Do you have to be intelligent to be evil?

A question like “do you have to be intelligent to be evil” can seem philosophical and vague, but it becomes less theoretical when you apply it to a death penalty court case like the one that has played out in Georgia. Must there be a conniving, Machiavellian mind behind evil, or is it something inherent in anyone — or everyone?

…..At the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s department of cognitive science, a research team explored the logic of evil by programming a computer character named “E” that “acted on” or was motivated by a definition of evil. The Rensselaer crew defined an evil person as one who decided to commit an immoral act without prompting and carry out the plan with the expectation of considerable harm. When reflecting on those deeds, the person would either find incoherent reasons for his or her actions or think the damage caused was good.

….Trying to get an objective answer about evil or intelligence is never going to work. We all have too many inherent prejudices and biases to ever get a response that satisfies us. But looking at something like Dr. Welner’s Depravity Scale does lead me to believe that critical thinking about intelligence and evil does have a purpose in our society: if we’re ever asked to use our own definitions of what is evil and intelligent to judge someone’s actions, we better have a compelling reason to believe our own opinions.

Hakone Open Air Museum
Intelligence and Evil

 

That was an excerpt from an article I read the other day, and though it goes on to talk about insanity pleas and so on, it reminded me of what weighs on all our minds.

Like a lot of us, I’ve been watching Gaza, and also the Malaysian plane shot down in Ukraine.

Since I can’t do anything else to help this world gone mad, where children are murdered (while they play on a beach or fly 33,000 ft above the earth towards a vacation or their homes), I try to gather positive energies. If the world goes negative, the only thing in my small, insignificant hands is to be positive. I can only add myself to the sum total of positive energies in this world, and thus stand against the negatives.

But somehow, I wonder whether the intelligence that has given us humans such an advantage in evolution would one day be our undoing. (Even in the animal world, it is the dolphins who rape, the chimpanzees who murder– is evil a function of intelligence quotient, after all?)

What do you think? Is what’s happening in the war-torn areas of the world a result of intelligence gone mad? Other than ranting and fighting virtual wars on Facebook, how can we as human beings help undo this horrific situation?

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96 comments

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  1. Rudy Owens

    I would say an abundance of war crimes evidence shows you do not have to be intelligent to be evil. I read from a lot of published research that the average age of a guard at the death camp Birkenau (the main killing camp at Auscwhitz) was under 20 years of age, and they all had less than a college education. They also were not deemed to be the most intelligent of the many people who administered the place. They simply fell into the organizational structure/bureaucracy and carried out their orders. Intelligent people were most certainly involved, but uncreative and sometimes unimaginative people carried out evil daily, without really thinking. Here’s but one example of going with the flow and not demonstrating intelligence at all. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/spiegel-interview-with-a-91-year-old-former-auschwitz-guard-a-988127.html

  2. jeffguenther8

    We need to abandon the idea the the end justifies the means. We need to teach logic in schools. We need to stop establishing atheism as the state religion. We need to stop elevating envy to a virtue. Stupid people can be evil. Even more so, ignorant people.

  3. Robert Jepson

    A thought provoking post 😉 I believe intelligence may perhaps overcome the worlds problems but the barrier is the ego not evil.
    All we can do as individuals is work to understand and control our own egos, becoming beacons of light joining with others. Eventually a tipping point will be reached where the light excedes the dark. Much ax you said ‘I can only add myself to the sum total of positive energies in this world, and thus stand against the negatives.’ 😉

  4. Leigh W. Smith

    “Is what’s happening in the war-torn areas of the world a result of intelligence gone mad? Other than ranting and fighting virtual wars on Facebook, how can we as human beings help undo this horrific situation?” Truly wish I could answer that, Damyanti. I guess I feel that the root of the problem [of war (including societal war, as between rich and poor or different “classes” of people), rape, murder, genocide, incest, abuse, or neglect] lies in empathy. Can you mentally place yourself in that other person’s skin? If you don’t have that empathy, then either you are mentally ill or diseased, so to speak, [which is probably beyond your control in many cases], you are naive/haven’t been taught empathy (although I do feel some empathy is innate), or you are willfully ignorant. So, rather than violence resulting from intelligence, it’s generally stemming from ignorance (which keeps the fear ball rolling and reaping, forever). I also feel that, unfortunately, religion today (and in recent human history) is serving as a great divider of people. Some people fear what is different because they can’t or won’t understand it; the fear and ignorance turn to hate; and hate kills empathy and ignites rage. That is not to say that no good people are religious people or that religion has never sown or reaped good in “this world.”

