I recently heard about an interesting new book called The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty, by Simon Baron-Cohen (yes, the brother to actor Simon). Baron-Cohen is a professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge and director of the university’s Autism Research Center. In his new book, he tries to reframe the way people think about evil. It has has gotten solid reviews, one of which can be found in a recent issue of the New York Times. Here’s a peek:

“My main goal is to understand human cruelty, replacing the unscientific term ‘evil’ with the scientific term ‘empathy,’” he writes at the beginning of the book.

Evil, he notes, has heretofore been defined in religious terms (with the concept differing in the major world religions), as a psychiatric condition (psychopathology) or, as he puts it, in “frustratingly circular” terms: “He did x because he is truly evil”).

Dr. Baron-Cohen … proposes that evil is more scientifically defined as an absence of empathy, exacerbated by negative environmental factors (usually parental, sometimes societal) and a genetic component.

You can read more here.