When people knowingly choose torture and darkness.
In 1961, Yale University Psychology Professor Stanley Milgram placed an advertisement in the New Haven Register. “We will pay you $4 for one hour of your time,” it read, asking for “500 New Haven men to help us complete a scientific study of memory and learning.”
In the ensuing Experiment, “The learner,” was hooked up to an electric-shock machine in the other room. Each time the learner made a mistake in repeating the words, the teacher was to deliver a shock of increasing intensity, starting at 15 volts (labeled “slight shock” on the machine) and going all the way up to 450 volts (“Danger: severe shock”).
Some people, horrified at what they were being asked to do, stopped the experiment early, defying their supervisor’s urging to go on; Others continued up to 450 volts. However, even the learner pleaded for mercy, yelled warnings about his heart condition —and then fell alarmingly silent, the participants continued.
In the most well-known variation of the experiment, a full 65 percent of people went all the way. Until they emerged from the lab, the participants didn’t know that the shocks weren’t real, that the cries of pain were pre-recorded, and that the learner—railroad auditor Jim McDonough—was in on the whole thing, sitting alive and unharmed in the next room.
They were also unaware that they had just been used to prove the claim that would soon make Milgram famous: “That ordinary people, under the direction of an authority figure, would obey just about any order they were given, even to torture.” It’s a phenomenon that’s been used to explain atrocities from the Holocaust to the Vietnam War’s My Lai massacre to the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
This explains a spark of darkness in humanity. The ability to inflict pain when someone has power is well documented. People get power to use it.
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”
This therefore shows that despite having the choice of choosing good and light, some people intentionally choose evil.
There can thus be no excuse for some of the atrocities committed by humans because we all ultimately have a choice.
Also published on Medium.