The Evil Brain: What Lurks Inside a Killer’s Mind

As tragedies like Boston and Newtown mount, scientists and criminologists are trying harder than ever to understand the minds behind the crimes

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Photo-Illustration by Brown Bird Design for TIME. Tsarnaev: AFP / Getty Images

Homicidal madmen don’t have much of a capacity for gratitude, but if they did, they’d offer a word of thanks to Charles Whitman. Whitman was the 25-year-old engineering student and former Marine who, in 1966, killed 17 people and wounded 32 in a mass shooting at the University of Texas, before being shot and killed himself by police. Earlier that day, he also murdered his wife and mother. Criminal investigators looking for a reason for the rampage got what seemed to be their answer quickly, in the form of a suicide note Whitman left at his home:

I do not really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts … please pay off my debts [and] donate the rest anonymously to a mental-health foundation. Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type.

Whitman got his wish — after a fashion. With the approval of his family, an autopsy was conducted and investigators found both a tumor and a vascular malformation pressing against his amygdala, the small and primitive region of the brain that controls emotion. A state commission of inquiry concluded that the tumor might have contributed to the shootings, earning Whitman a tiny measure of posthumous redemption — and providing all killers since at least the fig-leaf defense that something similar might be wrong with them too.

For as long as evil has existed, people have wondered about its source, and you don’t have to be too much of a scientific reductionist to conclude that the first place to look is the brain. There’s not a thing you’ve ever done, thought or felt in your life that isn’t ultimately traceable to a particular webwork of nerve cells firing in a particular way, allowing the machine that is you to function as it does. So if the machine is busted — if the operating system in your head fires in crazy ways — are you fully responsible for the behavior that follows?

(MORE: Brothers in Arms: Sibling Psychology and the Bombing Suspects)

That’s a question that has a lot more than just philosophical implications. No sooner were the Tsarnaev brothers identified as the Boston Marathon bombers than speculation arose as to whether the behavior of older-brother Tamerlan might have been influenced by brain damage sustained during his years as a boxer. The answer was almost certainly no: sports-related brain injury usually leads to volatile and impulsive behavior in people his age, and the bombing was coldly and painstakingly planned. (This was made especially clear by the later revelation that the brothers had originally planned their attack for July 4, but by working hard and applying themselves, they completed their bombs earlier than planned — an illustration of perverse diligence if ever there was one.) But the medical histories of uncounted other killers and violent offenders are filled with diagnoses of all manner of brain diseases and traumas, raising both the issue of whether the perps were truly, fully, responsible for their crimes, and the possibility that the acts could have been prevented in the first place if the illnesses had been treated.

“I don’t think there’s any kind of neurological condition that’s 100% predictive,” says neuroscientist Michael Koenigs of the University of Madison-Wisconsin. “But even when psychopaths know that what they’re doing is a crime, that doesn’t mean they’re in control of their behavior when they offend.”

(PHOTOS: Joy and Relief in Boston After Bombing Suspect’s Arrest)

Even before Whitman made it into the medical texts, scientists were already familiar with the case of Phineas Gage, the 25-year-old railroad worker who, in 1848, was helping to blast a path for a new rail line in Vermont when an errant explosion drove an iron rod into the top of his head, through his left frontal lobe and out his cheekbone. Gage, incredibly, didn’t die and nor did he even exhibit much loss of function. But after the bar was removed, there was a sudden change in his personality. Always a peaceable man, he become volatile, combative and, after a lifetime of polite speaking, wildly profane. It was science’s first glimpse at the seemingly direct cause-and-effect connection between trauma to the brain and the very essence of personality. As our ability to image and repair the brain has improved, we’ve been able to detect far less obvious damage than a railroad spike through the skull — damage that nonetheless has every bit as great an effect.

(MORE: The Brain of the Bomber: Did Damage Caused by Boxing Play a Role in the Boston Bombings?)

