Bad and Evil
The idealist might argue that man is innately good; the cynic that man is
innately evil. The arguments are not well-founded because humans are a mix of
attributes, tendencies and skills that belong in both camps. God and the Devil turn out to be two competing
aspects of the human mind. Most humans will display features that qualify them
for the good status and will be bad some of the time. A small number of
humans, the kind hearts, are exceptionally smart and nice. Another small number
of humans are evil and create much suffering and destruction.
While children are not “little adults” with well-practiced vices, they do
arrive with a mix bag of good and bad tendencies. Children are often guilty of
bad behavior. They disobey parental rules, and they lie to protect themselves
from punishment. Children and adolescents commit minor felonies at home and in
the community. Some commit major felonies.
Intolerance and hate are innate tendencies but you
learn as a child who you should hate and how you should express this hate. The
ideals of love and tolerance professed by some religious groups are difficult to
achieve. The dismal historical record of Christian societies in achieving
brotherly love and abstaining from killing is an example of failure of moral
authority. This failure is multidimensional and involves a deep misunderstanding
of human nature. An ethical injunction such as “Thou Shall Not Kill” attempts to
inhibit an innate tendency and fails.
Moral authority is claimed by biological parents and surrogates such as
schools, churches and even political organizations. Moral authority may promote
altruistic behavior, but the real emphasis is on proscribing tendencies and
behaviors which are innate but undesirable. An essential task is to encourage
members not to harm other members of the group. There are different levels of
harmful consequence from attacking a person's reputation to killing them.
To control individual behavior, the human tendency is to rely on external
rules, punishment, strict hierarchies (mostly patriarchal), militarism, and
intimidating religious beliefs. Propaganda and rote training is often deployed
by strict schools and religious organizations that create compliant children who
will act in the interests of the group rather than pursue self-interest or
creative, intellectual work. These highly programmed humans will have a narrow
range of interests and strong beliefs. They will be intolerant other groups and
display aggressive behavior toward members of other groups.
The threat of punishment for undesirable behavior is only a relative
deterrent some of the time. The death penalty is not a definitive deterrent to
murder just as locks are not definitive deterrents to theft. Humans lie, cheat,
steal, injure and kill despite the threat of punishment. Some have argued that
punishment is only a deterrent for good people and bad people simply ignore the
threat and apply their ingenuity to avoiding punishment.
Codes of conduct, rules and laws expand on the innate tendencies to cooperate
and set limits for harmful tendencies but do not change the destructive aspects
of human behavior. The courts are overbooked and jails are full because laws and
religious prohibitions fail as guides and deterrents.