How Irrationality Leads To Evil

We tend to think of evil people as rational, but often they are not. Think of the 9/11 hijackers. What did they think as their mission had reached the stage of absolute success? What did they think as their planes approached within striking distance of the World Trade Center?

No doubt they felt victorious and elated. They had struck the great Satan in his heart. They were destined for Heaven. They had stuck a dramatic blow for Allah that would be remembered forever.

But they died for nonsense. And they killed thousands for nonsense.

Some victory.

Good guys can be irrational too.

In his book What Intelligence Tests Miss, Keith Stanovich says the following: “…you may be affected by the irrational thinking of others even if you do not take irrational actions yourself….For example police departments hire psychics to help with investigations… Jurors have been caught making their decisions based on astrology. Major banks and several Fortune 500 companies employ graphologists for personnel decisions even though voluminous evidence indicates that graphology is useless for this purpose…”
“How would you like to lose your chance for a job that you really wanted because you have a particular little “loop” in your handwriting? How would you like to be convicted of a crime because of an astrological ‘reading’?”

There is a book called Jews And Capitalism by Jerry Muller that talks about how the irrationality of some Jews helped lead to complete disaster for the Jews. He shows you that many Jews were in the Communist parties of Russia and Hungary for instance. When Communism was imposed, some of these Jews were put in charge of collectivizing the country side, which obviously did not gain them any friends from the populace. Though Mr. Muller makes the point that most Jews were not affiliated with Communism, he says that of the small membership of the Hungarian Communist party, a large percent were Jews. In fact nearly the entire ruling circle was Jewish at one point.

This kind of thing helped the Nazis, who managed to associate Jews and Communists, and it also may have played a part in the reluctance of Western nations to take Jewish immigrants during the pre-war period, when the Jews were trying to get out of the path of the juggernaut of destruction.

So the irrationality of a small, but too large, group of Jews hurt their neighbors, and hurt the masses of their fellow Jews.  A Rabbi said about Leon Trotsky, a leading Russian Communist whose original last name was Bronstein, that  “Trotsky makes the revolutions, and the Bronsteins pay the bills.”

This isn’t to say that the anti-Semites are rational either, as “Jews And Capitalism” makes clear (see also “Jews And Money” by Abraham Foxman).

I was surprised to read that a substantial minority of Germans believe that the events of 9/11 were really an American plot. but then I was even more shocked when I read that a poll taken in 2006 by Scripps Howard and Ohio University showed that, “More than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East.”.

This shows that the “good guys” can end up as bad guys just because they believe the wrong thing. If you believe that George W. Bush purposely allowed 3000 Americans to die so he could make war on some innocent country, then you likely to want to commit violence against George W Bush, or at least vote him out of office..

I don’t think that you can blame all evil on irrationality, however. People are different. Not all people react the same way to a situation, even if they share delusional beliefs.

– for the poll I refer to above (and others that confirm it).


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