In a celebrated 2003 case published in the Archives of Neurology, for example, a 40-year-old Virginia schoolteacher with no history of pedophilia developed a sudden interest in child pornography and began making sexual overtures to his stepdaughter. His wife reported his behavior, and he was arrested and assigned to a 12-step program for sex offenders. He flunked out of the course — he couldn’t stop propositioning staff members — and was sentenced to prison. Only a day before he was set to surrender, however, he appeared in a local emergency room with an explosive headache and a range of other neurological symptoms. Doctors scanned his brain and found a tumor the size of an egg in the right orbitofrontal cortex, the region that processes decisionmaking and other so-called executive functions. The tumor was removed and the compulsive sexuality vanished along with it. Less than a year later, the tumor returned — and so, almost in lockstep, did his urges.

“There’s no one spot in the brain for pedophilia,” says Stephen J. Morse, professor of both law and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. “But damage to the orbitofrontal region is known to be associated with disinhibition. We know that various forms of brain damage can contribute to difficulties in being guided by reason.”

(PHOTOS: Marathon Carnage: Explosions in Boston)

Other, more recent studies are finding roots of criminality in other parts of the brain. As Maia Szalavitz reported in April, a team of researchers led by Kent Kiehl, associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which the brains of 96 male felons sentenced to at least a year in jail for crimes including robbery, drug dealing and assault were scanned in a functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI). While they were in the fMRI, the men performed a task that required them to hit a key on a computer when they saw the letter X on a screen, but refrain when they saw the letter K. Since the X appeared 84% of the time and since the two letters look awfully similar to begin with, it was easy to get into the habit of overclicking. The ability to avoid hitting the key too much calls for a measure of impulse control, a faculty processed in a region of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The inmates who did worse on the test turned out to have lower levels of activity in the ACC; the ones who performed better had higher levels. Kiehl tracked all of the inmates for four years after their release from prison and found that those with the sleepy ACCs were also more than four times likelier to be rearrested than the others. If you can’t control your impulse to click, the study suggested, you might have equal difficulty controlling the impulse to run afoul of the law.

“There are more papers coming out that show how MRIs predict who reoffends,” said Kiehl in a follow-up e-mail with TIME. “We are examining treatments that increase activity in the anterior cingulate. The goal is to see if we can help identify the best therapies to reduce recidivism.”

(MORE: Bombs, Instincts and Morals: Why Heroes Risk It All for Strangers)

Koenigs, who has collaborated with Kiehl, has conducted other work with inmates linking both the amygdala and a region known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex as possible accomplices in crime. The amygdala is the wild child of that pair, the brain’s seat of fear, suspicion, anger and more. Those are not always bad emotions, provided the ventromedial is able to do one of its assigned jobs, which is to keep the amygdala on a short leash. Working with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Koenigs was given access to two groups of volunteer prisoners at a medium-security facility: one diagnosed as psychopathic, one nonpsychopathic.

In the first of two tests, Koenigs scanned the men’s brains with a diffusion tensor imager, a type of MRI that detects how water molecules interact with tissue. In this case, he was trying to determine the soundness of the white matter — the fatty insulation — that protects the neural circuits connecting the ventromedial and the amygdala. In a second test, he used an fMRI to study more directly how clearly the two regions were communicating. In both cases, the brains of the psychopaths were in worse shape than those of the nonpsychopaths, with less robust white-matter insulation and the nerves beneath it doing a poorer job of transmitting signals.

“You can use the findings of this study as a proxy for the connectedness between these two structures,” Koenigs says. “The remorselessness and violence seen in psychopaths may be attributable to the regions not communicating effectively.”

(MORE: President Obama Tells Boston to Keep Running After Marathon Bombings)

Other studies make a similar case for the mechanistic roots of crime. Enzymes known as monoamine oxidases (MAO) are essential to keeping human behavior in check, breaking down neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine and ensuring that the brain remains in chemical balance. Babies born with a defect in an MAO-related gene — known colloquially as the warrior gene — have been shown to be at nine times higher risk of exhibiting antisocial behavior later in life. Adrian Raine, professor of criminology at the University of Pennsylvania, has found that infants under 6 months old who have a brain structure known as a cavum septum pellucidum — a small gap in a forward region between the left and right hemispheres — are similarly likelier to develop behavioral disorders, and face a higher risk of arrest and conviction as adults as well.

