I know that sounds like a joke is coming, but instead, a respectful conversation is coming instead. My good friend Drew Collins hosts a page called MAARS Alive, that’s designed to help recovering musician alcoholics deal with their addiction through faith.
But instead of me talking about how this discussion came about, below is what he wrote on his own Facebook page. I largely agree with what he said, except the part about me getting more “talk time” (we really are great friends, and that’s just him “taking the piss” as the British would say).
But like Drew, I agree it’s disgusting the way we often talk to each other about politics, religion, or any other topic we’re passionate about. So we hope you like the discussion, and hope it motivates others to discuss “hot button” topics in a similar manner. Enjoy:
One day, I got really disgusted with how people go online and allow their friendships to be destroyed, simply because their views are different. I thought of my good friend, Gary Nolan.
We agree on most everything, with one exception; faith/belief in God.
I called Gary and asked him if he would like to get together and talk about the one thing we both disagree on, strictly for the purpose of demonstrating to people that civil conversation can be far more productive and enjoyable than venomous hostility.
Gary came ‘loaded for bear’ and, in my opinion got more “talk time” than I did. That being said, I chose to post this in it’s unedited form so that I could not be accused, by others, of putting a “spin” on the talk. The whole idea was not about “winning” or “losing” an argument. It was about communicating with another person, whom I disagree with, in a respectful manner.
Despite the miles between us on the reality of God, Gary remains one of my best and most trusted friends to this day. A special THANKS! to my close friend, Dwight Farmer for all his work on filming this.
Ever heard the expression, “Evolution is just a theory”?
It’s often used by creationists who deem the theory of evolution, an observation initially put forth by Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species, as an insult to their religion because it isn’t consistent with the accounts of the Bible, Quran, etc.
The notion that all life evolved from a single-celled organism, affectionately known as LUCA (Last Common Universal Ancestor) simply doesn’t jive with being taught that a God created man shortly after the start of time.
If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I will explain, albeit quite simplified, why that is a profoundly wrong and insulting statement to make to discredit evolution.
There are generally accepted levels that answers to questions can be given or assigned, from a scientific perspective. Since science is what brought you the theory of evolution, that’s what should be referenced when discussing it.
Because this is a simple blog post and not a thesis, think of this as just a Cliff’s notes version to explain the basic concept. So please no attacks if you think I left something important out. But by all means, feel free to chime in below if you want to add anything.
Anyway, enough babbling, here goes…
The lowest level assigned to the answer to a question would be a guess. A guess is when you have no evidence you are basing your guess on, you’re just picking something that seems to make the most sense to you and going with it. We all do it, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s just not science.
With an educated guess, you still haven’t actually gathered evidence or done any work you could call science, but now you have some knowledge that leads you to your guess so it’s not just a garden variety random guess as above.
This might also be a situation where you might ask a physicist, for example, about a question that could be answered by physics. If they don’t know the answer, yet based on what they do know, they make a guess, that’s an educated guess.
For the first time, we’re talking about actually beginning to do some science.
Imagine you observe something, and you don’t know what it is or why it happened. You’ll gather evidence, try to repeat the observation if you’re able, and look for consistencies. Based on the evidence you have, you’ll form a hypothesis—a conclusion the evidence has taken you to. This is better than a guess because you’ve actually done some work to come to this conclusion, observed the thing you wish to answer first hand, and therefore your conclusion is evidence-based, not something conjured up in your imagination alone.
From there, scientists will test their hypothesis by attempting to falsify it. This means that they try to prove themselves wrong, not right. This may seem counter-intuitive at first, but allow physicist Derek Muller of Veritasium to explain. I promise, you really want to watch this video. It only takes a few minutes, but it will make you rethink the way you approach problems.
Once you’ve made every attempt to falsify your hypothesis, many scientists will attempt to publish their findings in a peer-reviewed journal, with full disclosure of their hypothesis, as well as all their testing methodologies and findings, in hopes that others will test the hypothesis and see if they come to the same conclusions. This is known as replication studies.
If replication occurs consistently, either a law or a theory typically forms.
Once something can be fully observed and tested to a consistent result, it becomes scientific law. A law requires full observation. For instance, if I drop something from ten feet up, and see how fast it accelerates to the floor, I’ve watched the process from start to finish, and can observe it every step of the way.
