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Evil

The concept of evil serves a valuable purpose. It helps us deal with threats. If one village is attacking another, it will be hard to fight effectively, if one sees the man one is about to kill as like oneself. Objectifying an enemy allows us to be warm and loving with our family and and coldly brutal to an attacker. The worst evils perpetrated by human beings are associated with this instinct. The genocides of the 20th century all used it.

The concept of evil is not an absolute. It is a created concept that can all too easily be misapplied. We need to think of and deal with evil like we deal with infections disease. Evil results from processes and instincts that are an essential part of creative evolution. Evil is contextual not innate.

Evil is not a matter of intention but of consequences. We cannot insure the morality of our own actions, but we can increasingly learn to improve the odds. However risk is inevitable in a divergent creative process. To be creative one must follow untried paths and the result can be disaster. Complete elimination of pain and suffering can only come at the cost of creative stagnation and that would be the greatest evil of all.

The Tao doesn't take sides;
It gives birth to both good and evil.[48, v 5]
What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man's job?[48, v 27]

Evil is inevitable but it can be conquered. Historically and to this day the greatest single evil facing humanity is infections disease. We have made enormous progress in conquering that evil in the developed world. There is reason to suspect that within the next few decades our genetic understanding will lead to the nearly complete victory over this most deadly of human scourges. Total victory will requires political reform as much as scientific advancement and the former is less predictable than the latter.

The organisms that cause disease in humans do not have evil intentions. As we discussed in Section 9.5 pathogens seem to have been responsible for the evolution of sexual reproduction without which human life never could have evolved. The competition for resources that is at the heart of so much evil is a necessary element for creativity. Evolution does not care what pain or pleasure leads to survival and creativity, but conscious creatures do.

Consciousness changes the game. We can eliminate much of the pain of the struggle for survival. It is debatable whether we have made true progress. We have eliminated many sources of physical pain and suffering, but we seem to have amplified psychological pain and suffering in the process. Many ``primitive'' cultures seem to provide happier lives than that of the harried commuter trapped in an isolated suburban home and money obsessed corporate culture .

It takes more than technological or economic advances to limit evil. It takes a deep understanding of human nature and the wisdom to construct institutions that are both economically productive and life enhancing. We do not know how to do this very well.

The enormous success of the West has come from a one sided emphasis on intellectual development. It is the source of our great scientific and engineering achievements. But this has created an often empty culture in which life can seem meaningless and be oppressive. The contradictory forces in the human psyche that are essential for creativity are also the roots of a fulfilling life. We need to achieve more of a balance by developing more fully the other psychic functions. The place to start is intuition and this is the subject of Chapter 11.


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