A scientific description of Evil: self-deceit

M. Scott Peck
(1936-2005)


“Evil is the exercise of power, the imposing of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion”. “The core of evil is ego-centricity, whereby others are sacrificed rather than the ego of the individual.” —Peck


According to Dr. Peck (psychology) ego-centric persons are utterly dedicated to preserving their self-serving image. They cultivate an image of being a good, right, good parents. They specialize in self-deceit and thus are People of the Lie.


Adapted from Wikipedia:

Peck discusses evil in his book People of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil and also in a chapter of The Road Less Traveled. Peck characterizes evil as a malignant type of self-righteousness in which there is an active rather than passive refusal to tolerate imperfection (sin) in one’s mind and its consequent guilt. This syndrome results in a projection of evil onto selected specific innocent victims (often children), which is the paradoxical mechanism by which the People of the Lie commit their evil.

Peck describes Roger, a depressed teenage son of respected well off parents. In a series of parental decisions justified by often subtle distortions of the truth they exhibit a consistent disregard for their son’s feelings and a consistent willingness to destroy his growth. With false rationality and normality they aggressively refuse to consider that they are in any way responsible for his resultant depression, eventually suggesting his condition must be incurable and genetic.

Evil is described by Peck as “militant ignorance”. The original Judeo-Christian concept of “sin” is as a process that leads us to “miss the mark” and fall short of perfection. Peck argues that while most people are conscious of this at least on some level, those that are evil actively and militantly refuse this consciousness. Peck considers those he calls evil to be attempting to escape and hide from their own conscience, through self-deception.

According to Peck, evil people [in the bulleted phrases I’m paraphrasing Peck to refer to my parents]:

• Are consistently self-deceiving, with the intent of avoiding guilt and maintaining a self-image of perfection

• Both of my parents (as well as other evil parents) deceive others as a consequence of their own self-deception

• My parents have been projecting their evils and sins onto their offspring (scapegoats) while being apparently normal with everyone else (their insensitivity toward us has been selective)

• My mother commonly has hated us with the pretense of love, for the purpose of self-deception as much as deception of relatives and acquaintances

• My mother has abused political and emotional power to impose her will upon her children by overt or covert coercion

• My mother has maintained a high level of social respectability and lies incessantly in order to do so

• My parents have been consistent in their sins. Evil parents are characterized not so much by the magnitude of their sins, but by their consistency of destructiveness

• Both of my parents have been unable to think from the viewpoint of their victims (scapegoats)

• Both of my parents have had a covert intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury

Evil parents realize the evil deep within themselves but are unable to tolerate the pain of introspection or admit to themselves that they are evil. Thus, they constantly run away from their evil by putting themselves in a position of moral superiority and putting the focus of evil on their children. Evil is an extreme form of what Peck, in The Road Less Traveled, calls a character disorder.

Ultimately Peck says that evil arises out of free choice.