All of this makes the case for a neurological role in many violent crimes hard to deny, but all of it raises a powerful question too: So what? For one thing, brain anomalies are only part of the criminal puzzle. A rotten MAO gene indeed may play a role in later-life criminality, but in most cases it’s only when children have also been exposed to abuse or some other kind of childhood trauma. A child with a stable background and bad genetics may handle his warrior impulses just fine. Koenigs may have found cross-talk problems between the ventromedial and the amygdalae of psychopaths, but he also acknowledges that he didn’t get a look at the men’s brains until they were, on average, 30 years old, and a lot could have gone on in that time. “They’ve had a lifetime of poor socialization, drugs, alcohol, they’ve had their bell rung,” he says. “You don’t know what causes what.”

Even the case of the pedophile schoolteacher, whose pathology switched cleanly off and cleanly on depending on the presence of his tumor, was less clear than it seems. “He touched his stepdaughter only when his wife was not around, and his wife and co-workers had not noticed any problems,” says Morse. “Clearly he had some control or some rational capacity. You can’t say that just because the tumor caused him to have pedophiliac desires, he wasn’t responsible.”

That’s the zone in which science and the law always collide — the causation question that can’t simply be brain-scanned or tissue-sampled or longitudinally tested away. People like Morse believe where once we attributed all crime to moral laxity or simple evil, we’ve now overcorrected, too often looking to excuse criminal behavior medically. “I call it the fundamental psycholegal error,” he says. “The belief that if you discover a cause you’ve mitigated or excused responsibility. If you have a bank robber who can show that he commits crimes only when he’s in a hypomanic state, that does not mean he deserves excuse or mitigation.”

Koenigs takes a more forgiving view: “I’ve been part of a Department of Justice project to help inform judges about how to assess culpability,” he says. “The legal system currently goes about it the wrong way, relying on whether criminals know right from wrong. Maybe they do, but the kinds of things that would then give most people pause just don’t register on some of them.”

Where the two camps do agree is on the need to keep society safe from the predations of people whose raging brains — no matter the cause — lead to so much death and suffering. Here legal theory yields a little more easily to hard science. Scanning every inmate’s ACC before making parole decisions will surely raise privacy issues, but if the science can be proven and perfected, isn’t there a strong case for trying it — especially if, as Kiehl suggests, it might lead to therapeutic and rehabilitative strategies? Babies taken from abusive parents might similarly be scanned as part of a routine medical check, just in case a telltale gap in the brain hemispheres could exacerbate the trauma they’ve already endured, making therapeutic intervention all the more important.

Evil is far too complex and far too woven into our natures for us to think that we can always adjudicate it fairly. But the better we can understand the brains that are home to such ugliness, the more effectively we can contain it, control it and punish it. Now and then, with the help of science, we may even be able to snuff it out altogether.

MORE: What Makes Us Moral?

106 comments
rly1987
rly1987

Just because you can identify evil on a brain scan doesn't change the fact a person is evil.  There is no "my genes made me evil against my will."  Nope (not in my opinion at least.)  Your genes are your will.  


Having said that - only inherently wicked and sinister intent is unforgivable despite scientific diagnosis in my opinion.  You can be a well intentioned person with schizophrenia, tourette syndrome, or some movement disorder that causes you to do things that you would not do if you were healthier.  That's a different story.  The core human means well, but has a valid medical condition that made them act out in a way they would not have done had they been empowered to enact their true core intentions properly. 


However, just because you are diagnosed as a sociopath or a genuine narcissist and a brain scan shows you function differently doesn't change the fact that science has merely found a way to identify true underlying malevolence.  That should just be further evidence a person should go to jail. 


A jury recently set a man free because brain scans showed his frontal cortex involved in planning was different.  But this man had been plotting with clearly malicious intent even when behind bars.  The fact they set this guy free is ridiculous in my opinion.

Zola
Zola

Research has also shown that many children who grow up in institutions without constant parental interaction - simply a parent staring into an infant's eyes - that this lack actually causes a lack of the biological connection between the Amygdale and other referenced brain part from growing. Although institutionalized children may have their basic survival needs met, the lack of so much constant mental stimulation from an adult (aka as 'love') prevents the amygdale connecting to that other part of the brain. Thus such people are 'psychopaths' in that they lack feelings, especially empathy which teaches morals.  Parental abuse and neglect is the most responsible interaction that 'creates' monsters.

