Sunday, February 17, 2013

Natgeo's "Science of Evil" is relevant given Newtown, Aurora

National Geographic’s “The Science of Evil” (2008), a 45-minute episode, is of interest now because of the recent tragedies involving misuse of guns.  It can be viewed on Netflix instant play.
The documentary starts with an experiment at a California university by a Dr. Zumbardo, who imprisons some graduate students, while other graduate students act  as guards.  In a few days, the “guards” start behaving in an atrocious fashion.  That part of the documentary reminds me a bit of Army Basic, particularly bayonet and individual tactical training (back in 1968).

A pastor in Wisconsin visits Jeff Dahmer in the state penitentiary in Columbia, WI, and become convinced that Dahmer has accepted truth and Jesus and baptizes him.  (I have reviews of two films about Dahmer on my Movies blog July 8 and Aug. 10, 2012.   Dahmer was himself killed by an inmate in 1994, so this is older footage.  
The film also explores human behavior in the Congo, where tribal warfare causes great cruelty. A woman is confronted with the idea of letting her baby die to save the rest of her family. She saves the baby.

The film also presents the research of Jonathan Cohen and Joshua Green in neuroscience, showing which areas of the brain are activated when dealing with moral decisions.  Cat scans and MRI’s are shown of test subjects wired with electrodes and subjected to various images.  Generally, people behave badly when others around them do. So that leaves us with trying to explain the behavior of persons like Adam Lanza and James Eagan Holmes.  It is particularly chilling that Holmes was studying neuroscience.  There is evidence he had begun his “preparations” three or four months in advance with weapons purchases but he probably had contemplated what he did for years.   We need to have a trial, because we need to know exactly what made him tick. 

Update: Feb. 18

Wolf Blitzer reported on CNN about a report that Adam Lanza may have been trying to emulate the perpetrator of a mass incident in Norway, in 2011, by Anders Breivik, a right wing extremist. Lanza was also bullied as a child attending Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to the report Monday.  

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