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Old 2011-05-06, 07:30   Link #13501
SaintessHeart
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Scientist seeks to banish evil, boost empathy

Quote:
(Reuters) - Simon Baron-Cohen has been battling with evil all his life.

As a scientist seeking to understand random acts of violence, from street brawls to psychopathic killings to genocide, he has puzzled for decades over what prompts such acts of human cruelty. And he's decided that evil is not good enough.

"I'm not satisfied with the term 'evil'," says the Cambridge University psychology and psychiatry professor, one of the world's top experts in autism and developmental psychopathology.

"We've inherited this word.. and we use it to express our abhorrence when people do awful things, usually acts of cruelty, but I don't think it's anything more than another word for doing something bad. And as a scientist that doesn't seem to me to be much of an explanation. So I've been looking for an alternative -- we need a new theory of human cruelty."

Baron-Cohen, who is also director of the Autism Research Center at Cambridge, has just written a book in which he calls for a kind of rebranding of evil to offer a more scientific explanation for why people kill and torture, or have such great difficulty understanding the feelings of others.

His proposal is that evil be understood as a lack of empathy -- a condition he argues can be measured and monitored and is susceptible to education and treatment.

NEW THEORY

Baron-Cohen defines empathy in two parts -- as the drive to identify another person's thoughts and feelings, and the drive to respond appropriately to those thoughts and feelings.

It is also, he says, one of the most valuable resources in our world -- one which is currently woefully underused.

"We all have degrees of empathy... but perhaps we are not using it to its full potential," he explained in an interview with Reuters after delivering a lecture in London.

He says erosion of empathy is an important global issue that affects the health of communities, be they small ones like families, or big ones like nations.

If we all used our ability to empathize more, and recognized its value, he says, conflicts such as the decades of tit-for-tat violence between Palestinians and Israelis could be resolved.

"If you think about conflict resolution at the moment, usually we are dependent on diplomatic channels, legal frameworks, or military methods. But all those things operate at a very abstract level and they don't seem to get us very far.

"Empathy is about two people -- two people meeting, getting to know each other and tuning in to what the other person is thinking and feeling."

As an example, Baron-Cohen cites the meeting of minds between Nelson Mandela and the then South African president F. W de Klerk, which helped end apartheid in the early 1990s.

"The progress that came out of just that one relationship -- well, arguably, it broke through where all other methods had failed, and at far less cost in terms of human life," he says.

PSYCHOPATHS HAVE "ZERO DEGREES OF EMPATHY"

A Jewish upbringing peppered with tales about the horrors of the Nazis' treatment of Jews and other minorities was early motivation for Baron-Cohen to seek to deconstruct human cruelty

He cites times when his father told him how the Nazis turned Jews into lampshades, or into bars of soap, and a tale about the mother of a family friend whose hands had been severed by Nazi scientists who switched them around and sewed them back on again so that her thumbs were on the outside.

"Today, almost half a century after my father's revelations...my mind is still exercised by the same single objective: to understand human cruelty," he writes in his book.

In the book, entitled "Zero Degrees of Empathy" in Britain, and "The Science of Evil" in the United States, where it comes out in July, Baron-Cohen seeks to pick apart and define components of empathy -- including hormones, genes, environment, nurture, and early childhood experiences.

Citing decades of scientific research, he says there are at least 10 regions of the brain which make up what he calls the "empathy circuit." When people hurt others, either systematically or fleetingly, parts of that circuit are malfunctioning.

Baron-Cohen also sets out an "empathy spectrum" ranging from zero to six degrees of empathy, and an "empathy quotient" test, whose score puts people on various points along that spectrum.

Drawing a classic bell curve on a graph, Baron-Cohen says that thankfully, the vast majority of humans are in the middle of the bell curve spectrum, with a few particularly attuned and highly empathetic people at the top end.

Psychopaths, narcissists, and people with borderline personality disorder sit at the bottom end of the scale -- these people have "zero degrees of empathy."

But rather than labeling them as evil, Baron-Cohen says they should be seen as sick, or "disabled," and we should seek to understand why they have such an empathy deficiency and help them replace it.

Baron-Cohen shies away from saying that psychopaths can be "cured" of extreme behavior, but he argues strongly against locking them up and saying there is nothing society can do.