  5. writingsprint

    Is what’s happening in the war-torn areas of the world a result of intelligence gone mad? Evil happens everywhere, even in the animal kingdom. So does goodness. So I would say the short answer is no. I don’t think it’s a result of intelligence. Kindness and intelligence are what’s needed to stop it from happening. I don’t mean it in a pollyanna way. It would take enough compassion on both sides to push through centuries of hate, and enough intelligence on both sides to come up with solutions both could live with.

    Other than ranting and fighting virtual wars on Facebook, how can we as human beings help undo this horrific situation? Support the international Red Cross to help the victims and refugees on both sides. Write letters to our politicians. Vote for candidates who have more human-centered agendas. Pray, meditate, or do whatever metaphysical thing we do to ask for divine intervention.

  6. etazooma

    I don’t think Evil is a human quality, but a supernatural force that is very present in the world and can and does work through people.
    I prayed about that very thing this morning. What can a person do when others are being harmed in other countries by war, etc, other than sit by and watch from a distance?
    Human beings bear witness to events with their eyes and draw conclusions and are touched by what they see emotionally and intellectually; however, to judge by sight is judging without knowing what is really occurring behind the scenes.
    They are many events that take place in this world that are the result of cause and effect and prophesy; supernatural forces are at play that humans have no control over.
    Prayer is a powerful act of Love! But how many people take the time to pray to a supreme being and ask God to intervene within earthly affairs? Or pray for the healing, wellness and restoration of a land and its people? For God to open the eyes of people to see who they are being and who they are not being? To realize that killing and harming one another isn’t Love. Etc.
    I’m asking a question, not pointing a finger at anyone; that very realization came to my awareness today. I too look and say “how horrible” and my heart is touched by the harm being done unto other human being, but then I say what can I do about it? What I found myself being made aware of today was – have you prayed for your sisters and brothers/your neighbor? And I hadn’t; I hadn’t come before a supreme being/God to receive guidance to, ask for revelation as to what was taking place beyond what my eyes could see; I hadn’t prayed and asked God to come and heal the land and for the people to be healed, restored, etc., and I believe in God and the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s just that for some reason (most likely having my attention on something else other than God) the awareness to do so escaped me, but as soon as I received the revelation – I did so!
    It is so easy to be met with distraction in this world and for ones attention to be diverted away from God; especially if one claims that there is no God and that humans are in control. The only safe haven in this world is to realize that there is a God and to come unto that God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Doing so is the only protection against Evil. And things are only going to get worst in this world, not better.
    The fact remains that because humans don’t know what to do, is a sign that a higher intervention than human intervention is needed; imagine if every human being on this planet was praying for intervention from God? It would reveal to God the hearts of humans on this planet; not praying to a higher being/God also reveals the hearts of humans on this planet.
    Not praying reveals that our thoughts are elsewhere; not being focused on God; or, there’s no belief in God/ a Creator; or that people have went away from God and in some way think that they have the solution to Evil when the truth is humans beings don’t.
    What matters is the hearts of humans being elevated to a point of loving one another; however, humans can’t transform themselves, only God can accomplish that within a human being; never the less, human beings can be made aware of being lost or of being in darkness, and not knowing what to do is being in a state of being lost. People have gone away from God and claimed their own divinity, power, strength and ability to change the world, and the state of the world reflects back to humans that without God it only continues to worsen. Human beings didn’t create themselves or the world.
    I’m thankful for the awareness that came to me today and I’m passing it on! My hope and prayer is that all humans will come back to God and that the entire world will start praying!! God will do the rest!
    God bless Israel, Gaza, America and all people and nations on the earth! I pray God will pour out His Spirit upon the earth; call humans out of darkness; give all people awareness, open eyes and change hearts!
    Love in action is the key! And only God can change hearts!

  7. Dawnasong

    Intelligence can be used for good or evil. Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and many others used thir intelligence for good. Evil is a choice. If we focus on the good it gets better, but if we focus on the bad it gets worse. The laws of the universe cannot lie! If we stay in positive energy we will attract more positive energy!
    “The law of attraction.”
    Great article, I enjoyed it greatly. It is persuasive for pondering thought.
    Sincerely,
    Dawnasong

  8. burhan ayub

    coincidence or not, I have been thinking the same for the past couple of days. The things going around in world often force me to think negatively and I too try to shrug away these thoughts by shutting myself off all the social networks

  9. AlexM

    “Evil’s behavior” as a crime or as something morally unacceptable for “normal” people? And what and who exactly is “normally normal”? Some of so called “normal” people (politicians, cultural idols and guru of every stripe, so called celebrities and etc.,) do more harm for society than bunch of shoplifters.