We understand them, we can observe them from start to finish, we know them to be consistently true, and we’re readily able to replicate the results every single time we either test them, or use them to test something else.
I’ll spend the most time on this one, since it’s the one in the title of this post.
A theory, in common parlance, is often stated as if it’s a guess, but in science, it is much more than that. Theories and laws are effectively the gold standard of science, since science would say there is no knowable absolute (I’ll explain later).
Whereas a law can be observed from start to finish, a theory is a much more complex hypothesis, or set of smaller hypothesis to form a larger one, which are all wholly supported by the evidence, but cannot be fully observed.
For instance, thousands of biologists doing work on the genome project, or studying different species of plants or animals, have made hundreds of thousands of small studies on thousands of smaller questions that fit into the overarching theory of evolution as proposed by Charles Darwin. If any one of them had found evidence to prove the theory of evolution wrong, and their results were replicated by reputable biologists, the theory of evolution would have ended shortly after.
Scientists have updated things Darwin guessed might be true, but was wrong about, but nothing so far has proven the basic theory of evolution by natural selection to be incorrect. But each time biologists understand more about how animals evolve, each time fossils or old animal remains are discovered, each time DNA is analyzed, the evidence that comes out of it, fits neatly into the theory of evolution.
But the reason it’s a theory and not a law, is that we cannot go back in time (at least, not with today’s technology) and observe how life started, how LUCA was formed, etc., and fully observe evolution from it’s start to today. So scientists have to piece the puzzle together with historical evidence, and observations they can make.
If I can use a simple analogy; I will compare scientific theory to a jigsaw puzzle depicting Albert Einstein.
A theory is what the puzzle appears to depict, composed of pieces that have all been determined to specifically fit in it. That puzzle still has a few pieces missing from it you haven’t found yet (items you can’t observe), so you don’t entirely understand what the complete puzzle looks like. If the pieces depicting Einstein’s hair are missing for instance, you can still reasonably assume it’s a picture of Einstein by the face, you’re just not sure what his hair looked like at the time the picture was taken.
In science, it’s only accepted theory if no single piece has ever been proven wrong or falsified. If one piece turns out to be false, scientists must effectively scrap the whole theory, and remove any assumptions they might have made to that point about it.
In the case of evolution, there are thousands of independent studies on different aspects of evolution, most of which have been peer-reviewed, never been proven wrong or falsified, and that all consistently support the theory of evolution—each one completing a larger and larger chunk of that particular puzzle.
Just because we don’t know exactly how Earth went from a lifeless state to a with-life state, doesn’t mean the theory of evolution is just a guess. Anyone who argues is much, is denying all the work by the thousands of biologists who put in millions of hours studying this, often because they once read something in a competing religious text that disagrees with it. But reading one piece of anecdotal evidence doesn’t make someone an expert over those thousands of people putting in millions of hours of observations, testing, and studies. It takes supreme arrogance to think it does.
An absolute is something that is indisputable fact. For the most part, science would say you can never know an absolute, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Quite the contrary. Technically, I’d argue everything is essentially an absolute—facts are all around us. Something either is or it isn’t.
But the problem for us unfortunately, is that you can’t know any of them absolutely, because you can never know what you don’t know.
On any subject, there may be something you’re unaware of that changes everything (like Einstein’s thoughts on gravitation waves which forced a rethink of Isaac Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation), so you always have to remain open to new information.
Now that we’ve covered those, the reason it’s both wrong and insulting to say the theory of evolution is “just a theory” is due to the fact that thousands of scientists have done hundreds of thousands hours of work over the centuries on thousands of different aspects of evolution.
Work which is really hard to do, requires vast knowledge, is reviewed by their peers, and consistent with what they’ve all observed in the natural world repeatedly. All of it supports the theory of evolution, and is fundamentally different from creation which hasn’t been observed at all.
It should also be pointed out that DNA has largely confirmed evolution via mapping out genealogies of all living things. It’s also interesting to note that DNA wasn’t discovered until long after evolution was theorized. Much like when people thought the Earth was round, but then we went out to space and proved it is round by observing it.
So back to our “Evolution is JUST a theory” folks, most people who make this argument are people who are religious.
