Most of us can easily list actions and behaviors, speech, and even thoughts that might be considered evil, though, in Western culture anyway, evil is generally viewed as a concept and an intangible, rather than having an independent identity.
Many of us probably don’t believe that evil can be identified biologically and would find fantastic the notion that evil manifests biologically or leaves a physical marker or indicator.
But now a German neurologist, has identified a very specific brain configuration which he says is “where evil lurks.”
Dr. Gerhard Roth scans and analyzes the brains of violent criminals such as rapists and murderers for the German government and he’s found that they all have something in common: a “dark patch” in their frontal brain, in the lower-forehead area.
He says he can predict with 66 percent accuracy that an adolescent with developmental issues in this area of the brain, is a “felon in the making,” according to a report in The Independent. Roth says “It is easy to spot this anti-social behaviour from very early on.”
In the study he showed violent criminals what he calls “brutal” and “squalid” scenes in short films. Then, he measured their brainwaves. They simply didn’t react in the way an average person reacts—he says that in the areas of the brain that create compassion showed no reaction.
Of course, we can’t really know if people are born with this missing compassion response or if it develops as a result of the environment and how children are raised.
Even Dr. Roth who believes the results indicate a possible genetic link says, in an interview with the Daily Mail, that there are three general types of “evil” people:
The first he classifies as ‘psychologically healthy,’ people who grow up in an environment where it is ‘OK to beat, steal and murder’.
The second type is the mentally disturbed criminal who looks at his world as threatening.
‘A wrong look, one false move, he can explode and become a killer,’ he said.
The third group are pure psycopaths, a group in which tyrants such as Hitler and Stalin belong.
He said not all monsters are born and that many are made worse by their environments on their roads to evil.
But can people change? What about free will and choice? Is there a point where evil is so entrenched undoing it is simply not a possibility?
Dr. Roth says that he’s known of cases where a hardened criminal has a tumor removed from the brain and suddenly is “cured” of his psychopathology.
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Last reviewed: 6 Feb 2013