The Good and Badness…

I’m a fan of podcasts. I even have one with three other guys where we discuss things. I usually listen to them during the workday or occasionally when I go running. One podcast that I’m a big fan of is Radiolab. Radiolab, hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, is a radio show and podcast that weaves stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries. One episode, The Bad Show, wrestled with the dark side of human nature, and asks where it’s something we an ever really understand, or fully escape. The second segment is about a man named Fritz Haber.

Fritz Haber is a classic example of both extremes of human nature rolled into one person.

During the early 19th century there was a food shortage around the world. This seems next to impossible in this day and age but back then there were no processed foods. The diet of everyone on Earth was grown organically. Before Haber naturally extracted nitrogen fertilizer was used to replenish soiled that was tilled. Due to shortages in fertilizer a large portion of the world was in danger of starving to death.

Haber and Carl Bosch developed the Haber process, which is the catalytic formation of ammonia from hydrogen and atmospheric nitrogen under conditions of high temperature and pressure. He was awarded the 1918 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He essentially saved the lives of millions and millions of people.

This was the good side of Fritz Haber.

Haber was a Polish-born Jew.

He also developed chemical warfare on behalf of Germany during World War I. His most notable poison was chlorine gas. Haber once said, “During peace time a scientist belongs to the World, but during war time he belongs to his country.”

Haber’s wife, Clara, was also a chemist. She opposed Haber’s work in chemical warfare and following an argument with Haber over it; she committed suicide in their garden shooting herself in the heart with his service revolver. He still left that morning to oversee gas release against the Russians. Haber left behind his grieving 13-year-old son Hermann, who had been the one to discover his dying mother. Hermann later also committed suicide.

Haber’s mind was responsible for saving millions of lives but the same man using the same thinking caused the deaths of millions more. He propelled Germany during World War I and prolonged the war.

Haber’s story got me thinking about the different sides of people and if its possible to have good and evil wrapped up succinctly in one person. I don’t think any one person is 100% good or 100% evil but what happens when only one dominates a person at any given time?

I’d like to think of myself as a genuinely good person. I can’t help but wonder if I have some Fritz in me though. I doubt I’ll be important enough to have millions of lives hanging in the balance of what I may do but I wonder if I have some dormant evil side waiting to bubble to the surface and explode in a forceful rage? Have I subconsciously suppressed evil Tunde? Is he scratching and clawing for control like a schizophrenic personality? Hopefully this isn’t happening.


6 thoughts on “The Good and Badness…

  1. Wu Young, Agent of M.E.

    Good post, Doc!

    I do think people have levels to their good and evilness but I do think that there are a tiny 1% of the folks putting foot to pavement around the world are truly evil. Maybe I think this way due to my history background but I’ve learned to see those 1% for their inherent ain’t sh*tness. Most often greed, power, and ideology mitigate things but it is there.

    ” Have I subconsciously suppressed evil Keith? Is he scratching and clawing for control like a schizophrenic personality? Hopefully this isn’t happening.”

    I’m so afraid of being the quiet angry guy. The quiet angry guy is such a dangerous man and he doesn’t even know it. My daddy wasn’t an angry man but growing up when he did I could tell he was never afforded the opportunity emote for better or for worse. I struggle with this but I’ve become better about it over the past five years. It’s still a battle worth fighting, man. Let those you love help you through it because if you are truly bad, evil, or raging inside someone close to you is aware of it.

    1. madscientist7 Post author

      you think its only 1%? that might be low-balling it.

      i have this same fear. although i’m quiet most times i don’t really express a lot of my anger. whenever i get angry i try to not let it show. that age old mantra of “don’t let them see you sweat may have worked against me somehow.” i’m working on it too tho.

  2. gemmieboo

    good post. i love Radio Lab. this post (based on that Haber segment) is very thought provoking indeed.

    1st ill say this: i HATE when ppl say “such and such was such a nice person, they would NEVER do something bad”. i dont think anyone is above anything. sure, the average, non-psychopath isnt likely to be a serial killer, but they might very well be capable of murder, nonetheless. on the one hand i think we give humans waaay too much credit for being humane, but we also often dont give humans enough credit (i mean, Black men arent naturally rabid savages, are they?).

    but after reading your post, i cant help but wonder what Haber’s motivations were. perhaps he just enjoyed making life-changing discoveries, regardless of their actual impact. perhaps the Haber process was more about his genius then his desire to save lives (which could have just been a byproduct). maybe he felt it was necessary to save his country by creating chlorine gas – his countrymen’s lives were more important than other people’s. or maybe he felt that war was a more honorable way to die than starvation. does that necessarily make him “bad”?? turmoiled life has a funny way of giving us pretty sh*tty choices to choose from, especially. its so grey. and im not really sure where i stand on this anymore.

    i truly believe i am good. while i have the potential to be bad, and sometimes do bad things, i am a good person who wants to see good things happen to most people. i dont even wish bad on people i dislike. but i also dont expect anyone to only assume one or the other about it. i am human, which inherently makes me susceptible to letting life circumstances dictate who i’ll react and, possibly survive.

    1. madscientist7 Post author

      well based on the portrayal of black men in media you would think they were.

      i agree i think that haber just wanted to make good science. you remember that part where he tried to filter gold out of ocean water? imagine if you could actually do that? i can’t imagine some of the choices i would make if i were entrenched in war. good thing that barring an invasion of U.S. soil i won’t ever have to face those choices.

      i think you’re good too. maybe like 97-98% good. sometimes when i hear you curse i’m like O_O. lolool


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