  10. masquerade21

    I think to be truly evil you only have to have a desire to harm, the intelligence to understand this desire and it’s evilness and the willingness to act on it. It’s a complex question and every answer will be different. I haven’t made up my mind as to whether you can be evil without intelligence.

    Thanks for following my blog 🙂

  11. LAMarcom

    “how can we as human beings help undo this horrific situation?”
    I don’t know, but I do know humanity needs to become more humane.

    As one who worked in the Sinai desert for three years and as one who has driven through Gaza many, many, many times (granted, years ago), I completely empathize with the Palestinians. But I also kept a flat in Tel Aviv and had many Israeli friends as well. I often felt the frustration as one just outside-looking-in…
    The whole mess is heartbreaking.

    • 61chrissterry

      Yes LAMarcom, it is very difficult to side with one against the other, when you can see that each have very relevant points to consider. Currently, neither side will give in, even though it is hard to see how conflict, violence and war, will solve the differences. But, as each distrusts the other, will discussion and mediation, also ever succeed.

      If we do believe in miracles, will it not be one for peace to come about.

  12. D.J.

    I have seen some unintelligent people in my life doing malevolent things, but never murder. Usually, you learn that’s more of a person with a mentally unstable mind. The only thing you can do as one person is to remain positive and to love all. I know it sounds strange, but kindness is the way to go.

  13. grievingsparrow

    This definitely leaves me thinking. I do not believe intelligence is needed for you to be evil. I do believe though that in the war torn areas of the world…it is more the leaders many times who serve to fuel the fires of war and therefore power and politics play a key role in those areas.

  14. hilarycustancegreen

    Such big questions. The confusing thing is that we are all, all over the world, asking these questions, except the people pulling the strings, who are clearly asking different questions. Personally, I don’t think intelligence is the source or even the correlate of ‘evil’, in fact as I write evil, I have put in quotes as I’m not sure I really believe in it as an entity. I agree, though, that how our brains work is part of the problem. The brain and the rest of the body are full of hormones and these cross with memories, so you get, for instance, testosterone fuelled revenge, and any number of other complexities. I’d better stop before this turns into an essay, but I agree we have to hold our tiny hands out to try and stop this. It might seem incredible, but I believe we are less violent than our ancestors.

    • Leigh W. Smith

      I agree, Hilary. I was uncomfortable with the word “evil,” too, couched as it is in religious philosophies of the world. I guess I think of “evil” (if I have to use that word) as being anti-empathy or without empathy. Someone of X religion will define evil, PERHAPS, as a person who believes in Y religion (or as someone with no religion or no god, gods, or goddesses). If we explore anthropology and biology, in terms of our link to other great apes, I also think we are less violent now than, say, 30,000 or 50,000 years ago — where we have followed the bonobo model, so to speak (make love/art, not war), we have become less violent. I think Greenblatt’s Swerve book might explore this topic some, but, alas, it’s on my shelf still and on my to-read list.

  15. earthstills

    J-P Sartre has a characteristic ‘answer of sorts’ to your question:
    “He was free, free in every way, free to behave like a fool or a machine, free to accept, free to refuse, free to equivocate; to marry, to give up the game, to drag this death weight about with him for years to come. He could do what he liked, no one had the right to advise him, there would be for him no Good or Evil unless he thought them into being.”

  16. Ian Andrew

    The doing of evil and the concept of evil are fundamentally different things. If self-awareness means intelligence then yes, one needs to be intelligent to understand one has “done evil”. A chicken, thrust into the cock-pit (albeit trained to do so by a suposedly “intelligent” human), can be fairly “evil” in it’s treatment of the other bird but, does it know it is evil? Probably not. If I know it is evil and I carry out the act then it IS evil and I require intelligence to make that assessment. If I, as a human, regard the actions of an animal as evil am I not just projecting my moral sense on to a creature who may not have the same drivers and capacity to understand? Saying all of that, the current upswell in violence prompted by petty-regional differences and religious disharmony are not evil. They are, sadly, par for the Human condition. It ’twas ever so’ and probably will ‘for ever be’.

  17. Ruchi Chopra

    You got wonderful blog!Thought-provoking post,consequences are worst from this kind of unjust & intolerance behavior, I feel terrible wen I heard such kind of news every other day,frustration, anguish,remorse? hope we can change something for better tomorrow.

  18. Anmol Rawat

    No it need not necessary be intelligent. Evil can be created and nurtured by anyone irrespective of the intelligence. People are promoting evil even in the name of religion, what can we expect!

  19. nimadas

    Evil doesn’t need intelligence.A deviant mind may or may not be intelligent,it doesn’t understand the consequences in most times or just doesn’t care. Its so sicking what is happening in the world,what can we do but feel frustration and sorrow.

