Publication date (electronic): 30 June 2006
Emergence and evil
The production of biological weapons occurred in the Soviet Union on a vast scale of deadly effectiveness that is chilling and horrific. How could they do this? We are forced to take seriously the notion of evil. But, if we fail to address a central claim of emergence—that the character of a whole cannot be reduced to its parts—we will seriously misperceive evil with grave consequences. Drawing upon an account of this program by its chief research scientist, this paper exposes the character of emergent patterns within which people, much like ourselves, devoted their time and effort to preparations for mass murder. The patterns are disturbingly familiar. This paper demonstrates that emergence, as a disciplined way of thinking, can expand our understanding of evil and responsibility in ways that are relevant and critically important.
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