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Come debate the nature of 'evil' with me, I have a theory about this.....

(24 Posts)
whomovedmychocolate Sat 25-Jul-09 22:16:33

First off the bat, I'm a secularist and am not up for conversion to any of the major religions.

However I had dinner with a friend of mine last night and we were talking about wasps (the buzzy type, not white anglo saxon protestant type).

Anyway he reckons wasps have no brain. I don't know whether this is true but let's say it is.

What is their motivation to sting? It's not territorial or protective. The little bastards will sting you just for the fun of it - I understand bees, bees will only sting in extremis.

So is it instinct? And if it is, does that mean that wasps are the living embodiment of evil? After all if there is no brain directing thought then they are not acting in a rational manner, something must be leading them to do this. Could this thing be conceivably what people generally understand as evil.

thisisyesterday Sat 25-Jul-09 22:21:07

i am pretty sure they do have brains,.

and they sting when they are threatened

VelvetPlum Sat 25-Jul-09 22:24:05

How interesting.

I'm inclined to think the sting is protective though, surely? A protective instict.
The wasps entire existence is about furthering and protecting the nest so a brain, if the absence of brain is factual,is neither here nor there.

Spero Sat 25-Jul-09 22:28:15

I don't accept your central premise. I've never been stung by a wasp although I've had plenty buzzing around me. Those who do get stung start panicking and flapping about and I suppose the wasp feels threatened and stings them.

So I don't agree they sting for fun and hence are directed by the 'thing' understood as 'evil'.

Isn't 'evil' more usefully discussed as a description of certain behaviour, not the driving force behind it? Otherwise you are presumably going down the God/Devil debate.

JossStick Sat 25-Jul-09 22:31:32

They are not evil - i'm not sure any animal other than human can be evil to be honest. Even if they are sentient about what they do, they are being protective to their species.

It's just us that fuck up each other and the planet - the rest just get on with it.

JossStick Sat 25-Jul-09 22:34:30

And we shouldn't judge other species by our own dodgy religions either.

VelvetPlum Sat 25-Jul-09 22:36:55

Yeah, ahve to say the concept of evil doesn't really mean much to me.
There's just a sliding scale of bad.

whomovedmychocolate Sat 25-Jul-09 22:36:59

thisisyesterday - I don't believe they only sting when threatened. I've been stung when I was just sitting there and hadn't even noticed the wasps around me. hmm

And Spero I don't panic - if I don't know it's there, how can I panic. We had a wasps nest in the thatch, hence the discussion about wasps. I'm used to having lots of varieties of insects (old house, thatched roof = wildlife) around and tbh I'm not bothered about any of them - we got rid of wasps because they were dropping on DS in his cot shock but if I see one I shoo it out the window or if I am feeling less charitable, whack it with my shoe. wink

JossStick I'm not sure sentience is the question - if you do a heinous act because you are insane, is it any less heinous. I'm not saying evil is the same as culpable, I'm saying that it's hard to understand how something can be motivated to do a generic 'bad thing' without reason.

VelvetPlum Sat 25-Jul-09 22:40:47

But you cant relate to the wasps perception of threat WMMC.
It could be scent, or your proximity to the nest or a colour your wearing - dhow can we know what instinctively gives wasps the heebie-jeebies? They might be nervy little buggers.

thisisyesterday Sat 25-Jul-09 22:41:51

but when you were just sat ther something else could have happened to make that wasp feel threatened couldn't it?

i don't think they just generally fly around stinging stuff just for the hell of it.
i had a penchant for wasps as a child, mainly bnecause they scared other kids, and used to pick them up and lob them at people blush
never got stung once, and i deserved to lol

the stinging is surely instinctive rather than thought-out though, that must make a difference?

whomovedmychocolate Sat 25-Jul-09 22:49:20

You're probably right - thisisyesterday and velvetplum - I don't know what wasps think of as threatening.

But if instincts are inherently motiveless can any of us be held responsible for anything?

And wasps are little bastards whatever you say. Four weeks of having a leg four times it's normal size thanks to one sting. Grrrrr!

JossStick Sat 25-Jul-09 22:51:37

"JossStick I'm not sure sentience is the question - if you do a heinous act because you are insane, is it any less heinous. I'm not saying evil is the same as culpable, I'm saying that it's hard to understand how something can be motivated to do a generic 'bad thing' without reason. "

Animals / Insects are not insane humans though - do not judge others as you would yourself. Wasps are not remotely evil - they exist to pollinate flowers and fruits. They do as good a job of it as Bees - but Bees are cuter.

