Ian Brady and Anders Breivik may have ‘psycopath’ genes but we need to understand them

Is there such a thing as evil? Can it be scientifically defined? Are evil people responsible for their actions? Age-old questions but science seems to be shedding some light on the Oldest Problem and the results can be discomfiting.

 

An interesting article this week by the psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen discusses evil, empathy and mental illness with reference to the film We Need to Talk About Kevin, based on the novel by Lionel Shriver.

 

The story concerns a boy who commits a school massacre and the devastating aftermath for his family and particularly his mother, played by Tilda Swinton. Such things have happened in real life and each time we get a Columbine, an Anders Breivik, a Dunblane, the inevitable question of ‘evil’ comes up.

 

By Michael Hanlon