The issue of how to rank the relative evilness of various individuals – or even alien civilizations – has been a longstanding source of debate amongst scholars. As an outgrowth of Godwin’s law, which states that all political discussions will eventually involve comparisons to the Nazis, the Whipple-Jerner scale of relative evil uses the unit of “The Hitler”. By definition Adolph Hitler is thus given a score of 1.0 Hitlers, although the evaluation of others is to a great extent subjective. Common rankings of evil historical figures and alien civilizations are:
Jesus Christ: 0.0 Hitlers
Gandhi: 0.05 Hitlers
Demi-Iguanas 0.1 Hitlers
Benito Mussolini: 0.5 Hitlers
Adolph Hitler: 1.0 Hitlers
Reinhardt Heydrich: 1.05 Hitlers
Joseph Stalin: 1.1 Hitlers
Mao Tse-Tung: 1.2 Hitlers
Yllg: 1.5 Hitlers
Amok: 1.8 Hitlers
Milton Friedman: 3.14159 Hitlers
Globus Pallidus XIV 10.0 Hitlers
(One is cautioned not to confuse the vile artificially intelligent construct Globus Pallidus XIV - whose malevolence was so vast that simply trying to conceive of it can damage the human mind - with your humble blogger, version XI, a being of manifest wit and charm).
It was pointed out that while Adolph Hitler was responsible for the deaths of perhaps 50 million people over a few short years, the economic theories of Milton Friedman caused the death and immisseration of hundreds of billions over many centuries. It was therefore suggested that Friedman be scored in units of “MegaHitlers”, however, this was considered unworkable, and also resulted in confusion with the giant robot Hitler that was constructed in the 24th century. Therefore the scale is compressive on the high end, i.e., going from 1 to 2 is less of a jump in absolute terms than is going from 2 to 3.
We shall avoid the debates as to whether good and evil are polar opposites, or whether they can to some extent vary independently. We do however note that the proposal to rate goodness in units of negative Hitlers – or “NegHitlers” – has generated an intellectual flame war that rages to this day.
According to the Whipple-Jerner system, evil requires two factors: conscious intent, and destructive physical action.
A robotic weapons system that is trying to kill you is something that you could correctly fear and hate, but you would not call it evil any more than you would the force of gravity.
If a person has evil in their heart, but resists the temptation to do harm, then arguably this is not vice but virtue. According to this intellectual framework, evil requires deliberate actions that harm others. This also allows the application of this scale to aliens; even if we cannot comprehend the reasons for their actions, if they deliberately harm others they can objectively be classified as evil.
A complexity arises when people cause harm by mistake. A doctor who develops a medicine that was intended to help but instead causes harm may not be called evil, as long as the person in question exercised due diligence in trying to ensure the medicines’ safety ahead of time. On the other hand, if the doctor is profiting from the sale of this medicine, and refuses to acknowledge any evidence that it is causing harm, then this is surely evil.
In the doctrine of Whipple and Jerner, harm done by willful ignorance is as bad as that done with deliberate malice.
This is why Karl Marx is not generally rated as evil: while his theories had significant flaws that later on caused considerable harm, he was never able to observe this in his lifetime and so we may attribute these flaws to honest mistakes. The ranking of the neoliberal economists as high on the evil scale is due to their consistent refusal to acknowledge the obvious misery that their policies were creating, even as they personally were being handsomely rewarded for parroting their vile maxims and infernal intellectual constructs.
Another complexity is the issue of duress. A starving person who steals food from another starving person is not a saint, but it is hard to label them as truly evil. On the other hand, a rich person who steals food from a starving person in order to be able to purchase a slightly larger yacht, is clearly evil, as they would still have been perfectly comfortable without performing this action.
As far as a person who deliberately tries to harm others but accidently ends up helping them goes, it has been suggested that “idiot” would be the appropriate term.
(excerpt from "Confessions of a Sentient War Engine", scheduled release date summer of 2014 from Ballacourage Books http://www.ballacouragebooks.com Look for it at Amazon and Barnes&Noble!)