By Robert A. Vella
Get ready for a somewhat disturbing, yet altogether enlightening philosophical journey into the unknown. On second thought, I shouldn’t have used the word unknown. Author John Zande, in his new nonfiction treatise On the Problem of Good, isn’t telling us that which we do not know. Rather, he is challenging our notions of that which we think we know. This masterpiece of metaphysical and existential exploration focuses entirely on the abstract concepts of good and evil; which, in my view, do not exist outside the human mind.
The book‘s religious implications are unavoidable, although Zande doesn’t directly confront it. Instead, he expertly concentrates on the subject at hand; that is, “the problem of good.” Specifically, the author cites an impressive array of scientific facts (worth reading on its own merits) he utilizes to refute the idea that our world was once inherently good, and that it has subsequently gone astray (i.e. become evil). “There has been no mistake,” Zande asserts.
The problem of good is broken down into three components having a complete chapter devoted to each. The use of imaginative metaphors (e.g. singing stars, and death-fearing hydrogen atoms) and illuminating scientific analogues (e.g. the electrochemical processes of plants to sense physical damage or pain) is quite sophisticated and stunningly effective. Zande’s contention that greater good only results in greater evil reaffirms, intentionally or not, my belief that good and evil are inseparable artificial concepts.
A formal challenge is offered at the end of the book which is both interesting and provocative. I’d enjoy reading responses from those who would dare accept the challenge for that would be a difficult endeavor, indeed.
This book is an intensely fascinating read, and I highly recommend it.