Summary: It is important, I have asserted, that Liberal America recognize that what we are up against on the right is best understood as an “evil force,” because seeing it for what it is will likely inspire people to respond to it in a more powerful way. But many in Liberal America don’t believe that there exists anything in the world that warrants being called an “evil force.”
The following is addressed to those people. It is my intention to show and to explain how it is that the dynamics of the human world produce — in a wholly naturalistic way — forces that are coherent through time and that spread the patterns of brokenness and thus warrant the term, “evil forces.”
“The battle between good and evil” is fundamental to the human saga. Again, this can be shown in a framework that is not dependent on faith-based assertions but can be demonstrated in a naturalistic framework founded on what science has shown about the story of our species.
“The battle between good and evil” is central to understanding human destiny because we are the species that created an unprecedented circumstance that introduced a new kind of brokenness to earth’s living systems.
After three and a half billion years of the evolution of life on earth, we have become — in comparatively very recent times (10,000 years) — the one species to have crossed a crucial threshold of extricating ourselves from the niche in which we evolved biologically, and gaining what looks at first glance to be freedom. Namely, the freedom to invent our own way of life.
It is inevitable that the emergence of a civilized creature out of a biologically evolved system of life will impart into that system a significant impetus of brokenness. The rise of civilized societies – i.e. entities whose ways and interactions are not part of the biologically evolved order that gave rise to the civilized animals within them – introduces a new force into the world. With no order to regulate the interactions among this new kind of living entity – neither a biological nor a human-created order would be able to encompass the system of civilized societies – a new kind of disorder breaks out.
(The logic of this, and its implications, are explicated in this piece, “Why Civilization Has Developed in Such a Tormented and Destructive Way.” This is the first chapter of my book, The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution.)
This made it inevitable that that system of civilization would be the arena within which the forces of Wholeness and those of Brokenness would contend for long ages to shape the destiny of that species (and of the living system generally).
In other words, “the battle between good and evil” is an inevitable consequence of the emergence of a civilized creature. That would be true anywhere, regardless of the nature of the creature to make that breakthrough.
That has been true here on earth, with the emergence of homo sapiens into civilization over the past 10,000 years. But also, if there is in the cosmos anywhere else some other species that has crossed that same threshold, escaping from its biologically evolved niche, that same sort of battle between good and evil will form the central challenge of that species as well.
(Once again, for those who want to judge the likely plausibility of my claims in a less time-consuming way than reading the longer exposition of these ideas to which I linked above, their source of these claims can be assessed through the portrait presented in “How Credible is Andy Schmookler? Answered by His Wife Using the Words of Others”.)
Asserting the inevitability of the emergence of a force of brokenness may well seem dark. But there is a profound and hopeful implication of this analysis that warrants being repeated for emphasis: This inescapable impetus of brokenness is a function not of the nature of the creature, but rather of the unprecedented circumstances emerging from the breakout from the constraints of the biologically evolved order.
The frightening record of history, therefore, is not the indictment of human nature. Through the ages, our traditional religions have condemned us for our inherent sinfulness. We would be wiser to see ourselves as having been plunged into an impossible situation, making of it the best we can. Humankind has stumbled – because we have the intelligence and creativity to break out into civilization – into a process that inevitably wounds and damages us. Compassion for our kind, not condemnation, is what is called for.
Nonetheless, blameworthy or not, we are caught in this situation in which the life-serving forces of Wholeness are contending against the forces of brokenness. And it remains entirely unclear which of them will prevail.
That impetus of brokenness that entered into the human system with the dawn of civilization continues to ramify through the system. What we see operating in America is a continuation of patterns that have been moving through civilization through the millennia: in our times, these patterns of brokenness have coalesced into the powerful force we see now erupting to damage and degrade our nation. One can trace how these patterns move through time. (And in future entries I will be presenting some of this movement of patterns.)
The patterns of brokenness, driven by what could appropriately be called “evil forces,” endure and move over the generations through civilized societies. They get transmitted from one level to another — from the intersocietal level to the socio-cultural level to the psychological level and then back up, cycling through time — taking a variety of forms, depending on the level. What the forms have in common is their embodying and perpetuating patterns of brokenness.
At the global level, one of the chief patterns is war, rather than peace. At the social level, one of the chief patterns is injustice, rather than justice. At the psychological level, one of the chief patterns is a lack of integration – unreconciled psychological conflict — in the psychic structure of the members of civilized societies that require their members to internalize demands hostile to human needs and nature.
The way such patterns of brokenness get transmitted is sketched out more fully in my book-in-progress, soon to be on the web, What Liberal America Should Understand about Evil.
All of these are in play in America today.
And all of these are up for grabs in terms of the larger human drama. The battle between the forces of wholeness and those of brokenness (good and evil) has not only been important to where we in humankind have come from over the millennia. But just as importantly, the outcome of that battle remains unresolved regarding where humankind is heading.