They’ve done no tests to confirm what their religion says is true, they’ve merely read a book that may or may not be true. They may accept it as faith, but this why it is called faith, not science.
While their belief might be right, demeaning thousands of brilliant minds who have done a lot of hard and painstaking work when they’ve done none, is profoundly insulting and ignorant when we see all the things around us that science has answered, and answered correctly.
This could be the curing of a myriad of diseases, being able to put a man on the moon, splitting an atom, or simply making a working smart phone. Science has a pretty amazing track record of being right.
Even if you are religious, let me ask you this. If you were feeling chest pains, and afraid you might be about to have a heart attack, are you calling 9/11 to summon a doctor first (a scientist), or would you call your priest and ask them to say a prayer first?
You can do both, but if the answer you chose is option one, you’re already instinctively putting your faith in science over religion, as I’d argue you should. So let’s stop putting religion over science in other aspects of our lives, too.
Recently, a friend of mine posted a meme from the Prepare to Take America Back Facebook page about a gun dealer who has bacon in his shop, and if a prospective gun buyer intends on buying a firearm from him, you have to eat the bacon. The purpose of course, is to prevent Muslims from buying guns.
A lengthy discussion ensued, so I felt this was a good opportunity to promote skepticism over ideology and point out the flaws in the arguments by analyzing both sides.
The Actions of the Dedicated
If someone is so delusional as to want to murder a number of people at will for their god, it stands to reason they are not subscribing to a rational mindset. They are highly dedicated to an end result, and nothing other than a good person with a gun is likely to stop them. So I’m pretty sure if they’re motivated enough to murder, they could easily justify eating a piece of delicious bacon for the cause. It is likely only rational non-violent Muslims would be restricted from buying guns in this manner.
I should also point out that many gun owners have come out against No-Fly-List restrictions on gun purchases because a few innocent people end up on that list. So preventing law-abiding Muslims from buying a gun just because of the actions of a few violent ones seems rather hypocritical.
While the numbers might be slightly different, you could replace the term “Gun Owners” with “Muslims” and make the exact same argument.
Like gun owners, most Muslims are indeed non-violent. So for gun owners fighting for gun rights by pointing to the above statistics to be ideologically consistent, they shouldn’t be promoting anti-Muslim views either.
The Constitutional Argument
The bacon scheme, while clever, many argue is a violation of the 1st amendment that seeks to prevent religious discrimination. But if we look at the verbiage of the first Amendment, it should be obvious it’s not an issue.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The first five words are, “Congress shall make no law.” As this is a private business owner, he’s not congress. The first amendment restricts government and protects him, not the other way around.
Aside from the Constitutional issue, the government may not discriminate because we all pay our taxes to it and it governs all of us equally, therefore we deserve equal protection under the law.
But whether it be the KKK, Black Panthers, Westboro Baptist Church, a Christian bakery owner not wanting to make a cake for a gay wedding, or this gun shop proprietor, in a free country, while government may never discriminate, they should never have the power to dictate who you are kind to or do business with. Let the free market sort it out.
The conversation that ensued on this meme was after a mutual friend commented “94% of terrorist attacks in America are committed by non-Muslims, look it up.”
Global research sounds mighty official, but then they cited a graph they stated came from Princeton University’s Loonwatch. Princeton university, being a prestigious institution, should lend some credibility as well. But there’s only one problem—Loonwatch’s “About” page only cites Princeton as the source of the definition of the word Loon from Princeton’s WordNet® 3.0. They may have attended Princeton (they don’t say), but there’s no indication this info is from Princeton University in any official capacity.
Since Loonwatch didn’t compile the data, this makes Global Research’s citation of Loonwatch irrelevant.
As you read the about page, it becomes clear, Loonwatch are opinion bloggers just like me, with no intrinsic credibility that comes from being a well-respected institution or peer-reviewed publication.
Opinion writers only get credibility by citing credible sources, as we don’t compile any of the data ourselves, we merely interpret it. But the genetic logical fallacy requires that we not dismiss their opinion, even if they’re not necessarily a credible source, so we’ll soldier on.
