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To some, the word ‘evil’ is repulsive, with connotations better forgotten than remembered. To others, it’s a vital part of history.
A panel of four speakers discussed the meaning of the word during the Conference on World Affairs at CU Tuesday afternoon as part of a five-day series of guest lectures open free to the public.
The lecture on evil, given by panel members Terri Jentz, Achim Koddermann, Mohammad Mahallati, and Thomas McNamara and moderated by Peter Behrendt, was attended by a mid-sized crowd, some who said they had experienced evil first-hand and others who were interested in learning about evil’s hand in the way society is run today.
“The whole world is into something we don’t quite understand that makes us fearful,” said Hilde Krogh, a visitor from Norway and former CU student who attended Tuesday’s lecture. “The idea of evil is essential to understand.”
Connecting a chain of historic examples of evil, Achim Koddermann, a specialist in applied philosophy, human rights, theories of interpretation and media ethics, opened the lecture by discussing how evil may be “resistance against the law, with the law as good, non-law as not good.” In doing so, he questioned whether the goodness of laws can become evil based on who created them, such as Nazi Germany’s treatment of millions of Jews.
Panelist Thomas McNamara, who holds a doctorate in counseling and guidance from CU, discussed how his views as an evolutionary psychologist meant that evil could be learned and passed on unknowingly from generation to generation, based on the necessity of survival and transmission of culture between parent and child.
A definition of evil was also given in a spiritual respect. Mohammad J. Mahallati holds a doctorate in Islamic Studies and degrees in economics, international relations and civil engineering. Mahallati discussed how mankind was given the ability to make decisions, and while evil temptations may be offered, the individual still has to make the choice to become evil.
“The potential to be evil exists in every single individual,” Mahallati said.
To close the panel, Terri Jentz gave her first-hand account of evil. She and her college roommate were ran over and assaulted by an ax-wielding madman in 1977. The incident is documented in her book, Strange Piece of Paradise.
“Evil does exist as long as I tried to push it away and deny it,” Jentz said after describing her life-changing experience.
In a philosophical discussion, panelists interpreted evil and its role in society.
“We like to be optimists,” Koddermann said. “(Evil) destroys the idea of optimism.”
The Conference on World Affairs, founded in 1948, is celebrating its 59th anniversary on the CU campus. Designed to heighten awareness on thought-provoking world issues, it touches on subjects that affect everyone and seeks to inspire higher thinking about global issues.
Contact freelance reporter Rory Clow at firstname.lastname@example.org