To assert that brain research is not useful is an incredible show of ignorance.

And yes, it is frightening to contemplate how such knowledge, when it does become easily available, will be used. But then again, I chose not to replicate my own DNA because I suspected I had serious DNA problems (even before DNA was discovered. I thought of it as having defective blood).  Which proved to be correct. And which brain research has enabled me to live well, into an old age, without harming others, but helping many.

punkakes13
punkakes13

everyone is capable of being evil, not everyone is capable of being good as a whole concept of ideology etc

but anyways, it is ridiculous to distort the image of this guy like that, when nothing was roved, in fact, where is him???? ive been thinking about suspect numeber 2 for days... :/ this is not alright... ppl forget easily as soon its out of news

chuck744
chuck744

The problem with these theories is that they do not reveal how the difference in brain architecture were formed in the first place. This information is known and being ignored. See works by Drs Allan Schore, K.J.S. Anand and  Adnan T. Bhutta on the forming of behaviors from brain development of newborns. God did not just create these differences in these people!

metta2uall
metta2uall

Good article but "there’s not a thing you’ve ever done, thought or felt in your life that  isn’t ultimately traceable a particular webwork of nerve cells firing in a particular way" sounds as though that's a fact; it may well be true but how exactly consciousness works hasn't yet been completely worked out.

paulgeorges
paulgeorges

Presenting himself as a victim often attract some people sympathie.When someone complains in general we trust him! When one complains many believe that all is well. We must help people who do not complain because they are the ones who sometime need it the most. A soldier who fought for his country should not be abandoned even if it does not complain! Anyone who complains that does not mean that it is a priority because some make a career complaining and take aid from all sides: traders, bankers, and some terrorists hiding as victim.

NoBigGovDuh
NoBigGovDuh

"Even the case of the pedophile schoolteacher, whose pathology switched cleanly off and cleanly on depending on the presence of his tumor, was less clear than it seems. “He touched his stepdaughter only when his wife was not around, and his wife and co-workers had not noticed any problems,” says Morse. “Clearly he had some control or some rational capacity. You can’t say that just because the tumor caused him to have pedophiliac desires, he wasn’t responsible.”"

Just like any pedophile he tried to hide his activity, this does not mean the tumor did not cause him to be attracted to an inappropriate age group.


You are simply playing with words to push your viewpoint.

Further  you also stated in the article this "He flunked out of the course — he couldn’t stop propositioning staff members"

glamavon
glamavon

@djmeyer85 @Peace_2_All While the science and psychology behind what makes people do evil things is all quite interesting, it's of little comfort to the victims and their families of the perpatraters of these acts.  No matter how much research and analysis we do, we can never prevent someone(s) from going online, downloading instructions on how to build explosive devices, and setting them off in public places.  We can possibly use the research for some other constructive purpose.  What genuinely amazes me in the aftermath of such events is the inordinate amount of analysis by the media about who committed the crimes and why.  Both Tsarneav brothers were not incapable of expressing typical human emotion and, by current accounts, were not raised by horrible parents.  They were brought to this country so they could take advantage of opportunities not afforded to them in their home country.  The only emotional issue I see here is the feeling of disconnection from their fellow Chenchens.  This feeling of disconnection is typical of the immigrant experience.  They were (are) able to distinguish right from wrong.  In my opinion, they were both overly impressionable young men who did something unforgivable.

firozekabeer
firozekabeer

First of all: there is nothing called "Evil brain". I object to this terminology. It is the "Evil System" which poisons a human brain with tremendous potential to become an "Anti-social Element". Secondly, to read the mind of Adam Lanza or Zakar Sarnayev you do not need to be a specialist. Look at the killing pattern of Adam: he did not kill a single "male" adult except himself. Now about Zakar & his elder brother: they went out of their head by watching continous oppression of their fellow Chechens by Putin. So, my dear Jeffry: equation is simple, nothing complex to understand. Every human being is born as innocent, it is this rotten, unjust & cruel system which converts them into  criminals.

glamavon
glamavon

Bottom line, who cares.  Does the science of a killer's brain really matter to the families of the dead and injured? No, it doesn't.  Both brothers were/are not mentally disabled cognitively or otherwise.  They could easily distinguish right from wrong yet chose to set off bombs that killed three people and injured scores of others.  The fact that Tamarlan and Dzhokar Tsarneav lack the capacity to show remorse or any other real human emotion is of little value to anyone. 

tigredelneve
tigredelneve

Terrible... Up front I don't really like to split the world in good and evil. It does not make sense to me at least. Now if we are to 'contain' people and medicate them and remove babies from their parents on the backdrop of brain scans we are not just talking about an Orwellian horror society anymore. We are living in one. 

