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With Dark Nature, world naturalist Lyall Watson presents a scientific examination of evil. Drawing on the latest ...
With Dark Nature, world naturalist Lyall Watson presents a scientific examination of evil. Drawing on the latest insights of genetics, evolutionary ethology, anthropology and psychology, he takes the discussion of evil out of the realm of monsters and demons to reveal it for what it truly is: A biological reality that may be terrifying but can be controlled. Groundbreaking, fascinating and eminently readable, Dark Nature is a vital and timely antidote to modern despair.
|Introduction: By the pricking of my thumbs...|
|Pt. 1||Dark Nature||1|
|1||Being Good: The Ecology of Evil||11|
|2||Breaking the Rules: The Arithmetic of Evil||48|
|Pt. 2||Human Nature||89|
|3||Being Bad: The Ethology of Evil||104|
|4||The Evil That Men Do: The Anthropology of Evil||141|
|5||The Wages of Sin: The Psychology of Evil||182|
|Pt. 3||Evil Nature||233|
|6||The Mark of Cain: The Identity of Evil||249|
Posted January 9, 2002
It is always a monumental undertaking when we attempt to comprehend something as long-term and pervasive as evil. Certain concepts ¿ be they God, reality, love, or even individual purpose ¿ lend themselves to a circular sort of contemplation. The result is often a despairing, heavenward toss of the hands. ¿Well, it just is¿ we conclude, and indeed, some things just are. It is also the easiest way of coping with nagging complexities. Lyall Watson rarely chooses such a path. His is an organized exploration examining the question from historical, mathematical, ecological, moral and philosophical standpoints. Dark Nature is an extraordinary book in many respects. It was my first introduction to a scientist/ writer who has been on intellectual safari most of his life. The tangible consequence of this began with publication of his first book, Omnivore, thirty years ago. Theories abound these days, falling into our laps like so much over-ripe fruit. Consequently, one must take into account the background of such authors before seriously entertaining their conclusions. Watson begins with Aristotle¿s definition of evil as an excess, either too much or too little; that which crosses a line, disturbing the balance of things. He links it to astrophysicist John Gribbin¿s modern premise called ¿The Goldilocks Effect.¿ Sense of rightness is a theory that crops up frequently in Dr. Watson¿s work. ¿¿rightness is an important idea, with far-reaching consequences¿and¿direct relevance to the problem of good and evil ¿ both of which may even have cosmic roots.¿ It is an interesting view, that we have an instinctive feel for what is `right.¿ One wants to believe, but rightness may be like so many other things, subjective and vacillating. ¿Badness¿ might also be subject to evolution i.e. that which initially looks wicked can become, with time and detachment, an improvement on previous circumstances. Evolving and therefore useful. The author asserts. ¿¿we must allow our universe to be part of a larger ecology in which all are subject to¿laws and conditions (which) ¿ produce creative tensions by setting up rival forces that build up and break down, that encourage equilibrium and succumb to disintegration¿¿ And what of the evil that is so obviously in us, so apparent in 20th century history, in the daily newspapers? Though difficult, it is a controllable, matter. Good only thrives when there is strong determination to go against ¿the sad fact¿that we are born selfish,¿ our lesser selves enslaved by the dictates of ¿mean-spirited¿ genes. It has been suggested that Dark Nature ends with a whimper. I disagree. Understanding evil must precede any possible implementation of better behavior. To expect a single, shattering solution ¿ albeit from a well-trained, thoughtful scientist ¿ is unfair if not overly optimistic. Rarely, do I read a book more than once. Dark Nature is one of those exceptions. Five years later, I find in it all sorts of things my ¿younger¿ (comparatively speaking) self missed. And I rate its ending as less a whimper and more a Watsonian challenge: ¿We are this world¿s first ethical animals, at the mercy still of our biology, but capable also of rising above it.¿ The ball, it would seem, is in our court.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.