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The problem of the ultimate causes of evil - especially human strife and suffering - has agitated people's minds from the beginning of history. The problem was particularly acute for the Christian tradition, with its faith in an all-loving and all-powerful God. In the modern scientific worldview, various specific evils are ascribed natural origins, but contemporary habits of thought are still governed by the premise of a fundamentally beneficient Providence. With the acceptance of Darwinian natural selection, "evolution" has been equated with Providence: It is widely supposed that evolution always does what is best, and always in the most efficient way. The term "evolution" has even come to be synonymous with progress or improvement to this popular notion by suggesting that natural selection operates always and wholly for the good of each individual organism. In "The Evolution of Evil", Timothy Anders takes issue with this popular conception, and suggests that it is based on wishful thinking and anthropocentric bias. As Anders sees it, the process of evolution is neither progressive nor benign.
At its every turn, evolution creates new forms of suffering, hardship, and conflict, which the organisms produced by it are obliged to endure. Anders describes the human organism's inherent physical defects, the serious disadvantages of reliance on intelligence and learning, the anti-human traditions prevalent in all human cultures, the atrocities of the ignoble savage, and the biological roots of interpersonal conflict.