The Existence of Evil

Evil cannot exist without consciousness and free will.

Imagine a universe without consciousness. Our own universe by way of example but with no life forms with the gift of consciousness. There would be great violence of course: supernovae, asteroids pummeling planets, volcanoes, tsunamis….and Big Bangs.

But none of that would affect any “body”. None of that violence would be evil since evil must surely show intentionality. And if there were no conscious entity in the universe there could be no intentionality.  No one who deliberately does horrible things to another. And inert matter can not perpetrate or suffer an evil act: however violent a physical reaction may be, if it has no intention of causing harm to a conscious entity which can experience that harm, then evil can not occur.

Equally there must be conscious beings whose subjective experiences are those of pain and suffering, physical or mental, for evil to exist.  There must surely exist a victim, a subject for an evil to act upon..

The question becomes a great deal more complex when one factors in the existence (or not) of free will.

Leaving aside the endless religious nonsense which has clouded the subject for millennia, the question of free will boils down, ultimately, to physics.

Most physicists are determinists of one sort of another.  Steven Hawkins was convinced humanity are mere robots with no free will. Chemical scum as another enthusiastic optimist called us.

Strict determinism means that physical cause and effect govern everything from the orbit of the earth round the sun to wars and human history. Using such laws, physicists believe they have traced back our origins back to the singularity of the big bang and forward to the big whimper, the petering out of energy and matter. Atom hits atom in endless Newtonian cause and effect and in such a world free will is an illusion.

We may believe we have decided to cosh our neighbour over the head with a steel mace but in fact we had no choice in the matter.  Our atoms did it.

To add to the confusion many physicists also claim that time is an illusion. Without time there can be no change. Without change what evil act or thought could arise?

So there you have it. Or rather you don’t. The existence of evil is not a simple question..

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