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Fascinating characterization article about the science of Good and Evil

May 5, 2011   [permalink]

I'm always on the lookout for interesting observations about human nature for characterization use, and saw this one today:

Scientist seeks to banish evil, boost empathy

Interesting more of less scientific analysis of Evil (and thus, Good). From a Cambridge professor, so definitely worth a look. Interesting ideas in it, from a writing standpoint (both characterization and for the science fictional aspect of it) as well as real-life.

In a nutshell, he seems to be describing an almost mathematical relationship between evil and lack of empathy. The less empathy, the more a person has capacity to do evil (and presumably to do more evil); the more empathy, the less capacity to do evil. (And one would assume a stronger urge to do Good, to be altruistic, etc.

He does raise an interesting moral question as well. If, suppose, there were a provable link between evil and low empathy, and suppose there were some sort of pharmaceutical "cure" that could increase empathy........!?

And given that everyone has a degree of the beast in us, the moral question expands to whether we should all get such a (hypothetical) treatment. At what point is that a good thing, and at what point is it akin to e.g. Soma of Brave New World?

Or is it better (or even necessary-for-survival?) to have the yin-yang balance of good/evil, selfishness/altruism? Do we need a certain amount of evil in the world?



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