The Psychology of Evil, Free Will, Baboons, and Humans

  • The Psycology of Evil - Philip Zimbardo | TED2008 • February 2008 [22:57, with or without transcript]
  • “Delve into the fascinating world of psychology with scientist Dr. Robert Sapolsky as he explores the intricacies behind Donald Trump’s behaviour, the science of stress, and the age-old debate surrounding free will. In this episode of Leading, join hosts Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell as they delve deep into thought-provoking questions such as why we experience stress, the psychological disparities between conservatives and liberals, and whether free will truly exists. Don’t miss out on this captivating discussion with Dr. Sapolsky as he sheds light on these complex topics and more. Tune in now for unparalleled insights into the human mind and behaviour.”
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  • Before my OP disappears into the archives, I’ll share this: The Psychology of Evil by Philip Zimbardo (Transcript)
    • Eventually, sooner than later I hope, I’ll also find and share a transcript of the Robert Sapolsky video mentioned in the OP.
  • The attentive viewer of the Zimbardo and Sapolsky videos, will–I suspect–realize that both men are Americans and have different theories about what evil is and where it comes from; … I think. Both approach their topics, I believe, from non-religious starting positions.
    • I’d love to find a video or written record of their conversation with each other or a review of each other’s secular theories and/or books.
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  • Ha! What Exactly is the Baboon Syndrome? January 10, 2024
  • What Makes Us Human?
    • The author of the blog in the last link includes links to three marvelous Youtubes.
      • “In the first video, the always engaging neurobiologist, primatologist and stress expert Robert Sapolsky talks about human-animal similarities and differences, at the 2009 Stanford commencement. Skip to the 5:00 minute mark to go directly to Sapolsky’s talk.”
      • “The second video, entitled “What Makes Us Human?”, was produced by The Leakey Foundation, and effectively summarizes several interesting findings from leading researchers on what distinguishes us from other primates.”
      • “The final and longest video (about 57 minutes) is a presentation by cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno that focuses on the origin of the human mind and why humans have significantly more cognitive power than other primates.”
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  • Neat trivia, IMO:
    • Regarding Zimbardo, “As a child of Italian immigrants, Zimbardo was raised as a religious Catholic in New York. However, he has noted that while growing up, he often pondered about the existence of a higher being, particularly when it came to praying (Zimbardo, 2007). As an adult, his views on religion have evolved, and currently identifies as an atheist. He has noted that his research on how otherwise good people can commit atrocious acts may have influenced his current outlook on religion. Additionally, his religious beliefs may play a role in his theories regarding human behavior, which may not be as clear cut as good and evil in many religions.” [Source: Philip Zimbardo: Influences and Contributions to Psychology
    • Notice that, although he self-identifies as an atheist now, “his religious beliefs may play a role in his theories regarding human behavior, which may not be as clear cut as good and evil in many religions.” Interestingly, he himself said, in his TED talk:
    • “When I was a kid growing up in the South Bronx, inner-city ghetto in New York, I was surrounded by evil, as all kids are who grew up in an inner city. And I had friends who were really good kids, who lived out the Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde scenario — Robert Louis Stevenson. That is, they took drugs, got in trouble, went to jail. Some got killed, and some did it without drug assistance.”
      * “So when I read Robert Louis Stevenson, that wasn’t fiction. The only question is, what was in the juice? And more importantly, that line between good and evil — which privileged people like to think is fixed and impermeable, with them on the good side, and the others on the bad side — I knew that line was movable, and it was permeable. Good people could be seduced across that line, and under good and some rare circumstances, bad kids could recover with help, with reform, with rehabilitation.
    • That explains to me Zimbardo’s reluctance to “blame” Original Sin for human evil behavior. IMO, Whether or not Eve and Adam were seduced by the Serpent into disobeying God, Zimbardo essentially says that each of us seduced or easily slides into evil behavior given the just the right circumstances and social institutions that we face daily in this world.
    • And I hear the echo of Paul’s words:
      Romans 7:19-25 KJV - For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
    • Regarding Sapolsky, “he said in his acceptance speech for the Emperor Has No Clothes Award, ‘I was raised in an Orthodox household and I was raised devoutly religious up until around age thirteen or so. In my adolescent years one of the defining actions in my life was breaking away from all religious belief whatsoever.’” [Source: Wikipedia article: Robert Sapolsky]
    • And he is a Determinist.
    • Religion Is Nature’s Antidepressant | Robert Sapolsky
  • Say what? Two atheists with remarkably different veiws of the sources of evil: neither “blames God” and the latter proposes that “Religion is Nature’s Antidepresant”. And I’m thinking: if your religious relationships are stressing you out, you’re “doing it” wrong.
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