Ghislane100
Ghislane100

It would be very interesting to have these tests carried out on Amanda Knox.  

saintgeorge5
saintgeorge5

Now tell me, what evil brain has five year old boy has when he shot his sister , two years old.  The whole article is a tosh.  As usual the main steam Media is making a hay of the Boston incident.


What does a mind of anti abortionist thugs who blow up doctors who help people with abortion, mind look like.

Tell me the shape of mass murderers mind of Iraqi invasion, namely George Bush and his side kicks with help of others like Tony Blair. 

The whole article is a piece of garbage.  Koean war, Vietnam war, agent Orange was used, illegaly.  What does brain of these people and others who use drones and other lethal weapons, look like.We in the West create holacaust situation by foreign policy and thirst for material resources.  To say we are promoting the demicracy through barrel of gun are producing martyrs who are fundamentalists.

Holier than thou attitude.

ishowrie
ishowrie

Incredibly interesting and informative study.

quasiintellectual
quasiintellectual

Instead of following a disciplined life in their new country, two brothers got two much involved in an intemperate hedonistic life style and snapped after their irresponsible mother with some jihadi mindset fled the country to avid arrest leaving behind her two sons who tried to find new direction in life through hateful speeches from some religious bigots easily available in internet sites.

brooklynite4321
brooklynite4321

I'm just going to say it. That red floating brain thing is the worst photo illustration I have ever seen. Anywhere. Ever. Even sadder? Someone took credit for it.

DrZin
DrZin

He's a f***ing muslim terrorist. That's what's in his f***ing brain.

theirmind
theirmind

Even be able to interpret the brain, and some unknown waiting for answers.

Time2Cancel
Time2Cancel

An article worth reading in Time?  Now my brain's exploding.

midasrex1988
midasrex1988

Oh, sorry - thought from the headline this was going to be a story explaining wtf is wrong with liberals.

eetom
eetom

'... Now and then, with the help of science, we may even be able to snuff it out altogether."  The last sentence of this article sends a chill down my spine.  Who decides what to snuff what not to snuff?  How can we be sure that the snuffers do not have evil brains?


Read more: http://science.time.com/2013/05/03/evil-brain/#ixzz2SHbxzyK5

DavidAllenJared
DavidAllenJared

I don't know.  Let's bust this guy's head open and see.

Oniprett54
Oniprett54

This is true science at work; always trying to understand the causes and origin of every action. That is perfectly alright and if it leads to detection of criminals before they unleash their evil thoughts on the public, that will be great too. However as the writer said, 'justification' of a crime does not legalize it, for we live in a society governed by laws and norms. Shall we now replace our prisons with mental homes? There is a saying in Africa that a mad man still has his senses, no matter how deranged. A lunatic is still responsible for his actions. The mass shooter and the terrorist are not far removed from each other. They are actually two halves of the same coin.  

webmaster
webmaster

Voltaire said that someone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. That is why religious nuts are terrorists.

nopspops
nopspops

my personality changed completely when i was 16 and i have no tumors. everything changed.

GaryRMcCray
GaryRMcCray

What rot, People are not only capable of anything and all it takes is the right circumstances for us to exhibit any behavior.

World War 2 and the death camps are an excellent example.

As more recently was our own governments policy of torture through water boarding. 

Soldiers, kill and in Rome the good citizens thought great entertainment was watching Christians get eaten by Lions.

What is amazing is what a good job civilization and society does of keeping these "capabilities" repressed, in check and under authoritarian control.

We are social creatures, but we are genetically and mentally very close to a brutal and savage evolutionary history.

