Monday, February 07, 2005

Some shrinks admit that evil exists

This NY Times story says that some shrinks now think that some people can be evil:
Among themselves, a few forensic scientists have taken to thinking of these people as not merely disturbed but evil. Evil in that their deliberate, habitual savagery defies any psychological explanation or attempt at treatment.

Most psychiatrists assiduously avoid the word evil, contending that its use would precipitate a dangerous slide from clinical to moral judgment that could put people on death row unnecessarily and obscure the understanding of violent criminals.

Still, many career forensic examiners say their work forces them to reflect on the concept of evil, and some acknowledge they can find no other term for certain individuals they have evaluated.

"I think the main reason it's better to avoid the term evil, at least in the courtroom, is that for many it evokes a personalized Satan, the idea that there is supernatural causation for misconduct," said Dr. Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist in Newport Beach, Calif., who examined the convicted serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, as well as Lyle and Erik Menendez, who were convicted of murdering their parents in Beverly Hills.
I do think that some of the court-appointed psychologists are evil. They deliberately misrepresent facts and research in order to ruin the lives of kids.

Bob writes:
Anyone who is honest has trouble with the concept of evil. It is easy for me to imagine doing something which is motivated by loyalty, patriotism, or any number of reasonable sentiments which upon reflection turns out to be evil. Even the cases which seem clear cut can be hard. One of my friends tortured people in the most horrible ways imaginable and is not an evil person. I would not hesitate to torture someone to save my wife. Evil is an intellectual problem. You know it when you see it isn't much of a solution.
Christianity has a long history of distinguishing Good and Evil. I think that there are theologians who can do it as well as psychologists can identify mental disorders. Admittedly, there are borderline cases where a layman like myself cannot tell whether someone is going to Hell or not.

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