"I try to keep an open mind. I would never want to say a person is beyond help," he explains. "Empathy is a skill like any other human skill -- and if you get a chance to practice, you can get better at it."
I see evil as a necessity and part of a balance in a societal structure because humans would never seek to explore truth if they perceive evil as non-existent.

Take the Crusades for example - both the Muslims and the Christians attempted to murder and convert each other to their religion, and the foot soldiers thought that their religion is "good". It resulted in a greater "evil" of massacres and deaths.

You can't understand something that doesn't exist. Super-entities don't, but we do know our enemies do exist. Why not try to understand them instead?

Come to think of it, rejecting the idea of God may be the first step to eliminating evil. Then again, there are some people who find "God" as their sole reason not to do evil acts, so that might not be a perfect solution at all.
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Old 2011-05-06, 07:40   Link #13502
Ascaloth
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SaintessHeart View Post
I see evil as a necessity and part of a balance in a societal structure because humans would never seek to explore truth if they perceive evil as non-existent.

Take the Crusades for example - both the Muslims and the Christians attempted to murder and convert each other to their religion, and the foot soldiers thought that their religion is "good". It resulted in a greater "evil" of massacres and deaths.

You can't understand something that doesn't exist. Super-entities don't, but we do know our enemies do exist. Why not try to understand them instead?

Come to think of it, rejecting the idea of God may be the first step to eliminating evil. Then again, there are some people who find "God" as their sole reason not to do evil acts, so that might not be a perfect solution at all.
inb4 the religious folks take offense.
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Old 2011-05-06, 08:20   Link #13503
bladeofdarkness
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SaintessHeart View Post
Come to think of it, rejecting the idea of God may be the first step to eliminating evil. Then again, there are some people who find "God" as their sole reason not to do evil acts, so that might not be a perfect solution at all.
isn't that the same as saying "If i didn't have to answer for my actions in the after life, i would be perfectly willing to rape rob and murder to get whatever i want ?

thats not what i would consider a good reason to be good.
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Old 2011-05-06, 08:35   Link #13504
Roger Rambo
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I debate a little about how much Nazism had to do with psychopathic behavior. Cause you don't clinically need to be a monster to engage in mass murder/genocide/war crimes. A massive logistical operation like the Holocaust (including mass killings) of tens of millions of people just doesn't work if it requires all the participants be mentally disturbed.

We should know from the Milgram and Standford experiments that perfectly normal people can do monstrous things just by manipulating their environments. And this was under systems where there was no duress of punishment (Milgram) or everyone knew it was an experiment (Stanford). Those experiments should tell you all you need to know in why people could go along with the Holocaust.
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Old 2011-05-06, 09:04   Link #13505
SaintessHeart
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post
inb4 the religious folks take offense.
That is their problem. Not mine.

Besides, it should be an interesting social experiment to anger them and drive them to shorten their lifespan. When they are gone, we shall see if the world has become worse or better. Khomieni's death allowed people like Mousavi to helm Iran for a brief period, so maybe the death of Khamieni and Ahmadinejad will open up Iran to moderate Islam. Then again, it may create a new Al-Qaeda when the Basij move into hiding with extremist groups like Jeemah Islamiah.

Besides, most of the religious folks I have seen are all talk and no action, or just do the bare minimum to burish their image to the public. We don't have people like Gandhi or Mother Theresa going out there to make a difference for the marginalised anymore.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bladeofdarkness View Post
isn't that the same as saying "If i didn't have to answer for my actions in the after life, i would be perfectly willing to rape rob and murder to get whatever i want ?

thats not what i would consider a good reason to be good.
It could work that way too. I wonder sometimes if the researcher is right about empathy, or the willingness to understand another person makes for more humanitarian acts to be performed.

I am a proponent for Le Chatelier's Principle to be applied on all scales. It is either that or there is some NWO organisation running this entire world so no absolute system can be applied, and that no matter how well-crafted a policy is, someone is bound to not benefit from it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Rambo View Post
We should know from the Milgram and Standford experiments that perfectly normal people can do monstrous things just by manipulating their environments. And this was under systems where there was no duress of punishment (Milgram) or everyone knew it was an experiment (Stanford). Those experiments should tell you all you need to know in why people could go along with the Holocaust.
The Milgram and Stanford experiments are indicators that people react to extreme changes in their environment drastically as it gets further and further away from their comfort zone.

