the gorging person. A Christion may consider sexual pursuits in the same light, whereas a Hedonist may consider them innocuous and wonder about the religious person’s sanity. The Christian, by the same token, may think the same about the Hedonist’s assessment about gluttony.

Evil cannot be anymore ‘imaginary’ or ‘an illusion conceived by human minds’ than any other abstraction if its effects can be described in ways (or, a way) that others will recognize with accuracy and apply to their own circumstances with predictable results. That is, after all, a description of the Scientific Method. What fails the Scientific Method is that which cannot be directly or indirectly (as in through its predictable effects) observed.

EvilMeter

On a scale labeled ‘Effects’ with ‘Evil’ at one extreme, ‘Optimum’ at the other, ‘Bad’ and ‘Good’ located at lesser extremes, and ‘Innocuous’ at dead center, evil becomes demonstrable as a matter of personal values in accordance with the description of the Christian and the Hedonist two paragraphs ago. Center may also represent a point of balance that signifies an absence of concern.

One problem you may run across is a tendency to conflate various kinds of good and bad with behavioral concerns. Good cheese, bad beer, optimal taste, or any other passive process will not register on the same active scale as [1]evil weather, good exercise or harmless jokes; which puts them one more step removed from the intentional behavior about which we can concern ourselves, as it is over that we can exercise control. Cheese, beer, rotten apples cannot be shown to possess intent. Nor can wind, rain, nor any kind of active natural event. Let’s keep in mind that accidental occurrences are not intentional unless negligence affected their outcome. That shows us how our concern is about responsible behavior and, therefore, responsibility. Conflation introduces confusion.

In a strictly secular sense, behavioral concerns must limit themselves with interactions between people, groups of people, and their long and short term effects. Cons to deflect concerns over global warming and dupe people into inaction, other governmental corruption such as the sale of votes to campaign contributors and lobbyists, running misleading ads on TV—all represent high level intentional practices that so endanger American democracy that they earn the label ‘EVIL’. Such heinous behavior earns an extreme right (our left) position on the meter because the misbehavior of a few individuals begets a high pain level for millions of others innocent of any involvement.

That is social misbehavior, onto which science-derived laws ought to be applied. Individual misbehavior which affects no one else answers to natural controls and, unless a case arises that can be shown differently, any superimposed control usurps personal freedom and acts against social progress and the kind of ingenuity that, during the early twentieth century, drove the USA to the heights it managed to attain. Mom and Pop Capitalism then fell to Centralism and Corporatism about mid twentieth century, individual initiative became something to laugh about, and progress in many non-technology fields has shifted into reverse.

Corporatism is not Capitalism. In a time when 400 rentier individuals possess more than 90% of USA dollars, trillions of dollars have become frozen assets locked in vaults, frozen rather than invested, and 7 corporations do most of America’s business, to mislay the blame for such a one-sided circumstance on Capitalism avoids the point with too much at stake. Too many people’s wellbeing remain imperiled to misplace blame and so direct attention away from an important issue. Evil that has grown through the intentional actions of a horde of power-hungry players and their minions holding our nation hostage to their corrupt covert agendas, aided by lethargic apathy of a population that allowed itself to become mesmerized by con artists and swindlers enabled stealing of American politics from the people and placing it in the corrupt, centralized hands of corporations, banks, and vote-buying lobbyists. The Evil Meter gets pegged in the red on this issue, and its circuits are overloaded.

 

Copyright ©2014 by Lloyd H. Whitling. Permission to excerpt is granted if accompanied with credit to the author. Permission to reuse whole and unchanged is granted only if accompanied with this notice and proper credit. All other rights reserved.

[1] As an adjective, ‘evil’ often serves as a metaphor and gets recognized as such; as a noun, its only valid use is in scary fiction.

 

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