  20. Crystal Collier

    I think in order for it to be true evil, there must be great intelligence involved. If you don’t realize what you’re doing is wrong, you’re not really evil.

  21. My Ink

    There are many evil masterminds,many evil some minds and many evil no minds so i think evil can be anywhere and for many reasons.We can only help the situation by doing good things and encouraging others to be good too.

  22. 61chrissterry

    Has one artice or posting provoked so much thought, which then leads to more thought, as this.

    So much to inspire others.

    Thank you to all contributors.

    • Damyanti

      I’m just grateful to everyone who has taken the time to come here and chat, including you. The more the positive energy we generate, the less the negativity in this world. 🙂

  23. Peter Nena

    Intelligence or no intelligence, evil is inherent in us. It is subtle in some people, conspicuous in others. I do not know whether evil begins with the craving for power or the craving for power itself is a consequence of evil. Power to be more important, to dominate, rule, to be worshipped–it has destroyed us. The basic manifestations of evil, the seven deadly sins, are greed, pride, envy, lust, covetousness, sloth, anger. All other sins have their roots in these, yet all these have to do with the hunger for power over others. Concerning intelligence: when scientists began to investigate nuclear energy, I am not sure their foremost goal was to create an object of terror. They meant well. But the monster in us perverted the cause. As it does many other things initially well-purposed. There is a video titled The Most Evil Men Who Ever Lived. Some of those men were not very intelligent.

    • Damyanti

      That’s such an insightful take on humanity, Peter.

      I agree to an extent, but I do believe that greater intelligence might just lead to greater evil. Not to say that intelligence is in itself evil, but that it can be used for evil.

      • Peter Nena

        An intelligent person commits evil while justifying it. He popularizes the oxymoronic phrase “necessary evil” and the foreboding “devil’s alternative” while people suffer and die in deplorable misery, and children are born deformed and monstrous. He knows his actions are unacceptable, yet he remains relentless and unapologetic, focusing rather on the logic of his evil–that out of it there will be a handsome gain. He is the Devil incarnate.
        On the other hand, an outraged fool is a beast. He doesn’t know his actions are evil; he may not even have the concept of evil. He’s out to hurt you and that’s what he’ll do. He has no principles, no philosophy, no reason. Only a single-minded fury. He doesn’t care for the law, doesn’t know it. He believes he is right, and he is unstoppable. He is the scariest thing you can ever meet. You cannot reason with him.

    • lightravellerkate

      Evil exists in the hearts and minds of the intelligent, the “normal” and the less intelligent. Its found everywhere in those with a loving childhood and those whove been abused.

  24. Scott

    Evil is just live spelled backwards… good and evil are judgements and have to some degree a relevance to the eye of the beholder. Intelligence like knowledge is a tool for good or evil and sometimes is both at the same time. Opportunities for good and evil are around us all of the time. The world is never without either because when all is dark the glimmer of hope is that there is still good somewhere and when all is sunshine we must not fool ourselves that suffering will never come.
    Empathy is the knowledge of the interconnected web of all individuals and the inheirant worth of each individual. Most would like to say that empathy is a sign of intelligence. Evil villains think empathy is a weakness.

    • 61chrissterry

      Thank you, Scott for another slant on the subject. I especially like the reference re evil to live. This is how life is, people just have to decide which way they are going. We all have the opportunity to follow the life we wish, irrespective of background, which many use as the excuse for how they are.

    • Damyanti

      Empathy. Absolutely– to me, empathy is the answer. Only when we have more compassion, kindness and empathy, evil would recede. Most times sin is to be blame, not the sinner.

  25. The Rural Iowegian

    It is not simply a matter of a simple coming together and changing the minds of others who although frequently intelligent but equally psychopathic. Many have deep rooted grudges that have been carried for decades or centuries that until a generation is born and raised away from the hatred and mental illness will peace have a chance.

  26. Kinshuk

    Good point raised.
    I cannot think of how what is happening around today is an outcome of intelligence gone astray. Yes, we have seen criminal cases of gifted minds. Yes, we often come across books citing similar cases. But the reckless killing, the molestations and exploitations done are an outcome of a perverted mind. I see no slight trace of intelligence in it. Man has become slave to his greed, a greed that I think isn’t a mark of a sane mind.

  27. Remember an Inspiring Ocean

    In my opinion, being evil doesn’t measure on the intelligence of a person. They will be evil as long as they have intentions to do bad things to others. Which is terrible because most of the time, innocent people are the one suffering the consequences of their actions.

    I honestly don’t know how to stop this. Maybe the best thing I can do is, do good deeds to others and hopefully they will do the same.

    #RememberanInspiringOcean

    • Damyanti

      do good deeds to others and hopefully they will do the same.

