At 9:51 on the morning of October 2, 2006, Charles C. Roberts, a 32-year-old milk truck driver, walked into a one-room Amish School in Pennsylvania carrying a 9-mm handgun, 12-gauge shotgun, .30-06 bolt-action rifle, about 600 rounds of ammunition, cans of black powder, a stun gun, two knives, a change of clothes, a sexual lubricant, a truss board and a box containing a hammer, hacksaw, pliers, wire, screws, bolts, and tape. He barricaded the school doors and bound up the arms and legs of the terrified boys and girls huddled in the room. He released 15 male students, and a pregnant assistant teacher, but kept all 10 female students inside the room. As police broke in through the windows, he killed four of the girls and then shot himself. Six girls were taken to the hospital in critical condition. Most people expected that there would be violent, angry responses by the Amish community when they learned of the horrible event. They were surprised to learn that the responses focused on forgiveness, faith in God, and a determination to more forward. Lizzy Fisher, an Amish great grandparent of one of the slain girls, was asked whether the community felt angry about the killing. She answered, "Oh, no, no, definitely not. People don't feel that around here. We just don't." The Amish were consumed by sorrow, not anger (Urbana, 2002).
Weeks after the shooting, relatives of the victims, their neighbors, and volunteers built a new school a few hundred feet from where the shooting had occurred. The old school was torn down. "For the families and the community, it's a work of love and caring for the children, that becomes part of the healing process." The Amish viewed the building of a new school an act of love that brought the community together.
Why did the Amish community respond in this way? Did cultural factors and moral principles account for their emotional response? For hundreds of years, generations of Amish children have been taught not to lie, steal, or kill. It is possible that this was long enough for genes associated with altruism to provide a reproductive advantage. Or were their responses the result of cultural factors alone? Admiration of the ideas of peace, serenity, simplicity, veracity, and their suppression of the emotions of anger and revenge certainly affect their choice of marriage partners. Over hundreds of generations, genetic mutations may have enhanced the survival value of innate neuronal pathways and neu-rochemical processes related to altruism, while genes that encoded the emotions of extreme anger and violence became less prevalent. Today, such questions might be addressed by ethically designed research, by using molecular imaging of the brain.
Genes affecting emotions, such as hunger, sleeping, and sexual activity, were present in animals long before the evolution of humans. Genes evolved in humans that gave them the ability to think, understand, imagine, and speak. Innate aggressiveness and competitive behavior help preserve species, and have survived, at times resulting in violence, crime, and war.
No one has identified genes encoding morality. Nevertheless, character traits, such as conscientiousness and agreeableness, are found to be the same in identical twins separated at birth, and growing up in different environments. Some with antisocial personality disorder show signs of morality blindness as they grow up. They bully younger children, torture animals, lie, and are incapable of empathy or remorse, despite normal family surroundings. Some grow up to be criminals who try to talk elderly people out of their savings, rape women, or shoot convenience-store clerks lying on the floor during a robbery.
Psychological abnormalities at times result from head trauma that damages the frontal lobes. Some children who sustain severe injuries to their frontal lobes can grow up to be callous and irresponsible, despite having normal intelligence (Hanna and Antonio Damasio). They lie, steal, ignore punishment, endanger their own children, and cannot face up to even the simplest moral dilemmas, for example, deciding who should select which TV channel to watch. Damasio believes that this is evidence that a moral sense is partly innate.
Two months after the dreadful occurrence at the Amish school in Pennsylvania in 2006, day laborers gathered in the early morning in Iraq to wait for offers of temporary work. Shortly before 7 a.m., a small truck drove up, loaded with bags of wheat. The driver got out of the truck and shouted, "I need help to unload the truck!" When a crowd of men had gathered around, the driver set off a massive explosion, killing 70 and wounding 236 men, digging a crater 10 ft wide, and scattering wheat in all directions. The wounded were taken to the emergency room of a local hospital, short-handed because a large number of doctors and nurses had fled the country. Was the driver mentally ill? Was he searching for thrills and excitement, or acting according to his moral principles?
"Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them," wrote Immanuel Kant, "the starry heavens above and the moral law within."
In his speech to Congress on March 18, 1917, after declaring war against Germany, President Woodrow Wilson said that "... wars are provoked and waged in the interest of dynasties or of little groups of ambitious men who were accustomed to use their fellow men as pawns and tools . The world must be made safe for democracy . We desire no conquest, no dominion."
Enthusiastic young men joined the armed forces in the United States after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, whereas some did all they could to escape the draft. All of their lives, they had been taught that killing is a sin. After a few months in battle, the soldiers began to view killing as a skill, even an art. Eighteen year-olds became adults, flying airplanes, commanding submarines, and tramping through unbelievably difficult terrains, surrounded by incessant noise and death. They developed close emotional ties with their colleagues, and they were willing to sacrifice their lives to save them.