Loonwatch made a graph based on this FBI.gov data, which is a credible citation and to be commended. The thing that differentiates me from Loonwatch is that I won’t be pushing a particular narrative. I will present multiple ways to construe the data so no context is missing. Loonwatch failed to do this, and thus why I’d argue my post is more fair in its analysis.
Loonwatch did little to show how they came to their conclusion. The FBI study, cites individual attacks and who was deemed responsible for them, but did not in any way segregate them into the convenient categories Loonwatch used on their graph, so I can only guess that maybe Loonwatch researched each group deemed responsible individually, and categorized them by categories of Loonwatch’s choosing. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s important that Loonwatch at least explain their methodology, which they didn’t.
So don’t take anything Loonwatch or I say to the bank. Look at the FBI Data provided, and come to your own conclusions. I just hope to promote critical thinking.
The problems with the 94% statistic are numerous.
The first flaw is that it breaks the groups up into categories that aren’t mutually exclusive. For instance, you could have Latino Communists, so what group do they fall in on the above chart, Latinos or Communists? And wouldn’t Communists be considered an Extreme Left-Wing Group as well?
Second, the caption they have for the graph reads as follows:
Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Soil by Group, From 1980 to 2005, According to FBI Database
But Loonwatch’s groups are not how the FBI classified them. The FBI classified them by name, such as Al Qaeda, versus grouping them as Muslims like Loonwatch did, making the caption dishonest as they aren’t the groups “according to” the FBI as the caption states. That doesn’t mean Loonwatch’s interpretation of the data is inaccurate, but when people make false assertions like that, it talks negatively to their credibility, as they’re either being dishonest or sloppy in their work.
Thirdly: It counts each attack as one incident out of 316, no matter how many were killed or injured in that incident including many that resulted in no death or injury at all.
Loonwatch headed their post by saying, “Terrorism Is a Real Threat … But the Threat to the U.S. from Muslim Terrorists Has Been Exaggerated.” As such, including incidents which resulted in no human harm, is certainly a bit misleading. The FBI was simply tracking terror attack numbers, but Loonwatch used that data to argue threats to the U.S., which aren’t quite the same thing. The non-injurious attacks may or may not have been intended to harm anyone (a threat), but only scare people into compliance (terrorism). It’s entirely possible those attackers purposefully sought to avoid being a threat to life and limb by bombing unoccupied property, effectively making them non-threats.
Analyzing the data myself
First, let’s eliminate the aforementioned incidents that resulted in no harm to anyone and we’re left with 44 attacks versus 316 to analyze. I’m eliminating these because the narrative is about who is a threat to Americans, so incidents which resulted in no harm should be irrelevant. I researched every group responsible individually to categorize them myself and determine which were Muslim and not.
Muslims committed 6 of those 44 attacks, or 14%. This is more than double the 6% Loonwatch presented, using their same metric. But, it still supports their underlying argument that non-Muslims committed more attacks than Muslims, by far.
After I had done that, instead of treating each incident as if they’re the same, I’m going to categorize them by how many were killed at the hands of terrorists, which is more relevant to the narrative of the threats to Americans.
Of 3,178 terrorist murders, Muslims committed 2,982 of them (94%), which is ironically (and completely coincidentally) the same percentage, yet polar opposite, of the narrative Loonwatch portrayed. There were approximately 13,048 Muslim-committed injuries out of a 14,017, (93%) as well.
Now that may seem like I’ve refuted Loonwatch’s argument since that’s a 188% swing, but I haven’t. I’ve merely presented the same data in a different light.
To be fair, I will also point out that almost all of them are from the September 11th attacks. So one incident of 44 is severely skewing the data. But nonetheless, while Muslims don’t account for most of the incidents, by a landslide they account for the most deaths.
Using the same data Loonwatch did, I could make that argument, leave out the context I gave you, and give a conversely biased opinion to Loonwatch. It’s a lesson in how people leave out info without lying to lead you into a false impression.
What’s This Puerto Rico Stuff?
While we’re on the subject of skewing the data, I could eliminate the events in Puerto Rico as well.