What makes us so bloody special really that a. we can say what is a good or bad species to be on the planet and b. we can call them 'evil' after some made up religious shit that puts them in any category other than just trying to get along in life. 'Evil' and 'Good' are our own human judgement on things.

VelvetPlum Sat 25-Jul-09 22:53:15

Just had a thought that wasps die when they sting which may have shed new light but just checked and they dont but bees do. I'm now desperate to know why a bee is designed to die when it stings. What possible evolutionary reason/benefit could there be in that?

whomovedmychocolate Sat 25-Jul-09 22:55:54

VelvetPlum - I believe with bees it's to protect the hive. If they don't die, they head back to the hive and could lead a predator to the Queen bee.

whomovedmychocolate Sat 25-Jul-09 22:56:51

Jossstick - I know this sounds daft, but I genuinely didn't realise wasps pollinate flowers. blush Maybe they are not so crap.

Oh but they are <conflicted> grin

hmc Sat 25-Jul-09 22:57:28

Of course they have a brain!

www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-06/uow-cib061809.php

(I did know that without looking it up, just thought you might want the evidence cited)...how could you think that they lack a brain?

Only the most incredibly simple life forms (like men) have no brains

VelvetPlum Sat 25-Jul-09 22:57:48

"But if instincts are inherently motiveless can any of us be held responsible for anything?"
You have a point there imo, but we have such a gift in rational thought that we really cant - under normal circumstances - excuse our actions on the basis of instinct.
We should always be able to rationalise our urges.

VelvetPlum Sat 25-Jul-09 22:59:25

Ah wmmc, that makes semse, thankyou.

hmc Sat 25-Jul-09 22:59:44

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040726084349.htm

and they sting only when provoked (2nd sentence last paragraph)

Otherwise your theory of evil is intact wink

JossStick Sat 25-Jul-09 23:07:47

Ah - they are predators to a whole host of thingies:

"Most wasp species are predators. Their function is in the control of many other insect species. They are actually very effective parasitoids, and because of this efficiency they have been used for decades as biological control agents. Many crop pests including hornworms and scale insects which cost millions of dollars in loss annulally are controled by wasps. Without these predators, tomatoes, oranges, tobacco, and many other important crops would be so scarce that the price of them would skyrocket.
Their method of efficiency is that they will lay one egg on the back of a caterpillar, and throught the process of polyembrony, the egg multiplies itself, producing hundreds of larvae. These larvae hatch, kill the caterpillar, and pupate. Once development is compltete, the newly formed wasps will emerge and go out in search of their own caterpillar to deposit eggs on. After a year, there are millions of these wasps and they are naturally able to control the number of potentially devastating pest species.
In nature, most moths and beetles have some species of wasp that is their specific parasitoid. Without these parasitoids, longhorn beetles would reduce the forest to sawdust and caterpillars would strip every leaf off of every plant they can find. Wasps act to control theri numbers, and keep a balance between the pests and the hosts.
Certain wasps, like yellow jackets (the ones by the picnic table) are actually pollinators and ensure the survival of many plant species, just like their very close relatives, the bees."

So i only got it half right blush sorry. But imagine they serve no purpose at all (to us)........'tis no reason to think they are deliberately evil.

ZephirineDrouhin Sat 25-Jul-09 23:22:19

Agree with spero. They don't sting you if you leave them alone.

As for evil, I would say it is a construct which we use to express our extreme revulsion and disapprobation for a person or their course of action. I don't think there are actually "evil" people any more than there are evil wasps, but we need concepts like good and evil in order to function as a society.

thisisyesterday Sat 25-Jul-09 23:25:09

i don't think we need good and evil as a society
after all as my good friend Nietzsche said

"It was Christianity which first painted the devil on the worlds wall; It was Christianity which first brought sin into the world. Belief in the cure which it offered has now been shaken to it's deepest roots; but belief in the sickness which it taught and propagated continues to exist'"

mayorquimby Tue 28-Jul-09 12:46:32

i think you are anthropomorphising here and trying to impart human morality on an animal that acts on instinct and evolution.
so many animals do things which we'd perscribe as evil if done by human, murder,cannabilism,killing of their young or siblings.

ZephirineDrouhin Tue 28-Jul-09 14:33:09

MayorQ, I don't think wmmc really thinks wasps are evil grin

Although I would say a good working definition of evil is something that has exceptionally bad consequences for us and which is lacking any motive that we can understand. So it wouldn't be that unreasonable to call wasps evil. Except that they really don't sting without provocation - they are just so annoyingly random in their movements that it's difficult not to get in their way.

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