The End of Evil?

Neuroscientists suggest there is no such thing. Are they right?

Ron Rosenbaum

Is evil over? Has science finally driven a stake through its dark heart? Or at least emptied the word of useful meaning, reduced the notion of a numinous nonmaterial malevolent force to a glitch in a tangled cluster of neurons, the brain?

Yes, according to many neuroscientists, who are emerging as the new high priests of the secrets of the psyche, explainers of human behavior in general. A phenomenon attested to by a recent torrent of pop-sci brain books with titles like Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. Not secret in most of these works is the disdain for metaphysical evil, which is regarded as an antiquated concept that’s done more harm than good. They argue that the time has come to replace such metaphysical terms with physical explanations—malfunctions or malformations in the brain.

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Anders Behring Breivik, suspect in the Oslo killings Anders Behring Breivik, suspect in the Oslo killings, leaves the courthouse in a police car

Photo by Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/AFP/Getty Images.

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