Biologist and naturalist Lyall Watson's *Dark Nature: A Natural History of Evil* begins promisingly. Watson provides empirically sound support for the proposition that so-called "good" and "evil" are not simple antitheses, but instead are inextricably linked to each other within nature. "Good" and "evil", to the extent that they exist at all, are best defined as interdependent by-products of physical, not metaphysical, forces. Further, Watson states that a world without "evil" (defined as that which "is inimical to the 'goals' of survival of a certain species of individuals") would be-to use the eco-shibboleth of the moment-completely unsustainable.
Watson falters, however, when he strays from his area of expertise into the murkier regions of higher primate behavior. In particular, his forays into moral philosophy terminate in what can only be described as a colossal failure of nerve. Instead of a sustained attempt to apply the insights of sociobiology to the peculiarities of advanced species, Watson offers his readers the words of the Christian missionary in The African Queen: "Nature [...] is what we are [...] in this world to rise above". It seems that for Watson-imbedded firmly, despite himself, in the na?vet? of the Christian world-view-human morality alone can defy the iron dictates of the natural world.
Watson recoils especially from what he calls the "strong" force of "evil". He defines this "strong force" as "morally depraved" behavior, such as rape or murder (what we would term rape, of course, is common even among lower species, an inconvenient fact that Watson ignores). So shaken is he by such acts that he falls into easily avoidable errors of fact. For instance, he refers to Hungarian aristocrat Erzebet Bathory as an English countess. He further states, categorically and without support, that "we have the power to *defy* the genes" (emphasis added).
Impelled by his blind and mounting horror of the "strong" force of "evil", the author rapidly reaches the stage where he no longer pretends to be objective, or even rational, about his subject. For instance, Watson conveniently reduces young children who have murdered their peers to mere sub-humans who are "missing something" from their moral fabric. Watson reaches this scientific conclusion via a rigorous experimental protocol that consists of looking into the children's eyes. According to Watson, these simple-minded categories, procedures, and conclusions "just feel right". A better definition of "rube epistemology" would be difficult to craft.
Watson's efforts to call Western philosophy to his aid yield equally risible results. Whereas Robert Wright's book on evolutionary psychology, *The Moral Animal*, absurdly evokes Mill's long-dead philosophy of Utilitarianism as a bulwark against the inner beast, Watson keeps Fenris at bay by retreating into the tepid shallows of Aristotle's "golden mean":
"Aristotelian ethics is the ethics of 'just enough'. [...] If 'good' can be defined as that which encourages the integrity of the whole, then 'evil' becomes anything which [sic] disrupts or disturbs such completeness. [It is] [a]nything unruly or over the top. Anything, in short, that is bad for the ecology. [...] It [natural law] looks less like 'survival of the fittest' and far more like 'the fitting of as many as possible to survive'".
Unlike Watson, Hegel, who defined evil as "the form in which the motive force of historical development presents itself", clearly understood his subject. The obvious fact that every advance in art, philosophy, medicine, and technology has "disturbed or disrupted" the "ecology" of the times in various ways, great and small, seems to elude our author. He also appears to find the concepts of perspectivism and value-judgments to be completely incomprehensible. Instead, like all egalitarian ideologues, he ignores inconvenient facts, presents evidence selectively, and then cheerfully offers us a recipe for evolutionary mediocrity, one that would thoroughly justify Nietzsche's trenchant critique of Darwin. Oddly enough, Nietzsche's name fails to appear in Watson's bibliography or index, a fact that leads one ultimately to wonder about the survival value of selective perception.