However, there are people who adapt accordingly instead of breaking under duress, and some theorists have argued that it is personal psychology that acts as a shield against mental breakdown (self-confidence, belief system, etc), while others argued that there may be a genetic factor not yet discovered by the HGP.

Also, there has been a consistent result that people who adapt the most have been subjected to a slighter form of hardship previously that allow them to weather abrupt changes and not break down so easily. Or they have been broken by the previous hardship that they have been hardened.

Either way, it might be nature's way of diversifying the entire human noosphere to make each of us a mystery to another - it forces people to communicate and to understand each other.
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Most of all, you have to be disciplined and you have to save, even if you hate our current financial system. Because if you don't save, then you're guaranteed to end up with nothing.
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Old 2011-05-06, 09:27   Link #13506
Tom Bombadil
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Well, guess the "time travel ban" is real. I was being naive before.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13308162
Quote:

China has ordered TV stations across the country not to air any detective shows, spy thrillers or dramas about time-travel for the next three months.

All have been ordered off-air with immediate effect.

China's Communist Party is preparing to mark 90 years since its founding and the authorities want TV stations to air programmes praising the party instead.

The government wants China's one billion television viewers to tune in to a wholesome diet of patriotic propaganda that will glorify the party ahead of the anniversary on 1 July.
Propaganda machine on full throttle.
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Old 2011-05-06, 09:33   Link #13507
SaintessHeart
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
Well, guess the "time travel ban" is real. I was being naive before.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13308162

Propaganda machine on full throttle.
Think of it as a good time to revise the post-Qing history of China.
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Most of all, you have to be disciplined and you have to save, even if you hate our current financial system. Because if you don't save, then you're guaranteed to end up with nothing.
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Old 2011-05-06, 09:36   Link #13508
DonQuigleone
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
Well, guess the "time travel ban" is real. I was being naive before.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13308162

Propaganda machine on full throttle.
Seriously? 3 whole months of praising the glorious state of china?
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Old 2011-05-06, 09:46   Link #13509
Tom Bombadil
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Originally Posted by DonQuigleone View Post
Seriously? 3 whole months of praising the glorious state of china?
Not, the party, not the nation. They are different. If you want to see some praising the state, you should tune in Fox news like Sean Hanity, it goes on not just months, but years.
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Old 2011-05-06, 09:57   Link #13510
Ithekro
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Didn't Dr. Jekyll try to get rid of evil on the human race....hmmm that Mr. Hyde thing....didn't work out so well for him.
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Old 2011-05-06, 10:03   Link #13511
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
Well, guess the "time travel ban" is real. I was being naive before.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13308162

Propaganda machine on full throttle.
Why specifically detective, spy, and time travel shows? China already bans any media criticizing the party/government, and if they wanted propaganda they could have easily banned all other shows too.
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Old 2011-05-06, 10:52   Link #13512
Haak
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I guess the Lib Dems shouldn't have broken that promise on tution fees huh...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13297573

And yep, the people of Scotland raised a collective middle finger to the Labor Party and went for the SNP. They have the majority.
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Old 2011-05-06, 11:28   Link #13513
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
Well, guess the "time travel ban" is real. I was being naive before.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13308162

Propaganda machine on full throttle.
the ban is pretty much useless. unless it covers Hong Kong the majority of the people will still get their tv fix form Hng Kong stations.
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Old 2011-05-06, 11:31   Link #13514
Kamui4356
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Originally Posted by bladeofdarkness View Post
isn't that the same as saying "If i didn't have to answer for my actions in the after life, i would be perfectly willing to rape rob and murder to get whatever i want ?

thats not what i would consider a good reason to be good.
Yes, it's saying exactly that. Unfortunately that's a fairly common attitude in the US. I believe it's part of the reason atheists are distrusted in the US as well.
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Old 2011-05-06, 11:44   Link #13515
bladeofdarkness
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Originally Posted by Kamui4356 View Post
Yes, it's saying exactly that. Unfortunately that's a fairly common attitude in the US. I believe it's part of the reason atheists are distrusted in the US as well.
which is Ironic, given that Atheists theoretically draw their "goodness" from an alternative source in this case.

empathy rather then expecting reward/punishment
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Old 2011-05-06, 12:29   Link #13516
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SaintessHeart View Post
Scientist seeks to banish evil, boost empathy



I see evil as a necessity and part of a balance in a societal structure because humans would never seek to explore truth if they perceive evil as non-existent.

