Why Some People Choose Evil
Any time you read anything from the “mainstream” media, you should always, always, ALWAYS read the entire article and give it serious thought before accepting the article’s claims as truth.
A case in point is this article from the Daily Mail recently with a headline that claims: “Humans AREN’T inherently evil: Scientists debunk famous Milgram study that found people obey orders no matter what”.
So did scientists debunk this study? Well, not really.
And unlike a lot of poorly written, poorly-thought-out and biased articles from the “mainstream” media, you don’t have to read 16 paragraphs down in the story to find the first clue.
More than half a century ago, Professor Stanley Milgram ran studies into how ordinary people can do extraordinary harm to others when asked to do so.
His conclusion, which formed the basis of his research film Obedience, was that humans are programmed to obey orders, no matter how horrific.
But now, new research suggests Professor Milgram was wrong – the participants didn’t act this way because they were inherently evil, instead their behaviour was influenced by the fact they believed they were contributing to science.
Notice the qualifier “inherently” evil.
What does “inherent” mean? According to the dictionary, “inherent” means “belonging to the basic nature of someone or something”
What does “evil” mean? We typically think of “evil” is something great and dark, like an Adolf Hitler or some supernatural force. Of course, that helps us fallen human beings distance ourselves from our own depravity, as evil is really something much closer to home, as the dictionary makes clear: “morally bad” or “causing harm or injury to someone.” When we get down to it, it’s not so hard to be or commit evil, is it?
As an aside (an important one, but acknowledging that there are a few people out there who don’t recognize this validity), the Christian worldview accepts that human beings are inherently evil because the Bible makes clear that (a) “evil” is anything contrary to the character and will of God, and (b) since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, their offspring have been born with a sin-nature that is inclined toward evil. So in the Christian worldview, the question is settled: yes, human beings, whether they commit Adolf Hitler-esque evil or garden variety evil, are in fact evil.
Is it “morally bad” to harm innocent people? Yes. Is “causing harm or injury to someone” evil? Yes. Therefore, it quickly becomes very clear that what the participants in Milgram’s study did was, in fact, evil.
While malevolent intent is certainly worthy of serious consideration, it is clear that when it comes to the act itself (and the result of the act), intent is largely irrelevant. If the result or outcome of the act produces evil, then the action was evil.
The next important question to consider is whether a reasonable person should be able to distinguish the morality of their actions.
Rational, mature people understand that there are times when it is moral to harm another human being (i.e. when defending one’s self or another from harmful acts being or about to be perpetrated by the object of one’s harm, most commonly recognized in self defense, the police shooting a dangerous felon, wartime combat against enemy combatants, etc.).
Were any such justifications for harm present in Milgram’s laboratory experiment? No, and any rational person over the age of five should have been able to understand that.
But Milgram’s study was about more than just “inherent evil” (i.e. a malevolent Hitler-type). He wanted to find out if average, everyday people would be willing to commit evil acts (we’ve already established that the acts of harm inflicted in Milgram’s study were, in fact, evil). And his experiments did confirm that.
From Milgram’s 1974 “The Perils of Obedience” in Harper’s Magazine:
The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous importance, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ [participants’] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ [participants’] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.
Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.
Now back to the Daily Mail article stating that “the participants didn’t act this way because they were inherently evil, instead their behavior was influenced by the fact they believed they were contributing to science.”
We’ve already established that the participants behaved in a manner that was “inherently evil” (both by the Christian worldview, and by the definitions of “inherent” and “evil”). Did the participants set out of their own volition to deliberately commit harm to the test subjects? Almost certainly not. But did they commit evil acts? Yes, they did. What’s more, they did so (a) without the justification of defense against harm, and (b) without being under serious duress themselves.
Harming another human being “in the interest of science” is not a legitimate excuse. In fact, if it were, some of the despicable and heinous acts committed by the Nazis could in fact be “excused,” because many of the perverted experiments they conducted on people were ostensibly done (according to them) in the interest of expanding scientific knowledge.
Are you ready to excuse this behavior of the Nazis? Then we have no grounds upon which to render moral excuse to the participants of Milgram’s study.
Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from Milgram’s study and from this distorted article from the Daily Mail is about the nature of evil itself.
You see, as I said before, we fallen human beings tend to give ourselves a free pass (imagine that) for our own evil by falsely reckoning “evil” to be Hitler-esque acts of astonishing depravity…when, in fact, evil is much closer to home. In fact, it lives in the human heart. The fact that it can be brought into fruition under the excuse of “contributing to science” illustrates how close to home evil lives.
And when the truth be told, most evil people don’t imagine themselves or their actions to be evil.
Do you really think Adolf Hitler thought of himself as an evil man? Or did he reckon himself to be doing things that were in the best interest of the German people? What about Lenin? Stalin? Mao? Jeffrey Dahmer? Radical Islamists? Criminals on the streets of your community?
Do they not all “rationalize” their actions to be morally acceptable. to be justified in the pursuit of some good (even if the “good” is their own)? I dare say almost all of them (there are a tiny handful of people out there who do truly recognize their actions as evil, and revel in that fact) believe their actions to be morally justifiable in the interest of their own benefit, and most will find excuses to justify their behavior on the supposed good of others in their immediate sphere, as well.
Even actor and rapper Will Smith recognized this a few years ago when he said
Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today.’ I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was “good.”
Smith caught a lot of grief from his liberal friends for saying this (they understood on some level that this truth pulls the rug out from under the excuses they have for their own immoral behavior), but he was right.
Notice that Milgram found that when “are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.”
Have you ever wondered how Americans today (whether they be congressmen obeying their leadership, or government employees, or voters and taxpayers) can participate in Marxist anti-American attacks on private property? On freedom of speech? Can you say ObamaCare? The EPA? Shariah law? The slaughter of 50 million unborn children? Pedophilia? Corrupting the morality of our nation’s children? Ignoring our nations’s highest law, even after swearing an oath to support it? Attacks on religious freedom by homosexual activists, and “hate crime” laws? Welfare fraud with the taxpayer’s money? Counterfeit marriage? Lawlessness on our border and throughout our country? Islamic extremism?
These actions all cause harm to individuals, to families, and to American society as a whole.
Have you ever wondered how a people birthed in freedom could come to accept a government where their tax rates and government oppression make that of King George 238 years ago pale in comparison?
Yeah, relatively few people have the resources (intellectual or moral) needed to resist authority and resist authority’s pushes toward evil.
So when it comes down to it, no, scientists have NOT debunked Milgram’s study. If anything, they have only added proof to it by attempting to excuse the evil of the study participants, in the interest of providing ready excuse for their own immoral acts. After all, if, as they imply, having a “noble” reason for doing something makes that something morally acceptable, then you can do pretty much whatever you want and feel morally justified, can’t you?
Just one problem with that: you really can’t, and everyone will come face to face with this truth someday. Unfortunately, for many, it will be eternally too late.
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