A few years ago I had a conversation at works with some co-workers. We would often have discussions that felt like a forum when there was downtime at the job. Our topics would range from religion to reality tv and so on. One conversation in particular we talked about was the idea that human society as a whole is becoming more evil than we have in the past. The question became paradoxical when one person made the argument that society is just as evil as it has always been, but since the internet and the world became digital, we have been able to transport information in a split second. The world is becoming more diaphanous and reflects our greatest and worst qualities within us.
Do we have free will to choose good vs evil?
Human choice has been something debated by philosophers and scientists since the times of the ancient Egypt. Is the idea of freedom and free will an illusion. Nothing more than an ideological equalivalent to a visual hologram. Cosmological determinism which is an ideal that everything is predetermined and predicted makes the notion of free will improbable. Neuroscientists made a discovery that our brains make our decisions far before we are actually conscious of them. This term called “Bereitschaftpotential” which means readiness potential describes a subfield the brain goes into prior to conscious awareness.
Scientists Kornhuber and Deecke’s used EEG scans on research participants. They found that during a test where the subjects were asked to move their fingers. Prior to the voluntary movement the motor cortex showed a negative slow potential shift right before. Benjamin Libet also ran experiments in the 1980′s that further reaffirmed the findings from Kornhuber and Deecke. This time the participants would watch a clock with a dot circling around it. Data showed that .35 seconds before conscious awareness the readiness potential began. He concluded that as far as the initiation of our movements, there is no free will. This can be “vetoed” at the last-minute he also noted. He also believed that the anterior cingulate motor areas of the brain, which allows us to focus and execute self-initiated actions and self instigated movements.
Neuroscientists are now using fMRI and implanted electrodes to study this phenomenon. Participants were asked to go into an fMRI scanner and then press a button with their right or left index finger. They had to remember what letter appeared on the screen the moment they pressed the button. What they found was that the BP occurred one second prior to the conscious awareness and sometimes up to ten seconds before. “The first thought we had ‘we have to check if this is real.’ We came up with more sanity checks than I’ve ever seen in any other study before.” Another test actually used implants of electrodes into a person’s brain to record the activity of the individuals neutrons. He found that the neurons lit up 1.5 seconds prior to any conscious awareness. They used this to give a prediction of the person’s actions with 80% sometimes 90% accuracy. The conclusion became that the neuronal assemblies, cross a threshold and that the medial frontal cortex can determine these decisions before a person is even aware of it.
The Mind of a Killer -
Mass shootings in this country have become problematic in our society. It seems that the more we find out about mental illness and the connection between the pestilence of these types of killings it has become more evident that evil is tangible in our way of life. In the last paragraph I talked about the absence of free will and the scientific analysis of the brain that pre-determines our actions. Could this in turn mean that out sociopaths/psychopaths are also commanded by some internal brain pattern.
In an article in Time magazine examining the minds of killers one investigator found that a man who killed 17 people and murdered and wounded 32 had a tumor and a vascular malformation pressing against his amygdala which is the region of the brain that controls emotion. A schoolteacher developed a sick compulsion for child pornography and began making advances towards his stepdaughter. He got arrested and then flunked out of a 12 step course,but when he went to the ER for a terrible headache and other neurological symptoms the doctors discovered an egg sized tumor on his right oribitofrontal cortex which controls decision-making. When the tumor was removed the urges stop, but the urges came back along with the re-growth of another tumor.
One experiment that was done on 96 male felons to study their impulse control and brain function. The test consisted of a fMRI scanner on them while they performed pressing a button when they saw the letter X,but had to refrain when they saw the letter K. The letter X was designed to appear over 84% of the time, which led to overclicking by the inmates who confused to the two letters. The anterior cingulate cortex(ACC) is the region of the brain that controls impulses. In turn that test found that those who did bad on the test had lower levels of ACC than those who scored higher. The correlation between the ones with lower ACC is that when the inmates were released back into society the ones with lower levels had been likely to be re-arrested four times more.
Another example of babies 6 monthsold born with a condition called cavum septum pellucidum which is a small gap in the forward left and right regions of the brain were more likely to develop behavioral disorders and exhibit criminal behavior. The question for us then becomes if someone is biological influenced to become a killer are they held accountable for the actions they committed. Dr Keihl’s who also studied prisoners in two high security facilities found that psychopath’s brains had low levels of density in the paralimbic system which is responsible for processing emotion. This connections results in impulsive personalities and show little evidence of feeling guilt, remorse of empathy.
A gene that has been studied seems to hold some answers whether evil is hereditary or not. The MAO-A (Warrior gene)gene seems to be the key to the question if evil within us and can it be passed down. A study done on Danish men found that identical twins when one had a criminal record the other twin had a 50% chance to have to also have a criminal record themselves. If there were non-identical twins they were 15-30% more likely to exhibit criminal behavior than an average Danish male. In the same scope children of criminal parents were more likely to become criminals even if the children were adopted and the foster parents were law biding citizens.