Take the Crusades for example - both the Muslims and the Christians attempted to murder and convert each other to their religion, and the foot soldiers thought that their religion is "good". It resulted in a greater "evil" of massacres and deaths.

You can't understand something that doesn't exist. Super-entities don't, but we do know our enemies do exist. Why not try to understand them instead?

Come to think of it, rejecting the idea of God may be the first step to eliminating evil. Then again, there are some people who find "God" as their sole reason not to do evil acts, so that might not be a perfect solution at all.
A lack of Empathy?

I thought it was more a desire for power that leads people to oppress, harm, kill, and massacre other humans.
Because through those methods a person is able to force another person to do what they want them to do.
Whether it's a rapist forcing another person to have sex with them, or a leader of a country telling his citizenry how to live their lives, the reason is exactly the same--Power.
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Old 2011-05-06, 12:35   Link #13517
Haak
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Too much Id and not enough Super-Ego?
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Old 2011-05-06, 12:47   Link #13518
DonQuigleone
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GundamFan0083 View Post
A lack of Empathy?

I thought it was more a desire for power that leads people to oppress, harm, kill, and massacre other humans.
Because through those methods a person is able to force another person to do what they want them to do.
Whether it's a rapist forcing another person to have sex with them, or a leader of a country telling his citizenry how to live their lives, the reason is exactly the same--Power.
Nope, I think it is Empathy. You can't (easily) kill someone you view as a human being, you have to dehumanise them. Why do you think American propoganda portrayed the "Japs" as Monkeys, and Germans as an evil organised super-force? Make em seem less human. If your enemy are not human you can kill them.

The Germans did the same thing by portraying their enemies as inferior beings, or in the case of holocaust victims, vermin.

It's all about empathy. People aren't naturally inclined to harm others knowingly.

So the rapist decieves himself into thinking the woman "wants it", or that women are inferior (though sexuality is a bit different, people do get off on power etc.), and the reason the leader tell his people how to lead their lives, is because he truly believes he is better then them. How else could he have become leader?
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Old 2011-05-06, 13:01   Link #13519
GundamFan0083
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DonQuigleone View Post
Nope, I think it is Empathy. You can't (easily) kill someone you view as a human being, you have to dehumanise them. Why do you think American propoganda portrayed the "Japs" as Monkeys, and Germans as an evil organised super-force? Make em seem less human. If your enemy are not human you can kill them.

The Germans did the same thing by portraying their enemies as inferior beings, or in the case of holocaust victims, vermin.

It's all about empathy. People aren't naturally inclined to harm others knowingly.

So the rapist decieves himself into thinking the woman "wants it", or that women are inferior (though sexuality is a bit different, people do get off on power etc.), and the reason the leader tell his people how to lead their lives, is because he truly believes he is better then them. How else could he have become leader?
I think you're confusing Empathy (relating to the feelings of another) with a feeling of superiority (feeling others are below you).
You can understand what another person feels and still view them as less than you are.
The Soviets did this numerous times.
Stalin (during the 5 phase plan of the 1930s) was fully aware of how the peasants felt, he just didn't give a shit and stole their land anyway because of his desire for power.
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Old 2011-05-06, 13:35   Link #13520
DonQuigleone
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GundamFan0083 View Post
I think you're confusing Empathy (relating to the feelings of another) with a feeling of superiority (feeling others are below you).
You can understand what another person feels and still view them as less than you are.
No if you begin to feel superior, you are putting them in another category then yourself. You are not viewing them as your equal, you may somewhat empathise them, but not fully, as your superiority will get in the way.

Quote:
The Soviets did this numerous times.
Stalin (during the 5 phase plan of the 1930s) was fully aware of how the peasants felt, he just didn't give a shit and stole their land anyway because of his desire for power.
He did desire power, but the 5 year plans did not cement his power, he simply believed they were an instrument of state management, and in some cases designed to eliminate hostile elements that made the country vulnerable. The populace were tools to be used for the implementation of Socialism. Maybe individuals can justify killing based on power calculations, but you can't motivate your followers out of the same thinking. You have to make it palatable for them to kill the people in question.

For instance the concentration camps were designed to remove personal responsibility from any single individual, and at the same time, they were continually reinforced with the idea that the people they were "processing" were vermin.
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