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From Hitler to Mother Teresa: 6 Degrees of Empathy

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groovedaddy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-14-11 12:18 PM
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From Hitler to Mother Teresa: 6 Degrees of Empathy
The Science of Evil, by Simon Baron-Cohen, seems likely to antagonize the victims of evil, the parents of children with autism spectrum disorder, at least a few of the dozens of researchers whose work he cites not to mention critics of his views on evolutionary psychology or of his claims about the neurobiology of the sexes. The Science of Evil proposes a simple but persuasive hypothesis for a new way to think about evil.

My main goal is to understand human cruelty, replacing the unscientific term evil with the scientific term empathy, he writes at the beginning of the book, which might be seen as expanding on the views on empathy expressed in his 1997 book, Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind (Bradford). Evil, he notes, has heretofore been defined in religious terms (with the concept differing in the major world religions), as a psychiatric condition (psychopathology) or, as he puts it, in frustratingly circular terms: He did x because he is truly evil).

Dr. Baron-Cohen, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Cambridge and director of the universitys Autism Research Center, proposes that evil is more scientifically defined as an absence of empathy, exacerbated by negative environmental factors (usually parental, sometimes societal) and a genetic component. When these three exist in tandem they result in what he calls a Zero-Negative personality. Zero-Negative takes at least three forms (and possibly more), borrowing from terms used in psychiatry: Zero Type P (psychopathology), Zero Type B (borderline disorder) and Zero Type N (narcissism).

Whereas psychiatry groups these three loosely under the term personality disorders, Dr. Baron-Cohen proposes that they all share the characteristic of zero degrees of empathy. (His empathy quotient scale is available in the book or online, with an instant numerical score that is translated into degrees of empathy from zero to six, or super empathy.)
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Bok_Tukalo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-14-11 12:52 PM
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1. Ev = 1/Em
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Hardrada Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-14-11 12:53 PM
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2. Borat!
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qb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-14-11 01:32 PM
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3. I disagree with the premise that Mother Teresa & Hitler are on opposite ends of the scale.
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laconicsax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-14-11 02:12 PM
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5. +1
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BlueJazz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-14-11 03:54 PM
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7. I never liked the woman after I found our her past actions. My Mother told me once...
"She's not a saint by any standards" My Father just said "She's a fuckin' nut" :)
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whathehell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-14-11 03:56 PM
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8. Mother Teresa wasn't perfect and I would strongly disagree with some of her thinking, but
one would have to be mad to put her within any range of Hitler.

She may not have been a "saint" but India, the nation to which she devoted

most of her service, thought her close enough to consider bestowing the title of "Mahatma"

upon her. They ultimately declined, but her death generated an enormous outpouring

of grief and gratitude which culminated in a huge state funeral in her honor.

She dedicated her life to the poor and suffering and just because she

didn't do it exactly as Christopher Hitchens would have preferred

that doesn't make her unworthy of credit or respect. :eyes:
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Larry Ogg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-14-11 01:55 PM
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4. There are psychologist that use the word evil when talking about psychopathy.
Some of them even suggest that science should claim the word evil from religion, and that their should be scientific research dedicated specifically to the study of human evil, and after studying this subject over the last four years I totally agree. The word evil caries with it a certain stigma that should not be diluted or lost when talking about psychopathology, psychopaths are truly evil people and the terminology should not be sugar coated in order to protect or conceal who and what they are.

Live spelled backwards is evil, and psychopaths take from people, through predatory deception, the necessities of their lives. i.e. evil takes away the liveliness of others, whether that liveliness be in blood, emotion, money or property. In addition, most people never even have a clue that their is something seriously wrong with a person who is a psychopath, in fact the deception can go so far as to cause people of conscience to see the psychopath as an ideal role model and someone to be emulated, psychopaths are so cunning that many of their victims will actually assist them in destroying their own lives, as well as the lives of others.