Can the Good turn Bad?
In the summer of 1971 there was an experiment where nine students volunteered for a two-week paid study program in Stanford County Prison. The students were blindfolded, stripped naked, sprayed with powder and given short smocks and flip-flops, hair was cut and they were given a number instead of a name.They were all tested and passed to be emotionally and physically competent. Dr. Zimbardo who was a psychologist played a warden in the prison. Twelve more volunteers were given uniforms and mirrored sunglasses and were given the task to enforce the prison rules. The inmates had to be quiet during meals and rest periods.
The guards tormented the inmates, waking them up at to recite numbers they had been assigned, playing naked leap frogging with other inmates. If inmates rebelled they were punished with push-ups and even solitary confinement. Some of the guards fell in line with these cruelties while other guards were clearly the aggressors and thought of more and more ways to torture the inmates. The prisoners themselves seemed the most complacent and obeyed their orders with little resistance.
The experiment was shut down after 6 days when the lines were too blurred for the “guards” to make moral and ethical decisions for themselves and seemed to be apart of a single ispeity. The prisons became violent and some became docile and accepting of their prisoner indicative role. Dr. Zimbardo’s experiment failed the ideal argument that good people can maintain their moral high-ground even in a virulent environment. So my question now can good people given the wrong conditions turn themselves into immoral corrupted individuals.
Religion Explains the Rise of Evil -
One explanation of the more and more accumulating evidence of evil is the argument that we are approaching the “Last Days.” In Christian culture describe the last days when the sinners of the earth will be judged. The rejection of word as one article puts it is the reason why the world is heading on a one way train to armageddon.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. [Romans 1:24-32]
When I shall send upon them the evil arrows of famine, which shall be for their destruction, and which I will send to destroy you: and I will increase the famine upon you, and will break your staff of bread: So will I send upon you famine and evil beasts, and they shall bereave thee; and pestilence and blood shall pass through thee; and I will bring the sword upon thee. I the LORD have spoken it. -Exekiel 5:16-17
“And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. – Revelation 18:2
14-year-old Marcy Conrad of Milpitas, California, had been raped, strangled to death, and left lying off the road in the hills outside of town. According to the local paper, at least 13 students went out to look at her body. One girl picked up the murdered girl’s jeans, cut off a patch, and threw the jeans down along the side of the road. One student tried to cover the body with leaves. Another took his eight-year-old brother along to see the body. One boy went twice. Those who saw the body went back to class or to the pinball arcade. One went home to bed. Another student said he only cared about collecting the marijuana cigarette he had won on a bet that the body was real. As the newspaper reported: “The shock is the shock of the of the encounter with icy indifference, the indifference of the kids in the first instance, but much more importantly, of the culture that produced them… The depersonalization did not begin yesterday; it is not unique to this moment, yet it seems more complete – and they seem more alienated and isolated – than we have ever known before.
Public order has disappeared in “the new South Africa.” Crime is rampant. In Cape Town, a serious crime occurs every 17 seconds. Police have 1,227,047 unsolved cases under review, according to Crime Investigation Services divisional chief Johan le Rous. It is increasingly dangerous in South Africa to own a nice car since roving gangs of unemployed thugs surround nice cars at intersections, drag the driver and passengers out, beat them brutally, then drive off with the car – just for a wild “joy ride” in which the car is vandalized or wrecked.
“Since virtually all perverted behavior people engage in is now categorized under “natural behavior,” a door is now opened for more wicked sins. Just thirty years ago we would have been appalled, even outraged, by the decadence and debauchery that daily fills our streets, TV shows, movie screens, music and art, video games, businesses, and political bodies. But today we rarely give it a second thought. In fact, we often give it our approval, or a least fail to speak out against it. We have gotten used to it all, even though it is not a good thing to get used to. “
“As a society, we have gotten used to illicit sexual relationships, adolescent promiscuity,abortion, cheating, lying, stealing, prostitution, rape, divorce, and even murder. We have gotten used to financial mismanagement on both civil and personal levels. We haveaccepted political corruption. We have rejected personal and social responsibility and learned to blame anyone or anything else for our problems and failures. We have traded in our infinitely valued divine image for a nickel-plated pagan shrine erected in honor of self-interest, immorality, and social apathy. The American ideal today is me first to do what I want, when I want, to whom I want, regardless of who or what it may hurt. These are the signs of a society gone wrong.”
I think the author nailed it one the head with this one. I really didn’t want to change any wording around. This isn’t the first time though Christians have cried out these are the last days and the sinners will pay for their wrongdoings in pestilence proportions. Truthfully was supposed to come by the turn of the century, then again Y2k was supposed to end everything as we know, then the Mayans prophecized Dec. 21, 2012 was the day the stars lined up and the Apocalypse was supposed to come down. I see the times are getting worse, but I have a hard time accepting this is biblical and we are heading for judgment. Just in case though a quick prayer………….Amen lol