Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What is evil anyway?

Participants in the front-end evaluation felt that it was the human dimension that underpins nearly all interpretations of evil: evil is something created or committed by humans. This means that evil is not random and therefore it generates a very emotional response.

So, how did the audience sampled conceive of evil? Their ideas were grouped under six thematic areas.

Abuse of Power:
* Abuse of power is seen as constituting evil when it results in unnecessary suffering or gross neglect
* Abusers of power have denied their victims the right to free will and fairness
* The abuse itself may be very deliberate (Nazis, organised torture, arsonists, corporate evil or animal abusers), or a neglectful shirking of responsibility (governments who tolerate homelessness)
“Terrible Unknown”:
* The Terrible Unknown is a distorted or disguised version of humanity
* Evil masquerading as goodness (in human form but really soul-less, behind a mask) includes an element of deception, amplifying the evil via a demonstration of intent
* Common disguises interrupt the accepted norms of safety: clowns or other common children’s icons of safety
The Other:
* The Other is evil as it disrupts conformity (EMOs, extremists, scientologists): humanity fears that which we don’t understand
* The lack of conformity is seen as irrational due to the breaking of accepted social norms, therefore it is possible for individuals or groups to be non-conformist and non-evil (goths, EMOs) –the evil occurs when The Other attempts to challenge social norms via recruitment/preaching (religious fundamentalists)
Vice Squad:
* Vices are evil willingly played out in the face of evidence and reason
* Cigarettes, alcohol, gambling and drugs were repeatedly raised as evil that is amplified because it’s unnecessary and preventable
* Interestingly, humans who fall victim to vices aren’t the evil, the humans who provide, create and encourage the vices embody evil (cigarette companies, drug dealers, pokie manufacturers)
Impotent Evil:
* Impotent Evil is a representation of the old manifestation of evil
* This version of evil has been so commonly used in public dialogue that the icons of devils, demons, skulls and the fires of hell have become impotent and kitsch
* Impotent Evil has been so neutralised it’s now commonly used for invoking humour rather than fear
Everyday Beasts:
* The only core theme that isn’t a human evil, Everyday Beasts invoke an emotional response from pure fear
* Sharks, snakes, spiders and aggressive dogs all represent a fear of violent physical harm
* Unlike the other themes, this evil is largely random, often heightening the fear
* This theme was strongest with kids, indicating the fear is often neutralised with age

Aspects of these themes of most appeal to potential visitors will be explored in my next blog post.


  1. Evil is measurable. It has substance. It is a present force like Gravity, magnetism, transmitted waves, etc... these things were unknown to us before we understood them and could measure them. We've taken evil for granted. The time will come when we "discover" that it is as real as anything else in this "physical" world. Dark matter anyone?

  2. Evil is merely an extension of the baseness of our nature .It is our lower self. Without us , evil is nothing.

  3. one time i rode a horse to school and it had a BONER

  4. paul has his brown belt

  5. What is the difference between cruel and evil?

    Is it evil to be cruel?

  6. Evil is simply the absence of good. Just as darkness is the absence of light and cold the absence of heat. Evil can only be defined in relation to the good. " if we know the good we should do and don't do it, that is sin"

  7. i dont think there is, but evil i think is more about hell and the devil.