U-boat warfare, and the bombing of Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, and other European cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki provide further evidence that extreme aggressiveness lies dormant even in people in the most advanced societies. Five million Germans died during War II, including 1.8 million civilians (MacDonough, 2007). The firebombing of Dresden and Hamburg killed hundreds of thousands of people, among them 75,000 children under 14 years of age.
Between 50 and 60 million war-related deaths occurred during World War II. The World Wars, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, made the twentieth century the most bloody of all times (Ferguson, 2007). These wars witnessed great levels of atrociousness, barbarity, cruelties, and genocides.
Ferguson argues that extreme violence results from an explosive mix of "ethnic conflict, economic volatility, and empires in decline." Religious, racial, and linguistic minorities often suffer from economic depression, and resort to violence. Wars are brought about by widespread unemployment and poverty, aggravated by the destruction of crops, burning of villages, looting of towns, mass murders, barbarism, invasions and ever-changing national boundaries. Ferguson does not believe that aggressiveness is innate, but is the result of cultural flaws.
In November, 1945, Robert H. Jackson, leading prosecutor of the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg, said that those persons on trial "built up Adolph Hitler and vested in his psychopathic personality ... the supreme issue of war or peace. They intoxicated him with power and adulation. They fed his hate and aroused his fears."
In January, 1971, Idi Amin Dada took power after a military coup in Uganda. His rule was characterized by human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extra judicial killings, and the expulsion of Indians from Uganda. It is not known how many people were killed as a result of his regime but estimates range from 80,000 to 500,000.
Further evidence that leaders of nations can be mentally ill is provided by Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Osama bin Laden of Afghanistan, and President Ahmajinadad of Iran.
I t is probable that terrorism is the result of innate aggressiveness brought to the surface by cultural and environmental forces. Pent-up anger begets murder and self-destruction. With weapons of mass destruction, terrorist gangs or demented psychopaths could destroy civilization, or even the human race.
Political efforts have been unable to solve the problems of killings, war, and destruction. The League of Nations, the United Nations, treaties outlawing war, and arms control agreements have all failed. Only strength and deterrence by individual nations brought peace after World War II and produced democracy in Germany, Japan, Italy, and Austria.
Today, the world remains plagued by violence. Tens of thousands of young men and some women have died in the process of killing others, while their colleagues applaud their martyrdom. With weapons of mass destruction, even a few people can inflict enormous harm on millions of people. Today, terrorism is a major threat to humanity. With molecular imaging, the minds and behavior of terrorists can become a major focus of study and research.
Humiliated terrorists often seek revenge against those they believe hurt them. In her book What Terrorists Want: Understanding The Enemy, Containing the Threat (Random House, 2006) Louise Richardson wrote, "The point of terrorism is not to defeat the enemy but to send a message." Justice, rather than freedom, is emphasized in the Koran. The goal is to end bureaucratic corruption, fight against social injustice and fulfill God's will.
According to Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford (Ramadan, 2008), "The Holy Koran stands as the text of reference, the source and the essence of the message transmitted to humanity by the creator ... It is the last of a lengthy series of revelations addressed to humans down through history ... It is a light that responds to the quest for meaning ... It is both the Voice and the Path ... God is speaking to each [Muslim] in his own language, accessibly, to match his intelligence, his heart, his questions." A famous verse of the Holy Koran tells believers that slaying innocent persons is like slaying all of mankind unless it is done to punish villainy. Radical Muslims use this verse to justify aggression, murder and suicide.
When reading the Holy Koran, such as those verses that refer to war, one must reflect on the time and circumstances when these words were written. Only radical Muslims believe that injustices can only be faced by aggressive behavior, even war. "We are free and fully authorized to reform the injustices that lie at the heart of the order or disorder of all that is human" (Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss Muslim, who tells Muslims in Europe that they must establish a new "European Islam".)
Lee Harris, in his book The Suicide of Reason (Harris, 2007), believes that Islamic fanaticism today represents a struggle for cultural survival in the face of a rapidly changing world. The aim of Muslims is to preserve their culture and try to convert others all over the world. Islamic fanaticism is an attempt to expand the Islamic religion by violence if necessary.
Aggressiveness is viewed as a universal human trait, present long before human beings developed language and reasoning. The lives of early human beings, like other primates, were driven by fear. It was necessary to be selfish, aggressive, and combative to survive (Wade, 2007).
Thus, Islamic fanaticism should not be considered a mental illness. Harris writes, "The Muslims are, from an early age, indoctrinated into a shaming code that demands a fanatical rejection of anything that threatens to subvert the supremacy of Islam . they encourage their alpha boys to be tough, aggressive and ruthless."
The Enlightenment was an eighteenth century movement in Western philosophy that recognized the sad state of the human civilizations and the need for major reforms. Reason was to be the basis of authority.
Since then, there has been a reproductive advantage to those whose genes encode altruistic, rather than aggressive or violent behavior. Survival and reproduction are enhanced by societal rules, freedom of the individual, and secular governments. Genes that encode kindness and altruism supplement those encoding selfishness and violence.
Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist from the University of Virginia, proposes a happiness hypothesis, the idea that altruism evolved to enhance societal living. Genes encode loyalty to one's group and respect for authority. Morality evolves by natural selection in the face of human beings competing aggressively with one another. A principle evolved that "One should do no harm and do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), an Austrian economist, in his book Human Action, developed the idea that a person's every conscious action is intended to improve his or her personal satisfaction. Each person has his or her own idea of what personal satisfaction is. People act to remove sources of dissatisfaction and uneasiness. Because they are capable of logical thinking, they need not react instinctively to all stimuli, although dissatisfaction often drives people to act.
Michael Sherman, in his book The Mind of The Market, describes what he calls virtue economics. People are not only selfish, but are altruistic, cooperative and competitive, and peaceful. The balance between good and evil is heavily on the side of good. After societies began to form and people began to gather, altruism began to evolve because of its survival value. The innate golden rule increased reproductive activities. Working together and dividing tasks led people to treat others the way they themselves wished to be treated.
Gradually, government and religion codified proper behavior and advanced altruism. For every act of violence, there were 10,000 acts of kindness. Modern economies can function only because of people's innate virtuous nature. The motto Don't Be Evil has become a rule in commerce, when people make decisions in efforts to remove sources of dissatisfaction.
The belief that altruism has been the result of natural selection goes back to Charles Darwin, who said that people would risk their lives to save others. People are programmed by their genes to help their family. Altruistic genes are passed on from one generation to another because cooperation gives people a reproductive advantage.
William James believed that "Life is a challenge which everyone answers by their actions ... evil is something that we can help overthrow ... War gives angry self-confidence to millions of good people who have been taught to regard themselves as worthless." The capacity to be evil lies latent in every human being. Genes encoding good and evil behavior underlie the face of societal and cultural forces, which unfortunately can lead to aggressiveness, or even war. The Holocaust is evidence of the existence of man's inhumanity to man.
Good and bad persons differ in what it takes to activate the genes that express altruism or violence. Some people can become so angry that they would rather fight than accept what they view as intolerable. They can act like savages if sufficiently provoked.
Strong evidence that human beings are inclined toward evil is provided by fascism and other horrors of World War II. Even today, negative campaigning in elections appeals to the public's innate selfishness, where the candidates present the election as a conflict between good and evil.
"Is there anyone who will deny the existence of evil, or the important role of human fear and anger in its cause" (Jessiac Reyes, B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy).
Wise (2008) rejects the idea that people are really good at heart. She criticized the stage version of the Diary of Anne Frank. "European Jews before and during Hitler's reign may not have fully credited the human potential for evil, but surely the surviving remnant among them ought to be less willfully naive about human proclivities."
Many religions accept the concept of just wars. In his book Moral Man and Immoral Society (Scribner, 1934), Reinhart Niebuhr rejected the idea that evil can be accommodated. He believed that selfishness could only be controlled by self-discipline and love. Peace is a fragile, unsteady state, because tribes, movements, nations try to dominate other groups. The acceptance of force as justifiable has resulted in a nearly perpetual state of war in the twentieth century. Our only hope lies in a continual embrace of a biblically inspired faith in liberty, democracy, and in the spreading of these principles throughout the world (David Gelernter. Commentary, November, 2007).
Fouad Ajami has said that radical Islamists "have declared nothing less than an unrelenting war against the American presence in the Arab-Islamic world ... The region they contest is the Arab and Persian heartland of the Islamic world and cannot be ceded to them, for its obvious importance to the global economy."
He views Islam as a faith and civilization locked in a brutal struggle with Christians, Jews and secular humanists of the West. Radical Islamists believe that the millions of Muslims who are backsliders have consumed the worst of the secular Western world. They loathe the secularism and want to totally extirpate Western culture from their societies.
The 12,000 Madrasses in Pakistan teach thousands of children to hate America and Israel. The army is divided between the Western oriented, who have often attended schools in the United States, and hard-line Islamists. General Hamid Gul hates America with a passion, and is an Islamic extremist and strategic adviser to the six political religious parties that govern two of Pakistan's four provinces.
There are 12-14 million Islamic extremists throughout the world today. Iraq has been the central focus of the war on terror, but today Pakistan and Iran are in danger of succumbing to Muslim extremism.
A great fear is that Islamist extremists within the Pakistani army will take control of nuclear weapons. Hundreds of years of war followed the rise of Islam in the seventh century. Today, most Islamists reject the ideas of fundamentalists. Most want a peaceful coexistence with the West.
"The faith of Islam teaches moral responsibility that enables men and women, and forbids the shedding of innocent blood. This is a clash of political visions." (President George Bush). He believes that the West is in a battle for survival in the struggle with radical Islamists. Facing a new dark age, Muslims and non-Muslims need to come together on equal terms. A thesis of this book is that perhaps a better understanding of the chemistry of the brain and its relationship to behavior can enhance social, cultural and political forces in the interest of all humankind.
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