Evil at Noonday Part2

(Part I)

The theory that the physically harmful species were created after the Fall does not explain the aberrant behaviour in ‘good’ species. Take the case of a tribe of chimpanzees at Gombe, Tanzania, which had been under observation by scientists for a number of years. A group split off from the initial community and set up a separate tribe some distance away. An encounter is described between a female with her infant from the new tribe, and some males from the original tribe: “She did what any female chimpanzee would do in such circumstances, made submissive sounds and reached out gently to touch one of the males in reassurance. His response was extraordinary. He not only rebuffed her overture and moved quickly away out of reach, but performed a sort of exorcism, an act of real and ritual purification very reminiscent of Pontius Pilate. He picked a handful of leaves and vigorously scrubbed his fur precisely where she had touched him.

This behaviour is a crucial clue to what happened. next. All the males, acting in concert, surrounded the female; attacked her brutally, seized her infant and killed it.” – Dark Nature p 120.

Examples of this kind of thing in the natural world are legion.’ What causes it? Lyall Watson in an aside unwittingly gives what is perhaps the answer: “During the last twenty years, almost as though there has been a sea change in the psychology of the larger primates, field workers have been finding new evidence of violence in their lives.” – Dark Nature p 120.

When God made Adam, he gave him rule over all that lived on earth: “And God said, let us make man, wearing our own image and likeness; let us put him in command of the fishes in the sea, and all that flies through the air, and the cattle; and the whole earth, and all the creeping things that move on earth.” – Gen 1:26. This authority man to a great extent lost after the sin of Adam (how do you command birds?), although one can still see examples of it in the lives of the saints, St. Francis for example. I would suggest however, that there was a bond, a sock of unity between man and the natural world that still remains. What men do, for good or evil reverberates throughout the natural kingdom, and the behaviour of men finds its parallel in the behaviour of other creatures. As men increase in evil, so animal increase in aberrant and destructive acts.

What is the conclusion from all this? First, that nature must not be idealised as something flawless if only men would leave it in its pristine state. We live in a universe spoiled by sin; our business is to get through it without making too much of it, preparing ourselves in that hard battle between good and evil -of which nature offers an image – for the place of true, untarnished goodness, which is our real home: heaven.

Secondly, we can take heart in the knowledge that one day nature will be recreated in its original perfection, or even better, and become for the just in heaven a fitting backdrop to the bliss of the Beatific Vision. As St. Paul puts it, in Romans: “Created nature has been condemned to frustration; not for some deliberate fault of its own, but for the sake of him who so condemned it, with a hope to look forward to; namely that nature in its turn will be set free from the tyranny of corruption, to share in the glorious freedom of God’s sons.”

It’s a thought that would cheer Lyall Watson’s heart.