Is evil an unfortunate consequence of intelligence coming into existence?
The question assumes there was a time that intelligence did not exist. But first, let’s address whether evil is an unfortunate consequence of intelligence?
The idea that evil is an unfortunate consequence of intelligence assumes that evil is like the fruit of intelligence in the same way a rotten apple is the fruit of an apple tree. A more apt analogy would be that of defecation being the natural consequence of eating. A person may eat and burn up the energy provided by what is eaten and not need to defecate. Nevertheless, like a person who finds himself struck with the sudden uncontrollable onset of diarrhea when at an important black-tie function and thinking he is merely about to break wind, while trapped in the middle of a large auditorium by the numerous guests, the consequent state is unfortunate. In which case, evil’s existence is unfortunate. However, the cause of the diarrhea is really the evil, not the diarrhea nor the consumption of food.
Is evil a consequence of intelligence?
The short answer to this question is no, on the one hand, and yes, on the other. Evil could not exist unless intelligence existed, but an intelligent being would not create evil.
First, let us define “evil”. From looking at the many dictionary definitions, the common definition of evil is either “that which is morally wrong” or “something that causes harm”.
If the questioner imagines something that causes harm to be the consequence of intelligence, maybe he or she is overlooking the fact that most who consider themselves intelligent would understand that to cause harm to another person would invite retaliation, if not in the short term, definitely in the long term. So would doing something morally wrong invite retaliation?
Essentially, no intelligent beings would cause harm to another if they weighed up the consequences and concluded that the retaliation would be disastrous for themselves. However, if an intelligent being concluded that by doing something morally wrong, nothing much would happen and he would survive the consequences of his actions, he might attempt to harm another intelligent being. In which case, an intelligent spectator might conclude that the one who initiates evil is not too intelligent after all, if his actions cause the wrath of another against him. This is especially the case, if the one who wronged is greater and more powerful than the one initiating the evil action.
Evil is not a natural consequence of intelligence. Intelligent beings would reason that there is no profit in initiating evil actions if they invite retaliation and result in greater harm than the initial harm inflicted by the antagonist.
However, evil could not exist unless there were intelligent beings that recognize evil could exist as a possibility and therefore identify it as morally wrong. For something to be morally wrong, a violation of faith has to take place between two individuals who are able to exercise freewill. If a violation of faith is morally wrong, this means immorality is a not just a transgressing of rules, but a violation of faith between two or more individuals. This is because rules are the moral constructs originating from intelligence and they are designed as the means for reminding intelligent beings for the need to keep faith lest evil should eventuate.
When speaking of intelligence coming into existence, this implies that intelligence never existed beforehand.
As a human being who did not exist before I was born into this world, I understand that there was a time that I was not. Therefore, just because I cannot imagine how I could have existed before I did, this does not mean intelligence did not exist before I arrived on the scene. Fortunately, I am not so arrogant to think intelligence did not come into existence until I appeared outside my mother’s womb. In humility, I admit intelligence has been in existence long before I came into being. Yet, even if it did not exist, I would have been none the wiser, for I would not exist. What I know is I exist and, evidently, I possess the ability to acquire information and convert it into knowledge that enables me to execute judgments and appraise the possible consequences of my actions before I make them; this, I am led to believe is what constitutes intelligence.
That an Infinite Being who possesses intelligence does not exist is beyond my limitations to disprove. If I were to assume that there was a time that intelligence did not exist, it would be mere conjecture and I would be a fool to assert such a claim as fact.
My evaluation of my surroundings suggests a Designer exists who is greater than I am. Any other assumption is a matter of conjecture and requires me to reject the obvious: that an Intelligent Being designed the Creation; one who possesses more intelligence than I do. In which case, I marvel at how the complexity of Creation holds together when the laws of chance indicate it should dissipate.
Now if an intelligent being exists who possesses more intelligence than I do, then I would be a fool not to seek out such a being. If it were the expectations of the Designer of the Creation that I should seek Him out and demonstrate my intelligence by doing so, then not to do so might be morally wrong. In which case, this would be like me telling my parents to take a hike and jump off a cliff, for I refuse to acknowledge them because I consider them unworthy. If my parents were to think I was being disrespectful and that these actions were harmful to our relationship, then my insults would most likely invite some retaliation. This would be an unintelligent act on my part. Such an act would be morally wrong: a violation of faith between my parents and myself.
We could posit that there was a time when intelligence did not exist and everything was evil. This being the case, intelligence would have originated from evil, and when there was a deficiency in intelligence, evil asserted itself once more. The difficulty with this proposition is that we are asserting evil to be greater and more powerful than intelligence. We are also attributing to evil that which it does not possess by definition: the ability to construct goodness and life rather than be a force for destruction and death.
In conclusion, evil is impossible unless there is intelligence to evaluate the act as harmful; also evil appears to be an act that originates from a lack of intelligence. Evil therefore is not a consequence of intelligence but occurs when there is a shortage of intelligence. The corollary of this declaration is that intelligence has always existed and evil originated from a deficiency or malfunction within the thinking process of an intelligent being, when an oversight brought about an opinion that proved destructive.
The answer to the question “Is evil an unfortunate consequence of intelligence coming into existence?” has to be no; as we are unable to prove that there was a time when intelligence did not exist.