What is remarkable is how effective our society has been, not that exceptions leak out periodically.

hamilton.fisk
hamilton.fisk

This is impressive reporting on a complex topic that also happens to be "off limits" or controversial per se to a substantial portion of our population.

My father has a complex personality mainly because he confined his communication with others to rare utterances unless it had to do with his business.  When he was arrested last year at age of 72 for internet trading of child pornography.  Every family member was shocked, including his many siblings who knew him as a little odd for his apparent social isolation but also knew him as kind individual who would not so much as think about harming another person.  

In a nearly maniacal fashion after his arrest  I searched and read the literature on pedophilia in disciplines such as psychiatry, behavioral neurology, criminal  justice, law enforcement. mass media  reporting, and the more obscure areas such as Human and other mammalian Ethology.  I learned  that very  little is known or understood about pedophilia, if only because the topic has not been studied because it is "off limits" due to cultural forces deeply influenced by ancient religious beliefs.

Some studies estimate that  as many as one of three women have been  sexually abused during their childhood years.  For males the incidence of childhood sexual abuse is a somewhat lower.  Lifelong suffering, self blame and self loathing are common as a result.   Children of sexual abuse victims can be negatively affected by the experience and emotional trauma suffered by the afflicted parent. 

Crimes of pedophilia and the enormous suffering caused will not be reduced by stiffer sentences.  This has been shown in the aftermath of a blitz of legislation ten or more years ago requiring longer, harsher sentences.     

The inquiry into a possible  neurological basis for acts of evil is more advanced than the study of pedophilia.     No matter what some small religious group living an isolated existence in a remote forest may think about the origins of evil, the  scientific inquiry into the neuro-biological underpinnings of evil behavior will continue due to the persistence of courageous scientists.  

When the history of humans on earth is complete it will likely show that the greatest evil  known to  mankind was Ignorance.

It moves.

For the record my father did not sexually molest any of his children, nor did he engage in any behavior that caused me or my sibs any discomfort ever.)


DouglasSkopp
DouglasSkopp

As an historian, my scholarly focus was on German medical ethics and practices from 1880-1945.  My novel, Shadows Walking, explores the motives and mind-set of a well-meaning physician who joins the Nazi Party and commits crimes against humanity, as the prosecution argued at the Nuremberg Trials.  To say such a person was evil or did evil things is an oversimplification.  We are capable of such evil.  Without compassion, we become indifferent to the suffering of others.  As Proust said, "...indifference to the sufferings that one causes..., even if it is given other names, is a terrible and permanent form of cruelty."  We must be on guard against ourselves.  And knowing what we all can do, if we are pushed by the skein of forces which enmesh us, we must do whatever we can to minimize our tendencies to do "evil."  The first step will require each of us to show greater humility.  It wont' be easy.  And I'm not sure it will even be possible, given the blood on every page of history.  But to do any less will lead to the abyss.   Douglas R. Skopp

laralaira
laralaira

The point of this article is to, by all possible means blame evil on things out of our control and responsibility, so that no one dares to question say... American repressed society by the politically correct? American culture and values? the system we have embraced? religion? nahhh, let's not question ourselves deeply as a people, these are just specific anomalies that have nothing to do with us as a people... right...

Roddalitz
Roddalitz

Would someone please explain why a killer who is insane may be treated and released, whereas a killer who is sane and responsible may not be released?

It seems to me that a killer should be locked away in any case, as a danger to society.

rohit57
rohit57

The US has had 50 million abortions since Roe v Wade.  Now a large number of Americans, perhaps a plurality, do not consider this to be evil.  That shows that "evil" is at least partly a social construct.

Similarly, some people might think that Obama's drones are evil.  But that again will depend on which community they belong to.   To many reading this posting, Obama is merely "defending America."

In the case of the elder Tsarnaev, he lived in two cultures, with different standards of what constituted evil.   It is likely that the community in Dagestan or his mother told him that what he was contemplating was not evil but merely "defending Islam".

In many cases, we need to look, not inside the brain, but inside the culture, INCLUDING our own.  America in particular needs a mirror more than any other country.

