Thursday, December 24, 2009

Book Reviews: Evil Genes


Oakley, Barbara. Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend. Amherst, NY; Prometheus Books, 2008.

Other than the eye-catching title--I plucked this book off the shelf when walking by it in the library--and being a quick read, I can't recommend this book.

Her research can be summed up in two statements:

(a) There are evil people in the world.
(b) Evil people don't think that they're evil.

Though I can't fault her research, the conclusions she derives are banal:

Q: What causes evil people?

A: A combination of genetics and environment.

(No, really?)

Q. How should we deal with evil people?

A. Be aware that they exist.

(I never would have thought of that.)

The one really interesting concept is that everyone is convinced that they are good people, and what they do is good. Machiavellian personalities simply have such a high concept of themselves that they never question whether they are doing the right thing. The acme of moral clarity is evil.

What it all boils down to is that the best defense is a good offense, as in: "He may be a S.O.B., but he's our S.O.B."

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