      That’s the solution right there. Even amid the darkness of Gaza, I hear of scattered acts of kindness, empathy and humanity, and sane voices trying to put a stop to the madness.

      Peace be upon our world.

  28. Ryan

    The problem is, it´s a moot point. There is no such thing as evil. Bad things are done by broken people. Bad things happen in nature out of survival. No good, no evil, just is.

  29. Aarya

    I don’t think so a person has to be intelligent to commit heinous crimes…when Delhi Gang Rape happened the convicts who are involved…all are illiterate and come from poor families…where meeting daily means is more than enough…I guess it is more related your upbringing…parents and teachers and family and friends play a very crucial role in creating an evil or beautiful mind…

    • Damyanti

      I’m not sure if conditioning alone was responsible for the evil in those men, because a lot of men live even today in similar situations and upbringing, without turning criminal. can the source of evil always be pinpointed?

  30. davidgturner

    This is an excellent topic, but I think it boils down to circular logic, because we assume the perpetrator should know better. Reproduction for ducks would qualify as gang rape in an intelligent species. Even for people, we differentiate between 1st degree murder and accidental death based on intent, which assumes some level of intelligence.

  31. draliman

    I think evil is balanced by conscience, rather than being a product of intelligence or lack thereof. Although if someone has no conscience whatsoever and therefore is unable to distinguish right from wrong, can anything they do actually be “evil”?

    I guess you need a modicum of intelligence to commit an “evil” act, otherwise you’re just acting on instinct, the greatest of those being survival and procreation, I suppose.

    Now I’m second-guessing myself. Sorry, I have no idea what I’m talking about 🙂

  32. Jessi

    I think “evil” is linked to intelligence in the sense that you can only commit an evil act by being aware of it. There are plenty of animals that kill, for example, but only intelligent animals call it murder. For the unintelligent, killing is just a part of nature. Unintelligent creatures do not commit good or evil acts – they just survive.

    So yes, only intelligent creatures can commit evil, but I think that’s only because by definition an evil act requires thought. What makes us special is that we know what we’re doing is wrong, but do it anyways. The upside is that from the same source, we can also do good, amazing, wonderful things. I suppose that’s the trade-off.

  33. Capt Jill

    I’m not so sure the kinds of things you’re talking about are due to intelligence (or lack of it). IMHO, the situation is getting worse and worse due to increasing numbers of people living on this planet.
    I think the most positive thing we could ever hope to do would be to promote birth control (instead of wars and/or diseases to kill off the over population). We are filling up the planet with more and more people. We are crowding ourselves into cities and starting to go nuts, just like a bunch of rats in a cage.
    I think people need a certain amount of space, a certain amount of access to nature, healthy clean food/water/air, a frontier to challenge their mind, body and spirit. We are running out of all of those things.
    We are also killing off every other thing on this planet and using up the resources of the earth itself.
    I think each and every person deserves to live a GOOD life. Not a life of unending struggle to feed themselves on $1/day like millions do!
    I think we may need to completely re-think our entire way of looking at the world and our place in it. One of the first things to go ought to be the idea that anyone has any right to rule over any other human being!

  34. ccyager

    This reminds me instantly of William Golding’s novel “The Lord of the Flies.” I don’t think intelligence has much to do with evil or good except in the way they are implemented in an individual’s life. I do believe we are each inherently good AND evil, and it is how we are socialized that truly informs our choice one way or the other. It is a choice to a certain extent. People who are lacking in socialization, i.e. people whose parents were absent or abusive, may be more likely to choose evil over good simply because they don’t know any better. Neurologists have also placed the lack of conscience in a specific place in the human brain, i.e. if that section is damaged for some reason, that person will be highly likely to be psychopathic.

    Here’s another thought: it’s quite possible that someone whom society views as evil actually perceives society, or some aspect of society such as religion, as evil instead of good. The heart does not always win over the mind.

    As for current events, I have listened to friends on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict and they sound eerily the same. This conflict has roots so far in the past that no one can really remember specifics. Now it’s about power, territory, and respecting human rights — that the Arabs respect the Israelis’ human rights and the Israelis respect the Arabs’. I dare not write more for fear of over-simplifying further this conflict between these two old cultures. The fact remains that they must CHOOSE to end it, to talk to each other, and accept responsibility for their roles as well as make amends — BOTH sides, not one or the other. I see both as equally responsible, and right now, equally unable to truly listen and comprehend the other side..

