Aspects of reality- genes and evil

Looking around me, I often wonder how and why people behave a certain way. I also ask myself, what could variations in individual behaviour have to do with the bigger mysteries inherent in everything around us? How could the extremes of human behaviour, particularly evil, give us any clues to the overall  aspects of reality? That is, the mystery of who made us, and what we actually are.

 

Good and evil

Mixed up in the observations of the way people around us generally act, are the topic of the concepts of good and evil. Some think, of course, that these are outside forces inherent in our creation by the conventional God. Others believe that the way we behave is connected with our genetic make up and the way we have been brought up. The external values of society, and the way they are enforced, also play a part. Which ever the truth of the origins of evil are, understanding where it comes from may give us clues to the aspect of reality of our origins.

 

Evil and science

I recently watch an Horizon programme on BBC 1 (Are you good or evil) which explained some of the recent research on this topic. Evil was not considered to have any connection to an outside agency, they were just researching any possible differences in the brains of those who were considered to be evil. In this case they looked at murders and serial killers.

 

Genes and evil

They found that not only did the brains of these people tend to show certain unusual patterns. There was damage or poor development in the centres concerned with empathy and control. They also identified a gene, which they called the warrior gene. If this gene had a certain variant then you were more likely to be aggressive. To these people, they were the centre of the universe and there needs, even to kill for pleasure, were paramount. This, and lack of empathy for other’s pain and well being, enabled them to commit seemingly evil acts. These people can be called psychopaths.

 

Behavior and hormones

The general behaviour of individuals was also seen to be a function of two hormones. Testosterone, which makes one aggressive, and oxytocin which they found was triggered when people were co-operating, touching or in close proximity. This made people feel calm, co-operative and good. We all have both hormones, and the balance that we have at any one time can influence our behavior. This is also a function of our individual genetics.

 

Psychopaths in society

Interestingly, some people, including the main researcher, were tested and found to have the brain development and warrior gene, but did not indulge in acts that were considered evil. It was then observed that the upbringing and formative experiences of the person concerned could affect whether the gene was triggered. i.e abused will go on to abuse. Also, many people may have a degree of psychopathic tendency, but mask it and live seemingly good lives. Many successful and ruthless business men were found to have the potentially psychopathic brains.

 

Genes and justice

Faulty genes have already been used as a defence in a murder case in America. A man facing death row for first degree murder had the charge down graded to manslaughter. This was because he was shown to have the faulty gene which had been triggered by an abusive childhood. He was not held to be wholly responsible for his actions.

 

Aspects of reality

Could evil really be no more than a genetic configuration? If this is true then there are two possibilities.

Firstly, if we are after all just random accidents of evolution, and that in primitive times, the psychopathic tendencies gave evolutionary advantage.

Secondly, that we have been designed that way by a creator. We may be born with a genetically configured brain that would tend towards evil, but we can override it with our God given free will. This is how we are tested.

In the end, the fact that some evil can be shown to have a genetic base proves nothing. More interestingly is the fact that some have the genetic possibility for evil and override it. If such free will exists, then the case for God existing is strengthened.

 

 

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