EVIL: The Science Behind Humanity's Dark Side – Julia Shaw
Abrams Press 
ISBN: 978-1-4197-2949-2
ISBN: 978-1-68335-208-2 - eBook
February 2019
Nonfiction  Science 

Author Julia Shaw investigates the term evil and how different individuals and cultures view people, acts, and beliefs they label evil. I found this a thought altering book leading to a different understanding of labels and human behavior. As humans, our actions and thoughts are controlled not only by our beliefs and our emotions but also by basic human instincts found even in prehistoric humans. I think most people understand this. Shaw begins with a well-founded premise that we are all capable of evil. She challenges the reader to critically think about the ‘us' versus ‘them' ideologies we all seem to hold and instead to find the strands of similarities common among us. The ‘us' versus ‘them' philosophy shows an example of ‘othering,' an action that leads to labeling cultures or people with different beliefs, or other sexual, behavioral, intelligence, or social variances, as evil. This subjectivity of thinking often leads a group or an individual to perpetrate evil on those they perceive as evil. 

She asks questions such as are all murderers, sexual deviants, or pedophiles inherently evil? This creates the line between good and evil, white and black; but how many shades of grey lay between the two absolutes? Furthermore, do factors in brain chemistry or past history make someone's worst behaviors understandable? Also discussed is indecision and the willingness of many to watch evil or know of potential harm to others and to do or say nothing. Another problem is the use of evil actions as a platform to spread dogmas.

With today's widely broadcast global behaviors leading to so much public and private contention, this is an excellent book to help give everyone a greater understanding and new perspective on labeling someone or something evil.

Robin Lee