    The Ukraine, I think, is also about power, territory and identity. However, despite Russia’s attempt to muddy the waters, the shooting down of flight MH17 is fairly clear-cut. Someone fired a surface-to-air missile at the plane, probably thinking it was a Ukrainian military plane despite its flying altitude, that brought it down, killing everyone on board. There was audio evidence played on American TV of a conversation between a Russian commander and a separatist commander talking about the shoot-down, and it’s crystal clear the separatist commander either ordered the shoot-down or executed it himself. (I have not heard it since, and I wonder if it was obtained by covert surveillance.) Since the Russians, i.e. Vladimir Putin, do not want to take responsibility for supplying the separatists with the missiles and the training to use them, I’m certain that we will see even more attempts by the Russians to blame everyone but themselves. I’m happy that for once America had nothing to do with this mess.

    Thanks for the provocative questions and post!
    Cinda

  35. Julia Lund

    I’m not sure that doing evil is linked to intelligence, or lack of it. I think that there is no doubt that there are people without the capacity for compassion or empathy who commit evil acts, but then perhaps that is more a question of mental health. Within the context of what is happening in Gaza, the Ukraine, Syria and countless forgotten corners of the earth, when you hear differing factions state their case, evil seems to be in the eye of the beholder. And what seems to fire the evil that factions do to one another is unforgiveness, which has given birth to hatred that consumes and grows more extreme in its outpouring and expression.
    What can I do? The world-wide stage on which so many evil stories unfold before our individual eyes seems too immense for one individual heart to effect change. But before evil became the collective consciousness of a community, it started with unforgiveness in one or two hearts. For me, I am with you when you talk about being the small positive amongst the negative. If that’s how negative grows, then why not positive, too? If hatred can breed such devastaing results, why can’t love be as transforming? A dreamer? Some may say I am(!).
    I have a take on Jesus’ tale about faith the size of a mustard seed being able to move mountains. A mustard seed by itself is so small, but if millions are sown together, the trees become so large that moving or overwhelming that mountain seems less of an impossible feat. I believe that societies and communities are able to change, but only one heart at a time. And that starts with me.

  36. Susan Scott

    I’m looking forward to reading the other comments on this thought provoking post Damyanti which I will do after I’ve posted mine. I reckon we all have the propensity for evil, and good. Or the potential, if you like. A torch is just a torch until it is switched on. I contain the Mother Theresa and the Medusa within me .. and sometimes I act against my own interests. It takes consciousness to know the consequences, even unintended consequences, of our actions. Like the torch, I can switch on for good or bad, even if at times I act against myself eg as in being lazy or over eating or … fill in the space.

    It is a deeply philosophical and psychological question to which there is no short answer. As individuals we can play our microscopic part and do what we can in a world gone mad which will be reflected in the macrocosm as well. Raise the vibrations in whatever way we can … be aware, and know that our small acts of kindness and compassion mean a great deal.
    Garden of Eden Blog

  37. Stuff Jeff Reads

    There is no shortage of uneducated people who commit evil acts. That said, intelligent people who turn to the dark side are much more efficient at it. Take the Nazis. Highly intelligent, very well educated, hence, very effective at their evil tasks. And let’s face it, in the information age, every sociopath now has access to a plethora of information. Enough said. Now back to my coffee 😉

  38. 61chrissterry

    Evil and inteligence, just what are they. Inteligence can be measured, or so we are informed by IQ testing, but can evil be measured or is there some such force of evil. Is not evil down to a persons own perspective and this is then defined by Society. What one considers to be evil may not be so by another person or another country.

    Taking into account the current perceived evil acts of Gaza and the Malaysian shot down plane, are these evil acts in the eyes of the perpetrators, while they are deemed so in our own eyes.

    Why do these acts occur, is it by a show of power or assumed power. If it is, then is the use of power to be considered as evil, but not intelligence, as you do not need to be inteligent to use power.

    As to how these acts can be stopped or mitigated, is the ultimate question, for which, I believe, unfortunately there is, cuurently, no answer.

    You could say appeal to their inner feelings of good, but who is to say that these inner feelings exist in these persons of power.

  39. vishalbheeroo

    It’s horrific what is happening in the world and I mean what right do we have to kill innocent people and attacking women. Humanity is in decline and my hope of a better world is whittling down by the day.

  40. darkenwulfbytes

    I’m sure most people who see an evil act would say it stems from inner desires of rage. However, an act to be truly evil stems from a Concept and the wish to see what would happen. Almost scientific with little regard to human emotions. That’s my take anyway.

  41. Veronica Haidar

    Perhaps evil isn’t so much down to a failure of intelligence as a failure of imagination ie a lack of a capacity to see things from the perspective of others or to feel for them. I think it’s often the result of extreme solipsism.

  42. Mante! B

    I do believe that “evil” is within all human beings and all existent beings alike. We are inate savages that have found a way to sedate that hunger, but for how long?

