Humans bestowed the scientific name of Panthera atrox upon the extinct Pleistocene lion that used to live in North America. The Latin word, atrox, means terrible, cruel, horror. How arrogant and unfair for the only truly evil species to ever walk the earth to refer to another species as a terrible cruel horror. Sure, other species besides man commit violent acts such as cannibalism, fratricide, and the killing of young sired by another male. But these behaviors follow the rules of surivival of the fittest. They are examples of animal behavior shaped by evolution. Man, however, is the only species that murders and commits other despicable acts for reasons not based on activities necessary for survival.
The animal that comes closest to matching the evil of Homo sapiens is our closest living relative–Pan troglodytes, also known as the chimpanzee. They fight intertribal wars, and occasionally kill members of their own tribes, including infants. Upon further contemplation, these behaviors still fall within the rules of survival of the fittest. Chimp wars are fought over natural resources, and murdering fellow troop members may solve disputes over hierarchy–again another Darwinian survival advantage. Even ants, which are practically pre-programmed automatons, fight wars. So I can’t really convince myself that chimpanzees are an evil species.
Man is the only species that commits mass genocide, even when resources are not scarce. Throughout history, genocides have never followed the evolutionary rules of survival of the fittest, nor have they been based on any kind of rational thought. Tyrants have never ordered the killings of thousands or millions of people because they were afraid they or their biological kin were in danger of starving to death. The fight over natural resources explains, if not justifies, human wars, but there is no evolutionary explanation for genocide. Genocide is simply used to terrorize a population, oftentimes so an egomaniac can maintain political control. But egomaniacs are well aware that they could survive and reproduce as an individual without ever becoming a famous tyrant. The people who aid the tyrant also know killing mass numbers of people is not necessary for their own well being and reproduction.
Victims of the Nazis–a mass grave of Jews. No other species devotes so much energy to genocide. Survival of the human species doesn’t require genocide. It’s difficult to explain the evolutionary advantage of genocide.
The German people were heavily criticized after World War II for their role in the Holocaust which would have never been possible without their cooperation. Germans convicted of war crimes claimed they were merely following orders. Stanley Milgram, a Jewish psychologist, wondered if all humans had a tendency to submit to authority, even if it meant performing acts they knew were morally wrong. So he designed a now famous experiment: A person was told to administer shocks to an unseen subject who could be heard. The subject was actually an actor who was not really given electric shocks. An authority figure (an alleged professor) gently urged the person to continue adminstering increasing levels of electrical shock, while the actor went from expressing mild discomfort to groans to screams to begging for the experiment to stop because of his heart condition to silence and assumed unconciousness or death. Prior to this experiment, Milgram polled psychologists on what they thought the results would be. Psychologists thought on average that only 3% of participants would continue shocking the subject til the silence implied he might have died. The results were shocking–66% completed the experiment, though many showed signs of stress, as if they knew what they were doing was wrong. This experiment has been repeated numerous times with similar results, most recently on a Discovery Channel special entitled “How Evil Are You?” that aired in 2011. The experiment shows that an authority figure can influence most people to endanger and kill other people. All it takes is a little gentle prodding.
A bizarre incident highlights this evil element that makes up part of what is known as humanity. A man posing as a police officer used an untraceable disposable phone to call a McDonalds in Mt. Washington, Kentucky and convince the manager to strip search an employee in a backroom because she had allegedly stolen money from a customer’s purse. Eventually, he convinced her to call her boyfriend to watch over the poor, naked, teenaged girl. While the manager went back to work, the perverted creep convinced the manager’s boyfriend to severely spank the employee’s naked butt, then ordered the girl to give the man a blowjob. Both complied. A security camera captured the whole episode as seen in this youtube clip from an episode of 20/20.
The creep on the phone was a Florida prison guard named David Stewart. Police eventually caught him but not before he (and possibly others) made over 100 similar calls. The manager was sentenced to 1 year probation; her boyfriend received a 5 year prison sentence. The victim sued McDonalds and won a $6 million lawsuit, later settled out of court for a lesser amount. McDonald’s was negligent because they were aware of similar calls and had failed to alert their employees of the perverted hoax.
No other animal is capable of such evil. A man destroyed other people’s lives because it gave him sexual satisfaction. And people were too weak-willed to simply hang up the telephone.
This incident was recently dramatized in the movie Compliance. Test audiences at the initial screening of Compliance unfairly accused the producer of misogyny and exploitation. The makers of the movie were merely showing a truth about the human condition. Outraged audience members missed the whole point of the movie. They should save their ire for all of humanity.
Dramatic portrayal from the movie Compliance based on a real life event that occurred when a pervert on a telephone convinced a store manager and her boyfriend to strip search, spank, and rape an employee.