Is man inherently good or evil?

Story highlights

  • Will Cain: The Boston Marathon bombings make us wonder about the nature of man
  • He says such events, or rather those responsible, don't define us

Three dead bodies, 20 to 30 missing limbs, and more than 180 injured can force us to revisit that age-old question: What is the state of man's nature? Is he inherently good or evil? The Boston Marathon bombings have presented us with the dilemma of Locke versus Hobbes again.

Pictures like this tempt us to adopt Hobbes' pessimistic view of man.

But it's wrong. Events such as this, or rather men responsible for events such as this, don't define us. Actor Patton Oswalt, in a Facebook post that I'm sure has virally made it to your screen, put it perfectly:

A victim of the first explosion is helped on the sidewalk of Boylston Street in Boston on Monday.

"If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet."

And: "The vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago."

And more: "So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance, or fear, or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, 'The good outnumber you, and we always will.' "

Exactly. At least, that's what I think.

What about you? Which is it? Is man inherently good or evil? It's an admittedly oversimplified question. But how you answer it dictates what you do next.

Carlos Arredondo, Jeff Bauman define us

Man in cowboy hat helps injured
Man in cowboy hat helps injured


    Man in cowboy hat helps injured


Man in cowboy hat helps injured 01:24

Carlos Arredondo is being hailed as a cowboy-hatted hero. He is. With the bomb blasts still ringing in his ears, Arredondo dove into the carnage and began to help victims. He is extraordinary. I think he says more about us than whoever dropped a pressure cooker at the marathon on Monday.

It's Jeff Bauman, though, whom I keep thinking about. Bauman is the man who was standing on Boylston Street watching his girlfriend run the Boston Marathon. Bauman is the man who in one moment was standing with youthful invincibility and two legs. And in the next moment, he was lying without legs.

He's the man Arredondo stayed with until he was in an ambulance. There's something about these two men, this moment that defines us.

Yes, it's Arredondo's heroism. But it's also Bauman's gaze. He's literally three-quarters the person he was minutes before. And yet he almost calmly looks forward.

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