    These are just the ramblings of a college.student. Don’t mind me.

    Great read

  43. pathbreakingwriter

    Your article is great and different. I like to write on such topics, but I guess I am too possessed with my work to think so creatively. Anyways, I believe it is more about the “intention” and less “intelligence”. I mean take for instance suicide bombers. You don’t really need intelligence to walk into a crowd and blow yourself up. It is the intention that matters, at least I think that way. On a small scale let’s take local gangs that operate in particular urban areas. They are just bunch of people and if the whole city feels the need or has the intention to wipe them off, they can. Hope I am making sense here. 🙂 I usually take time to put my point forward.

  44. J.Gi Federizo

    I think evil does not depend on intelligence. The only time intelligence come into play is when one plans what evil things to do and how to execute them well to his/her liking. There is also a difference between being evil, which lacks compassion and conscience, and doing something really bad because your mind is incapable of being logical (which does make it hard to judge when one makes an insanity plea).

  45. Love, Life & Whatever

    I guess intelligence is a necessary evil…in the sense what we say ignorance is bliss…but then channelising ones intelligence is the most powerful tool one can have…intelligence without conscience and humility is evil…

  46. The Laughable Cheese

    There is no such thing as evil, just different shades of broken. However when broken is regarding a human in order to feel better this person often takes pain out on others, or has no ability to feel at all. However with thinking, well if people couldn’t think, then I think our random impulses would make us do illegal things.

  47. annesquared

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

    A favorite quote of mine – and one I believe applicable to our world, today.
    Namaste, A2

  48. Ana. K

    Intelligence is not good or bad, it just is. Intelligence is defined as the ability to apply knowledge and skills to complete an objective, so it can go either way. One can apply skills/knowledge for the good of society or the opposite. I’d say that evil is a debased form of intelligence. There is the functional type of intelligence that favours society and the type that is contrary to the values many of us have in regard to a functional society. Evil intelligence takes values such as sharing, restraint, negotiation, compassion/empathy and inverts them for a purpose that will only favour the few, and then it will go to great lengths to justify its actions.
    Evil is a form of intelligence, but it is misguided and something that is counter productive to society at large. It only suits an individual or minority (i.e. a nation with a hateful regime, etc) with respect to the rest of society or the world.
    When a political body (i.e. my own government) tells me that country ‘X’ is ‘for me’, and that political body supports indiscriminate killing and never questions, let’s say, civilian deaths, then I have to question that political body, because what it’s saying to me, and many others is that, ‘this killing is necessary and it is for your benefit,’ and that, to me is evil as well.

  49. annesquared

    Stupidity and immoral behavior are not mutually exclusive, therefore intelligence is not necessary for evil (or immoral behavior.) Emotional topics often cause the lines to be blurred.

  50. Payel

    Evil is always focused, prepared and determined! There are endless opportunities to think, feel and do evil! It is ultimately a matter of choice! Emotions are bipolar in nature. What are we allowing ourselves to feel? What is that ‘feeling’ making us do? These questions require ‘conscious’ answers. Being only intelligent irrespective of whether it is sane or insane will not help us find them.
    Countless discussions, researches, writings gets focused on ‘evil’. Yet it has always happened and will continue to do so…
    As a conscious person choosing to do good I focus on remaining positive and offer my heartfelt prayers to all those who need it. God Bless!

  51. Jacqui Murray

    I’ve spent a good bit of time trying to understand the evolution of ‘war’ ‘hate’ as well as softer topics like ‘jewelry’ ‘god’ ‘decorating one’s body’. These seem to result from analyzing, thinking, problem-solving. They include emotion at their core so aren’t instinct.

    That’s about as far as I’ve gotten.

  52. Dalo 2013

    Intelligence can enlighten a soul and can bring on wisdom, which serves us all so well. However, intelligence can also bring on a bit of a superiority complex, false beliefs of power & entitlement…which then brings the ego from which corruption soon follows. In this sense, intelligence then becomes lost amid such turmoil and finally when evil arrives, there may be a history of intelligence, but lack of any wisdom at all. These individuals are the worst kind, and generally are at the root of every set back the human race has ever had. Sigh…

    Great post, great question.

  53. JF

    I think that the first correct step would be to know history and to be objective. Thousands of children were killed in Rwanda but you don’t mention it. Many children were and are killed daily for many years in wars in the Middle East between shiites and sunny arabs. Chemical weapon was used by Saddam Hussein against Iran and against kurds.
    The evil existed for centuries. I was in Dresden and I know that allies bombed civilians of this city without consideration how many children were killed.
    Germans bombed cities of England also without thinking about children.
    Wars are terrible! My country (USA) must be strong to prevent them!