While Puerto Rico is a U.S. Property, I think if you asked both Americans and/or Puerto Ricans whether they consider Puerto Ricans to be Americans, most would say no. They’re not a state, plus they’re not even allowed to vote in U.S. general elections. Again, the narrative was whether Americans are mostly under threat from Muslims, so adding Puerto Ricans to the list is a bit misleading to that narrative for most Americans
Eliminating non-injurious and now Puerto Rico attacks, I have 35 remaining incidents, of which Muslims were responsible for 6, or 17%, which still supports Loonwatch’s claim that non-muslims are responsible for more attacks.
We can agree to disagree on whether Puerto Rico should be excluded from this list or not, but at least I’m telling you I’m doing it, so you can make up your own mind.
Where’s the Current Data?
The FBI Crime Data table cited was 1980-2005. This is data that ended early in Bush’s second term. Click here for what the FBI gives for data after 2005. It’s vague at best, and not in a nice table like the 1980-2005 report, making it difficult to compile any data from it. Maybe the FBI has this info hidden away somewhere convenient for some reason, maybe they’re just lazy. But nonetheless, the data used for the argument is 11 years old.
But scrubbing through this less-than-helpful timeline from the FBI, while there were several terror attacks thwarted two were successful which killed thirteen people and injured thirty more, all committed by Muslim extremists. Add in the recent Orlando attack that happened after the Loonwatch study, there are 49 more deaths on that list, and you realize for the last decade, the only terror threat to Americans, if we’re going by recorded incidents, has been from Muslims.
I’m atheist, and thus against all religion, because I think religious extremists of any faith are capable of doing heinous things. But in the modern era, I do not think anyone could reasonably argue that most ideological unprovoked violent acts in the modern era are not committed by people who claim to be doing those acts in the name of Allah.
But it is important to understand that just because they are responsible for such violence, it does not in any way mean that a majority or even a disproportionate amount of Muslims are violent. Arguing the converse is pure bigotry. But the evidence is clear that for every one American killed or injured in a terrorist attack by non-Muslims, there have been approximately 93-94 who were harmed or killed by Muslims. A narrative that is rather different from the one made by Loonwatch, yet also entirely true.
I have no animosity towards Muslims that I don’t equally have against all religion, my only issue is with misleading stats to push a particular narrative. Whether someone is killed by a religious extremist, or killed by a gang member robbing a store, the end result is identical. As with anything in life, I believe it is important to remain skeptical and question everything, because data can always be presented in a quite misleading manner to serve someone’s agenda. I hold myself to a higher standard, but you can’t possibly know that. And you can’t know it about any other op-ed write either.
When I launched LogicalLibertarian.com, my intent was to not only spread the message of why liberty and science are important, but also to incite reasoned debate. Through such debate, I believe we evolve for the better.
My last post about vaccinations, and why I believe that making them mandatory if you are not going to self-quarantine, was a prime example of what happens when someone is forced to challenge their own beliefs. Mine changed 180° from when I was first presented the issue and about three hours later after considering it critically.
When I became an adult, mostly thanks to the economic recovery during the Reagan era, I considered myself a Republican.
Adulthood also brought me to the embracing of science. While I hadn’t fully understood the scientific method and the concept of being a skeptic, my questioning of the world around me led me to leave religion behind, and become agnostic.
The term agnostic is not always understood as to how it varies form an atheist. An agnostic would say that they have no evidence to support there is a god, but are open to all evidence. A devout atheist actively believes no god exists, just as theists believe there is a god, and are generally not open to evidence supporting a creator.
Even though none of these really affect me personally, things like blue laws, the drug war, preventing gay-marriage, and other such laws with an obvious religious underpinning, were areas where I simply didn’t agree with my beloved Republican Party. “No victim, no crime” just made sense to me.
My friend Pat and I share a common love for the game of poker, which is how we came to know each other. Like me, Pat is also atheist and libertarian.
Despite it’s sometimes seedy reputation, poker is a game that attracts brilliant minds who often like to discuss just about anything. Occasionally, the subject of politics comes up, and as far as I know, Pat has always been libertarian.
At first, I didn’t know much about the party other than what I saw from a couple of interviews with Dr. Ron Paul I had seen on TV. While I often agreed with Dr. Paul, I always found his delivery to be a bit whiny, and sometimes he came off almost kooky. It wasn’t until I came to understand Dr. Ron Paul years later, that I began to listen to his message, despite his unappealing delivery, and appreciate his logic.