Rhomega
Rhomega

The brain is divided into two halves: the good half and the evil half.  The good half likes things like self-esteem, Oreo cheesecake, bringing your old man a cold one, and all our playsets and toys! *smiles* The evil half likes things like littering, loitering, latering, lootering, and all the other things that cause Inappropriate Peer-2-Teen Choice Behaviors!

dawnfirebird
dawnfirebird

This is the kind of article NAZI Germany would have applauded--subsuming a tragic event into a human being, heaping upon this young man every known pathology and aberration, refusing to acknowledge a wider context in which such tragedies unfold in a society (shootings, homicides), or that this society itself is responsible for over a million innocent dead in other lands. 

Shame that it was even published.

daena.vassar
daena.vassar

This is a ridiculous, overly simplistic article.

The cover with a red brain on Tsarnaev's head is offensive, you might as well label him "witch" and sound horns to call for a stake.  

Sorry, American society here is trying to progress to more mature reactions than in the 1600s, even though Tsarnaev's crime was entirely horrific.  The crime was committed by a human with no supernatural "evil" influences whatsoever.  

You pander to the religious zealots by simply labeling him "evil" and cloak it in dubious-sounding scientific conclusions.

ravenrdr
ravenrdr

Until we understand that "evil" is a social construct rather than a disembodied spirit that seizes people, we are doomed,

Sepulveda99
Sepulveda99

Typical bad science journalism that dramatically overplays what neuroscience can offer us at this time. The Phineas Gage story has been proven to have suffered from a lack of objective thinking. Gage's personality changes died down two months after his injury, and the psychosocial factors of living with his post-injury deformity are not considered among many other things not considered by the 19th century neurologists who pushed that story.


For a debunking of the Phineas Gage myth see http://mancpsychsoc.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/damasios-error-faith-in-science-and.html


From this Time story here, this quote sticks out "ensuring that the brain remains in chemical balance." Science has never been able to show what such a "balance" might look like, as evidenced by the fact that no psychiatrist tests for any "imbalance" when unethically claiming to a patient that they have an "imbalance". This whole field is shot through with quackery. The call to brain scan foster kids at the end, so they can be drugged up some more, is chilling. The mindless reducitionism on display in this article harks back to the eugenics era.

"There’s not a thing you’ve ever done, thought or felt in your life that  isn’t ultimately traceable a particular webwork of nerve cells firing in a particular way, allowing the machine that is you to function as it does."

the above is another sentence filled with quackery. There are plenty of cultural and environmental aspects to a human life in a human society that are not reducible to nerve cells. This whole article is just more oversimplistic wishful thinking, the false and utopian idea that if we just tinker with everyone's brain crime and bad things will be a thing of the past. The childish logic employed here, is obvious when you consider Jeffrey Kluger uses one explanation to explain why he does something good, that is, get a job at Time magazine and read a story book to his kids at night, and another, reductionistic explanation to explain why someone would do something bad, like not get a job, but rob a bank instead, and not read a book to their kids, but molest them instead. Do something good you get the common sense human explanation, do something bad and your brain gets blamed.  This is a folk neuroscience replacement for religion. Neuroscience as religion. Neuroscience as omni-explanatory quackery. Wide eyed MRI fanboys with transhumanist utopian fantasies swallow this sort of garbage that the media pumps out all the time. Kill a spider, it's because you got scared. Kill a human in a war, it's because you are patriotic. Kill a human in the street, time to blame the brain. This article is very crummy work indeed.

humanjustice
humanjustice

Are'nt the brains of those people evil who killed hundreds and thousands in iraq,afghanistan and pakistan in air strikes and drone attack.what will you say about the mind of those people who invade other countries on the pretext of controlling oil resources.hallucinated?????

antonmarq
antonmarq

It's extremely disturbing that we are now creating a label for an aberration that everyone has. If some politician or doctor decides it, you're an evil person, not sick, evil. However, evil is a term used to define the other side of a coin, one person's idea of evil is another person's idea of good. WE have absolutely no way of showing who's evil and who's good with a free environment. For some of this country, oil companies are operated by evil people, people working with those companies feel they are good. Who's right? 


This is just another propaganda subject to incur and control people to believe crap created by those who think, they know what's right for everyone.  

JonathanMartin
JonathanMartin

It's so comforting to be able to believe that there was something different about those who perpetrate these crimes. But history has shown over an over again that every single one of us is capable of such acts.