The Anatomy of Evilby Published 28 Jul 2009
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The crimes of Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Dennis Rader, and other high-profile killers are so breathtakingly awful that most people would not hesitate to label them "evil." In this groundbreaking book, renowned psychiatrist Michael H. Stone—host of Discovery Channel’s former series Most Evil—uses this common emotional reaction to horrifying acts as his starting point to explore the concept and reality of evil from a new perspective. In an in-depth discussion of the personality traits and behavior that constitute evil across a wide spectrum, Dr. Stone takes a clarifying scientific approach to a topic that for centuries has been inadequately explained by religious doctrines.
Basing his analysis on the detailed biographies of more than 600 violent criminals, Stone has created a 22-level hierarchy of evil behavior, which loosely reflects the structure of Dante’s Inferno. He traces two salient personality traits that run the gamut from those who commit crimes of passion to perpetrators of the worst crimes—sadistic torture and murder. One trait is narcissism, as exhibited in people who are so self-centered that they have little or no ability to care about their victims. The other is aggression, the use of power over another person to inflict humiliation, suffering, and death.
Stone then turns to the various factors that, singly or intertwined, contribute to pushing certain people over the edge into committing heinous crimes. They include heredity, adverse environments, violence-prone cultures, mental illness or brain injury, and abuse of mind-altering drugs. All are considered in the search for the root causes of evil behavior.
What do psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience tell us about the minds of those whose actions could be described as evil? And what will that mean for the rest of us? Stone discusses how an increased understanding of the causes of evil will affect the justice system. He predicts a day when certain persons can safely be declared salvageable and restored to society and when early signs of violence in children may be corrected before potentially dangerous patterns become entrenched.
The Anatomy of Evil Reviews
I did like the analogies and so many examples he used to make a scale as such for 'evil' itself. I did however feel towards the end of the book with the after thoughts ect it was dragging on and not bringing anything new to the table. Very interesting concept though and very easy to read, also interesting.
I have always been fascinated with how the human mind works - especially in the cases of abnormal psychology and what actually causes a person to be "evil" or how they can justify the actions they've taken - rape, murder, manipulation, etc. Nature vs. Nurture has been a debate that's been going on for ages. Can a human being be born evil? There are cases of kids growing up in perfectly normal houses, with a normal social atmosphere that kill. Are they crazy? Were they born that way? Or what, if anything, triggered them?
Michael Stone doesn't believe in the inherent "bad seed"... that people are born evil. While there are cases that can be seen that way, if you look further, there seems to be a base of where their behavior came from and the author's theories are hard to argue with.
I have done hours upon hours of studying serial killers/true crime. I make no apologies for my morbid curiosity. Stone not only references the big names that we know such as Manson, but also recounts up to 600 different cases - not just regurgitating them for our morbid brain food, but also providing theories about them as well. FASCINATING. Simply. Fascinating.
I may not read much nonfiction, but when I do... it's almost always in this type of genre. What do you believe? Can people just be evil? What's your definition of this word? As society changes, what becomes more "acceptable" and how can we justify people's actions. If any of this intrigues you, I highly recommend picking up this book and seeing how the author brings cases, logic and his 22-level hierarchy of evil behavior into the mix. I surely will be side-eyeing and being even more skeptical of the human race. So thank you, Mr. Stone... all jokes aside, you've certainly re-opened my interest into the psychology/psychiatry/neuroscience of human behavior.
I had my fears in the beginning that this book was going to be dry and boring... It started out with a few definitions of evil that sort of made my head spin (then again, I started it at 3am on a night shift... brains don't function adequately at that time...) But very quickly I realized that my first assumptions were completely negative. This book was written in such a fluid motion that putting it down was next to impossible, despite how uncomfortable I was by reading about such horrible acts. Dr. Stone has a gift for writing about the horrible and despicable of the human race. There was even a part where, at first, I disagreed with him on how he could possibly have compassion or sympathy for a serial killer on death row after reading about the disgusting things that he had done. He felt the compassion after the killer's frank discussion of how his caregiver had abused him as a child. At first, I still couldn't find any compassion in myself. I do agree that no person should ever be subjected to something as heinous as abuse by a parent or loved one, but I did not understand how that could translate into being a serial killer, when there are people in the world who are victims of horrible acts, but go on to lead fulfilling and peaceful lives. Dr. Stone later discusses this same fact and explains that being abused as a child is not a guaranteed code for developing psychopathic traits later in life, but it is a strong influence. And while he does not feel that this killer deserves at any time to be released from jail, he does regret that as a boy, this killer was never allowed the opportunity to feel compassion or love from a caregiver.
Definitely an excellent, excellent read... it compels me to want to read a lot more!
I like the show---kind of interesting theory of evil existing on 22 levels. Book is really really good....goes into the science and rationale behind the groupings, the triad (bedwetting, animal abuse, setting fires) of childhood suggestive behavior)...really really good...uses lots of ancedotal evidence and references a ton of sources. I am looking at two of the other books referenced by this book right now. Of course you kind of have to be into this sort of thing (serial killers, child killers, etc)
As I have remarked about a handful of other books, such as People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil or The Emotional Rape Syndrome: How to Avoid and Survive It, any psychiatrist making use of words such as evil, monster, and any other metaphysical terminology already always puts me on edge.
I shudder to refer to this dude as "doctor" but... Dr. Stone and his co-writer claimed to have studied about 600 serial killers to create their scale of "evil."
The information I have is that this book was written within the span of about a year. So that would amount to roughly one serial killer case looked into a day. Naturally, Stone and his buddy may certainly have done more thorough investigations into a number of cases throughout their careers beforehand or assessed and treated a number of offenders but it would come nowhere near the number of 300.
So... very unsurprisingly this is how you end up with Kemper being paired with Bundy on the highest end of the scale, which should make any long-standing True Crime/Bundy/Kemper researcher skeptical about Stone and said scale anyway.
Throughout the book I stumbled upon a few not only very questionable but long debunked Freudian ideas which made this an especially frustrating read for me.
I am not quite certain why there are so many psychiatrists his age who at some point in their professional lives just appear to have decided, "Aeh, I think I know enough, no need to educate myself further and stay up to date with the latest scientific findings and conclusions," but clearly the author still subscribes to Cleckley-esque, Freudian and 70's ideas and diagnoses.
Reading this book felt a bit like poisoning my mind, and frankly, there is no more polite way to put it.
The amount of people buying into this nonsense or having chosen this as their first psych/True Crime book and carrying all this misinformation back out into the world is simply scary and irritating.