As we discussed politics, it was Pat who convinced me, through reasoned debate instead of personal attacks, that I was in fact, more libertarian than Republican. While I was always for legalizing pot, even though I don’t use it, it was Pat who convinced me that we should legalize all drugs, not just cannabis; again, using reasoned debate.
So the libertarian collective was increased by one person, thanks to my friend Pat, and I’m happy for it.
There is no doubt I’m opinionated as hell, but I’ve always felt it’s important to have as few sacred cows as possible, and these days, I have two. Logic and liberty—hence my website.
The one difference between Pat and I, is that if there were no libertarian option, he would choose a Democrat, and I would choose a Republican. So when Dr. Rand Paul voiced the “vaccines may lead to mental illness” hypothesis in a recent interview, Pat brought it to my attention in an unflattering way, since he knew I was a fan of the junior Dr. Paul.
At first, I was annoyed that he did it, because I know it was somewhat of a dig at my Republican-leaning views, but knowing that I love science, he was right to point this out to me. Indeed, this is one time I don’t “Stand with Rand.”
But that’s OK, because I’ve always made it clear, I champion ideals, not people or parties. As long as I agree with Rand more often than I do any other presidential contender, he’s going to get my nod.
What I didn’t do, is troll Rand Paul on Twitter and call him a “So-Called-Libertarian,” or demean him as a person in any way.
Instead, I gave the subject serious thought and decided to come to my independent conclusion, regardless of what Dr. Paul or my friend Pat had to say. So I did my research, challenged the science in my post, and respectfully agreed to disagree on the matter with Rand. Thankfully, I’m not the only libertarian doing this, but if we want libertarianism to grow, we need more.
It is important to understand that it’s this kind of open-mindedness that will attract independent voters to the libertarian cause, which I hope is what we want, not slinging insults like monkeys fling poo.
Have you ever changed your views because the person challenging that view called you an idiot? I know I often don’t. It usually closes my mind completely—an effect I’m assuming is often the opposite of what the “libertarianazi” wanted.
If libertarianism is about freedom, then it should be about free thought too. I can disagree with Ron or Rand Paul on a couple of issues without losing respect for them as a whole.
Many libertarians were incredibly disrespectful towards Glen Beck when he stated he was becoming libertarian. But let’s think about the logic of this for a second. He is a man with a huge following due to his own internet media site, who can clearly spread the message of libertarianism more than most of us, and instead of trying to welcome him with open arms, some libertarians act like they don’t want him in our party?
It was the saddest display of nonsensical arrogance by some libertarians I’ve ever seen, and it certainly wasn’t done with libertarianism’s best interests in mind.
We cannot insult other libertarians who aren’t anarchists, some of us feel there is a role for government. Instead we must respectfully challenge them with reasoned debate, possibly outlining the unforeseen outcomes they may have missed in their proposal. But otherwise, encourage them to join us wholeheartedly where we agree.
We must also encourage Republicans and Democrats alike that we’ll stand with them in times when we agree on an issue.
And lastly, on a side note, for the love of God, the Guy Fawkes masks so many libertarians use as a social media icon is not helping either. The masks are creepy at best. But more importantly, they are certainly not libertarian.
If you’re libertarian and proud of it, show your own face. Hiding behind a mask tells people you have something to hide and that you’re untrustworthy. Do you want to attract good people, or do you want to attract people who are one run-in with government away from blowing up a building with innocent people in it? Guy Fawkes was a would-be terrorist, not a libertarian. People like that will not help our cause.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be an atheist. Since I wasn’t always one, how might I feel differently than someone who never had faith to begin with?
For instance, there are people who behave as though they hate their respective deity, then call themselves atheists. I’d argue those people are deists who hate themselves, yet blame their god for their own shortcomings instead of accepting personal responsibility for the way their lives are turning out.
In my mind, an atheist wouldn’t have any stronger feelings about God, Jesus, or Allah than they would about Zeus or Odin. To me, the only difference between mythology and religion is that the latter still has people who believe in it.
But one thing has curiously struck me lately; the concept of evil. Is this a passé term?
For those who are religious, evil is something put forth by the counterpart of their chosen deity. But I feel this term thwarts understanding of these acts by blaming a being like Satan instead of the perpetrator.
