An Old Man From Jersey Explains: Is Man Inherently Good Or Evil?

This is a mini-series of comics about a naive but curious ten-year-old boy who pesters a crude but wise old man while he sits on the steps to their dingy New Jersey apartment building trying to read the newspaper.


An old man sits on the steps to his dingy New Jersey apartment reading a newspaper. A naive but curious ten year old boy stands on the grass nearby about to ask a question.

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Kid: Hey Mister!

Old Man: What do you want, kid.

Kid: Is man inherently good or evil?

Old Man: What’s good, and what’s evil?

Kid: I don’t know. I guess whatever God says.

Old Man: Which god is that then?

Kid: Don’t all religions basically say the same thing?

Old Man: And what do they say then?

Kid: To do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Old Man: They also tend to say that women and slaves should be obedient. Is that good?

Kid: Heck no. All people were created equal.

Old Man: Did God say that?

Kid: Didn’t He?

Old Man: Did He need to?

Kid: Didn’t He?

Old Man: Did God need to say that 2+2=4 for that to be true?

Kid: Does it matter? It’d still be true either way.

Old Man: What if I told you that 2+2=5?

Kid: Then I’d tell you you’re wrong.

Old Man: How do you know that?

Kid: Logic. Duh.

Old Man: Great. So what does logic say the difference between good and evil is?

Kid: Well, what’s good for people is good, and what’s bad for people is bad.

Old Man: I asked you to use logic, not circular logic.

Kid: What do I know about logic? I’m just a kid. Just tell me the final answer so I can get home and watch TV.

Old Man: Well, first you need a frame of reference to measure good and evil against.

Kid: What kind of frame of reference?

Old Man: The ultimate goal of life, what it’s all leading up to.

Kid: …like the meaning of life.

Old Man: Exactly.

Kid: So what’s the meaning of life?

Old Man: Nobody knows, and even if they thought they did couldn’t empirically prove they’re right.

Kid: Can’t we prove the meaning of life using logic?

Old Man: You can come up with all sorts of logical explanations for the meaning of life. You just can’t empirically prove any of them are right.

Kid: So we can’t be sure if we’ll ever know the true meaning of good and evil?

Old Man: We can’t even prove there is a true meaning of good and evil.

Kid: So what the heck are we doing here? How does the world function without a universal moral compass?

Old Man: Some would say the world isn’t doing a good job of functioning.

Kid: So how can we know if man is inherently good or evil if we can’t prove what good and evil are?

Old Man: Who said man is inherently good or evil?

Kid: You know, that old saying.

Old Man: Maybe you shouldn’t base your perception of reality on old sayings.

Kid: Look, people have to be inherently something.

Old Man: Well, we’re born ignorant if that helps.

Kid: Hey! ignorance doesn’t help you do anything. So ignorance is bad, and if ignorance is bad…and we’re ignorant…then we’re bad.

Old Man: But we’re also born with the capacity to learn and reason. We even know how to suckle without having to be taught. If ignorance is evil then our inherent capacity for intelligence makes us inherently good.

Kid: But babies are still inherently evil though, right? Since they don’t know nothing?

Old Man: There’s some who would agree that babies are evil, and there’s some who wouldn’t, but what does it matter?

Kid: It matters because I need to know what to do with my life.

Old Man: I’d suggest learning as much as possible and spending the rest of your life contemplating the meaning of life.

Kid: Ugh. That sounds like a lot of work.

Old Man: …and?

Kid: …and that sucks.

Old Man: Does it?

Kid: Yeah, it’s not fair!

Old Man: Isn’t it?

Kid: You’re hopeless. I’m going home.

Old Man: Okay. Well, be good for your mother.

Kid: Whatever.

The End.

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