  54. Michelle Stanley

    A thought provoking question. One does not have to be an intellect to be evil, as it comes in all forms. But I think it is worse when evil is sometimes executed by the intelligent ones in power.

  55. Beth Caplin

    Personally I don’t believe in good people. I think we’re all, by default, sinners who try to be good…some do a better job of it than others. We’re all more or less capable of being ‘evil’ but in recent times, I think technology makes it easier. Google can teach you almost anything, and the internet makes it easier to gain access to weapons. Intelligence may be a factor, but accessibility plays a huge role as well.

  56. illimitableoceanofinexplicability

    Intelligence gone mad! Let’s see, if we’re to believe most dictionaries intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, a definition which on the surface of it seems to have nothing to do with rape or murder, though one could acquire knowledge of how to do those things (raping and murdering skills) and then apply them, which I think would qualify that person, not intelligence, as mad. However, one could rationalize (using knowledge acquired) reasons for murder, and then, through the acquisition of certain skills convince others it’s OK to kill some people under certain circumstances which, sadly, still takes place regularly, though you never hear anyone (most anyone that is) now justifying rape for any reason, which may be a result of us applying the knowledge that we have somehow acquired that tells us rape is wrong.
    This horrific situation can be undone by humans who keep acquiring and applying knowledge and skills. So, get to it!

  57. Brian Bixby

    Few people ever consider themselves evil; most have excuses for what they do. That’s why I think the computer program unrealistic: it does not mirror how people who commit evil actually think.

    Then there’s the question of harm. Do we consider a bear they preys on fish in a river evil, or just acting according to its nature? Is there a distinction to be made between viciousness (harming others, causing great pain) and evil?

    Or let’s turn the question on its head: does one have to be intelligent to do good? Not necessarily super-bright or anything like that, but consciously aware of what one is doing and doing it with an aim to be helpful and kind?

    It looks more as if intelligence enables us to be good or evil, but doesn’t determine that. We’d be better off trying to understand how people end up justifying to themselves courses that others consider evil (and of course why others would consider it evil).

  58. Dan Antion

    Maybe it takes intelligence to disguise evil as a noble effort, a patriotic duty or the will of God. you raise good questions but I think we will be short of answers.

  59. viewpacific

    I wonder if there is any single or simple solution. Some of these tribes have been fighting each other off and on for centuries.
    One hopeful aspect: more than ever before in human history, more people live in health and peace. What shall we how are blessed do to invite our sad fighting brothers to drop their ineffective ways?

  60. Andrew

    I think it only takes “selfishness.” Dogs will turn on each other over food, as will many animals. It’s simply putting my well-being over yours.

  61. V. Alarcón-Córdoba

    This poses a good question. I view evil as something that has always been with man and will always be. When you mention animal acts of violence, it reinforces the concept that it is something inherent in nature. The God answer, that evil came into existence from human’s fall from grace seems negated by dolphins who rape and chimpanzees who murder; in fact, all carnivorous animals that stalk their prey could be said to be premeditated killers, when they feed.

    The idea of overcoming this, I think, is only possible under the theoretic rule of the Hundred Monkeys: when enough people, in our case more than a hundred, decide evil is not the way, the notion might spread throughout the human race and become codified in our genetic structure. In that sense, the Buddha mind would be the one to keep, individually, with the hope that one day every human will respond in kind.

  62. Tom Schultz

    I think you pose a very good question to which the answer is yes, since I think a prerequisite for evil is knowledge of right and wrong, and the appreciation of the consequences of your acts. That’s a legal perspective, sure, but as a lawyer I think it’s a good one. Now, when you bring in the context of war, then you’ve raised a new barrel of questions. What is a war crime? Or is it just dependent on who wins?

  63. silentlyheardonce

    Greed, over population, lust for power and hurbis. Those in power don’t care about anything as long as they have an over abundance. But once this planet dies all the richs in the word won’t save us. Only just as you say polling positive energy will be the only thing that can save us.

  64. Cat Amesbury

    When interviews have been performed with combatants from most of the world’s major conflicts, not one of the ones I’ve heard has believed themselves to be evil. Not. One. There has been shame and regret and a lifetime of psychological issues, but very few people wake up in the morning and greet themselves as evil.

    For myself, I think that the great evils are rooted in combining selfishness and carelessness, in making others become inhuman obstacles and not individual people with a shared humanity. The fight I try to make against this evil in the world is to try, every day to perform at least one act of kindness, at least one act of recognizing a stranger as a fellow human being. I do not know if I always succeed and it is an extremely small drop in a very large ocean.

    I just hope that there are others trying to magnify their own small acts and our shared humanity.