So let’s break down humans for a minute; or as we’re affectionately known in the biological community; Animalia (Kingdom); Chordate (Phylum); Mammalia (Class); Primates (Order); Hominidae (Family); Homini (Tribe); Homo (Genus); H. sapiens (Species).
Regarding the kingdom classification of Animalia, that means that despite our own desire to feel special, we are ultimately just an animal in the animal kingdom. We are certainly the most intelligent, but there are many animals that are stronger, faster, or otherwise better adapted to their environment, as natural selection dictates.
So while we are special for our intellect, all animals have their own unique specialties, making us all special in different ways, or none of us particularly special at all; depending on how you want to look at it.
Homo-sapiens have evolved as well or better than any other species to life on Earth in many unique ways. For instance, because of our intellect, we’re the best at customizing our environment to suit our needs, instead of having to adapt like all the others. We build houses with air conditioning and heaters, after all.
We’re also intelligent enough to not only be excellent hunters, yet also quite adept at growing our own food. When’s the last time you saw an elephant planting a row of corn?
One trait that many overlook however, is our unparalleled linguistic skills. Because we are social animals, our advanced ability to communicate with others, whether it be face-to-face, or using technology such as the phone or internet, strengthens our society in ways other animals cannot achieve. Every time you ask for help and receive it, you’ve exemplified this.
Oddly enough, we’re the only animal smart enough to have observed and understood natural selection and the benefits it brings to life as a whole, yet we’re compassionate enough to try to prevent it by helping the weak among us instead of allowing them to succumb to whatever their inferior traits might be. If that’s not an ultimate display of commonly accepted morally benevolent societal behavior, I don’t know what is.
This can be seen in the way we help the disadvantaged through charity, medical care, etc. Or simply the endangered species list, where we actively work to preserve an animal that seems incapable of adapting to its environment as natural selection dictates it should.
But back to the term “evil.” The term conjures up names like Adolf Hitler, Paul Pot, Saddam Hussein, Josef Stalin, et al., who are often touted out as examples, and it seems quite fitting on the face of it.
The reality is that if we define murder as the killing of an innocent life, the animal kingdom is full of mass murderers. Cheetahs are mass murderers of gazelles, but maybe we will give that a pass since they eat them to survive.
So what makes them different from human mass murderers? The fact that we are smarter, or that we understand the value of empathy and therefore can associate with the victim? In reality, it’s just that we are societal in ways that many other meat eaters are not.
The concept of morality is generally thought to be a religious one, where you are either with or against a particular dogma. Some people would argue that morals are universal, but this is a false premise. Whether it be gay rights, abortion, the death penalty, drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc., what is immoral to some is moral to others.
When people think of natural selection, they often use the phrase “survival of the fittest,” which can be misleading. It conjures images of some unyielding beast who kills anything that gets in its way. But societal beings are actually “fitter.”
If a strong violent psychopath were going through the neighborhood killing people, he might be successful if everyone in the neighborhood were also a sociopath and failed to band together to combat him. But if the others unite, the psychopath would likely end up dead due to simple strength in numbers.
They wouldn’t do it for the thrill of killing as the psychopath does, but simply for the betterment of their group. Via the death penalty, war, self-defense, and vigilantism, we tend to weed out the violent psychopaths among us for our own mutual benefit.
Many like to think it’s because we’re exterminating evil, but if there is no deity or anti-deity, all we’re really doing is preserving our societal construct.
As for those we consider evil, they’re just psychopaths, pure and simple. People lacking empathy and the innate desire to contribute to the advancement of the human race through societal behavior.
When we think of them as evil, we feed their ego by giving them the impression that they’re somehow closer to a deity or otherwise superhuman. But if evolution has worked in our favor because we are societal, they are actually inferior—arguably, mentally handicapped beings.
As psychological research continues to advance our understanding of the human brain, there is hope we’ll find solutions to mental disorders like sociopathy and/or psychopathy. But in the meantime, it would be nice if we stop sensationalizing these people by calling them evil; they’re just genetically and behaviorally defective. Elevating their status to something superhuman by calling them evil, will only encourage their behavior.
log·i·cal: capable of reasoning or of using reason in an orderly cogent fashion lib·er·tar·i·an: an advocate of the doctrine of free will; a person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action