There is no better word to describe them, then the word evil, and people should learn that the words psychopathy and evil are synonymous, and that psychopaths have far more influence over our lives than most people could ever imagine.

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groovedaddy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-14-11 02:43 PM
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6. A few weeks ago, NPR, including "This American Life", covered the topic of psychopathy. Much of
what you have said, was also covered there, but I never heard the term "evil" used during any of the programs. That said, I tend to agree with what your saying. The tricky part is identifying the truly psychopathic. Yes, there is a test for it, but even the psychologist who devised the test has serious reservations about it's blanket use, particularly by justice officials, prisons, etc. I also wonder if there is ever cross-over on these tests between the 3 groups mentioned in the book. Could a person with Borderline personality disorder show up as a psychopath based on this test? BPD is treatable. I'm not sure that psychopathy is.
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Larry Ogg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-14-11 05:28 PM
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9. Robert Hare is considered the worlds leading expert on psychopathy
He is also the one who developed the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), performed brain cat-scans on psychopaths, and authored and coauthored Without Conscience and Snakes in Suits. Both books are very important, they are written for the layperson, which makes them easy to understand, which means you dont need collage degree to understand psychopathology.

Robert Hare is adamant about, only highly trained and experienced psychologist being the ones who administer the PCL-R on suspected psychopaths, because psychopaths can easily fool the experts, in fact they make a game out of it. In addition, close examination of the individuals history is part of determining whether someone is a psychopath or not.

But all this doesnt mean that the layperson cant see the warning signs, once they know the basics of what to look for.

I learned from reading several books...
Conscience is a variable between two extremes, whereas the neurotic is the exact opposite of the character disordered. Neurotic means too much conscience, and character disordered means too little or no conscience, and somewhere between the two extremes is a continuum where the majority of individuals are. The rule is that if a person is making their self miserable they are probably neurotic, whereas if their making everyone else miserable they are probably character disordered. And because every human is mostly one or the other its not difficult to make that distinction.

Extreme neurotics harbor guilt and lack the healthy aggression and confidence needed to fulfill their needs. Whereas the extreme character disordered has no guilt when it come to fulfilling their pathological greed, they are pathological liars and have an abundance of unjustifiable confidence, and they can be extremely aggressive, covertly as well as overtly when it come to getting whatever it is that they want.

Sigmund Freud postulated that civilization is the cause of neurosis. But there are other points of view that say, it is the willingness of most people to restrain their sexual and aggressive urges that made civilization possible. It is also believed that the moderate neurotic is the backbone of society.

My take on it is that liberals are mostly neurotic which makes them less aggressive at getting what they want, whereas conservatives are mostly character disordered which makes them much more aggressive and even deadly when it comes to getting what they want.

The point is that the layperson doesnt need to know if a someone is extremely character disordered such as the psychopath. Fact is, most normal people are moderately neurotic, and there are a lot of easy to read tell tail signs that show if a person is mostly character disordered or not. You don't need a degree to see the obvious, but you do need to know what to look for.

This post is getting kind of long and I have to go, so Ill cut it short by saying, Google cluster a b c personality disorders for further insight. And if anyone is interested I can recommend some books.

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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-15-11 12:33 AM
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11. very interesting post. It reminds me of something I read on Autism vs. Schizophrenia.
According to the book "The Imprinted Brain" autistic and schizophrenic individuals are contrasting opposites in both their inner psychology and in brain development. The autistic mind has an underdeveloped "social mind", while schizophrenic mind has an overdeveloped "social mind".

So I guess I would be a neurotic autistic! :rofl:
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hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-14-11 11:51 PM
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10. Hitler would have been your crazy neighbor in a functional society.
Same with Mother Teresa.

In a functional society people like Hitler do not attain political power, and the extreme poverty of Mother Teresa's mission does not exist.

In a functional society the sociopaths and the psychopaths are identified early and diverted from causing further harm within their communities.

And many, many Mother Teresas practice their callings within peaceful hospices where the lives of those about to pass are celebrated.

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