Borne out of a quest to understand her sister Carolyn's lifelong sinister behavior (which, systems engineer Oakley suggests, may have been compounded by childhood polio), the author sets out on an exploration of evil, or Machiavellian, individuals. Drawing on the advances in brain imaging that have illuminated the relationship of emotions, genetics and the brain (with accompanying imaging scans), Oakley collects detailed case histories of famed evil geniuses such as Slobodan Milosevic and Mao Zedong, interspersed with a memoir of Carolyn's life. Oakley posits that they all had borderline personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder, a claim she supports with evidence from scientists' genetic and neurological research. All the people she considers, Oakley notes, are charming on the surface but capable of deeply malign behavior (traits similar to those found in some personality disorders), and her analysis attributes these traits to narcissism combined with cognitive and emotional disturbances that lead them to believe they are behaving in a genuinely altruistic way. Disturbing, for sure, but with her own personal story informing her study, Oakley offers an accessible account of a group of psychiatric disorders and those affected by them. Illus. (Oct.)
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"A fascinating scientific and personal exploration of the roots of evil, filled with human insight and telling detail."
--Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor, Harvard University, and author of
The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, and The Stuff of Thought
"'Scientific non-fiction' and 'page turner' aren’t two phrases I’d expect in the same sentence, but for the remarkable Evil Genes, they fit."
--William A. Wulf, President Emeritus, National Academy of Engineering
Interesting read and take on an issue that personally affects our family. We gained insight that allowed us to release some guilt and to help us not feel so alone.Published 1 month ago by C. Green
This is quite an unusual book by an unusual author, a college professor, polymath, showing us non-linear connections. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Steve Diput
Amazing book. I'm on my second reading because I don't want to miss a thing. Barbara Oakley blends neuroscience and family history in a fascinating manner that captures the reader. Read morePublished 5 months ago by SherryT
Although her discussion of the neurological basis of personality disorders was very interesting and well-presented, her poor grasp of theoretical psychology and particularly of... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Wyoming Reader
In the wake of all sorts of stupid notions about what a eugenics should be, this kind of book -- which focuses much more on the foundations of character itself, rather than much... Read morePublished 13 months ago by R. Gonzalez