Serial Killers and Psychopaths
Psychopaths are described by neuroscientists as lacking empathy towards other people and having no conscience. In clinical tests, known psychopaths exhibited no emotional response to emotionally charged words as a normal person would. From further tests, it would appear that psychopathic killers have a common brain scan profile which, worryingly for the neuroscientist presenting the Horizon programme, he actually shares with them:
One group had damage in the orbital cortex of the brain above the eyes and the front of the temporal lobe in the amygdala. These are in the limbic system and effect the base animal drives. These areas relate to the emotional responses and this pattern was established as belonging to psychopathic serial killers. A genetic analysis was then carried out on a family with a history of serial killers. This found that one gene was missing in the males of this family thereby establishing additionally a genetic causation of psychopathy. The gene involved was determined to be the MAOA or Warrior gene. Interestingly the analyst found that he also had a psychopathic brain pattern plus a genetic anomaly but he was not a serial killer (or so he claimed!). He had a happy childhood so he was able to determine that an abused childhood would cause the gene be triggered towards serial killer behaviour.
It seems that psychopaths are very successful in high-powered business positions. However, although they may present themselves well, they perform badly in practice. The current cut and thrust of corporate culture is ideal for psychopathic success. So it seems that psychopaths profile serial killers or boardroom executives depending on whether they had an abused childhood or not.
In the final tale in the programme, a killer had clearly committed murder but the question was asked if he was really responsible if he were indicated to be a psychopath. The defendent was determined to have the low activity version of the Warrior gene and he was also abused as a child. He was therefore indicated as a psychopath to the jury by a subject matter expert. As a result his sentence was reduced from one of first degree murder down to voluntary manslaughter which turned a death penalty into a custodial sentence based on diminished responsibility.
So, according to current neuroscientific thinking, we can see that the three ingredients of an inactive orbital cortex, high aggression variant of the MAO-A gene (monoamine oxidase A) together with an abused childhood can lead to the owner of that brain becoming a psychopathic killer arguably outside of his own control. So, in comparison to our boot camp trained killers above, these ones are a product of both nature and nurture whereas the marines are products almost entirely of a targeted nurture. The result, however, would appear to be the same in the creation of a remorseless killer. Clearly this provides a dichotomy for mankind's justice; even in God's Old Testament Laws murder is a capital offence without excuse or qualification and I repeat:
13 Thou shalt not kill. (Exodus 20)
The orbital cortex would appear to be the part of the physical human brain that processes the conscience element of the human spirit. If that is damaged then the owner of that brain cannot truly be regarded as guilty of his serious crimes. Mankind is not capable, however, of perceiving this lack of guilt easily beyond the physical proof of murder. It would appear, however, that neuroscientists are now beginning to enter their evidence in as mitigating circumstance. In one sense this is a little worrying in that this is yet another example, in our current times, of man playing god by building further on his scientific tower of Babel. I would feel much more comfortable if we just abided by God's law as laid down with Moses and left the true justice of the spiritual heart with our God until judgement day. The long Christian view of the human justice system is that it is only a temporary arrangement that will be superseded by the perfect justice of our God when He once again rules over mankind in the Kingdom.
Who is the ‘thou' of Exodus 20:13. I would argue that it is the spirit of the murderer whilst it is actually that spirit's soul that is punished for the act of murder:
30 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. (Numbers 35)
21 And thine eye shall not pity; [but] life [shall go] for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy 19)
23 And if [any] mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21)
So the bible-prescribed punishment of the Old Testament is that the taking of a life should be met by the loss of life of the murderer. This seems like justice for a deliberate and conscious murder, but what if the murderer is a psychopath which neuroscience is leading us to believe does not have the biological hardware to allow his spirit's conscience to function properly? Well if we take the bible at its face value then it is still telling us that the psychopathic soul must also die. Man is not able to make a precise enough judgement to determine guilt beyond that degree.
In God's purview, however, this matters not a jot. A psychopathic soul, complete with its faulty hardwiring will die (or suffer life imprisonment) in punishment for a murder but the spirit will be preserved intact for God's own later and perfect judgement. So it would seem that man's justice is intended to be rough and ready in these matters since it could not be anything else. Arguably, even in murder cases proven as psychopathic in nature, some punishment rigorous enough to prevent a repeat murder should be taken. Whether that be the death penalty as dictated by scripture or incarceration without hope of parole, either would still seem suitable. A life for a life is a soul for a soul or, more precisely, a body for a body; there is no loss of spirit either in the original crime or in the ultimate punishment. All is redeemed in the final analysis.
It looks like I have just justified the death penalty in cases of proven murder; this was certainly not my intention at the outset of writing this paper!
Looking at the various web-sites on the internet covering the subject of US Marine training, it would appear that the boot camp methodology attempts (apparently very successfully) to overcome the natural brotherly love that man feels for man. This is in the interest of building human killing machines that have no moral dilemma in killing other human beings, including those who are not their direct enemies such as non-combatants. This training regime would seem to confirm that nurture can successfully over-ride nature in that it has clearly been proven (if you care to check out the following web-links) that the marine boot camp is highly successful in creating killing machines from previously normal humane citizens:
One problem (apart from the evil practice itself!) is that it would also appear, that once this negative nurture has been applied, it does not appear to be easily capable of being switched off. At least we do not seem to know today how to do this although I am sure our Lord will know how in the Kingdom. In addition this form of training had negative side effects in terms of marines' losing their normal relationship abilities with friends and family. At the end of this section of the programme it was made clear that a new form of training needed to be devised to train for killing as a defence mechanism only. Interestingly this is allowed under God's laws. Although occurring prior to the setting of the Law, there is no better example of defending one's brother than Abram's armed rescue of his brother Lot from his kidnappers:
14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.
15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.
16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. (Genesis 14)
Since there is clearly the need to carry out this harsh regime of kill training on all marine recruits, this would support the earlier section which argues that the majority (if not all) of humans are born with an innate preference for good over evil. Boot camp obviously can overcome this innate attribute. If we take these two sections together at face value they seem to indicate that human spirits are mostly naturally good in their natures but can be turned evil through time and circumstance. My feeling up to writing this paper is that we are all tested in this regard throughout our lives and the decisions we make will determine to our Lord the overall nature of our heart condition. However we will not be tested beyond our reasonable ability to pass any test that our Lord chooses to give us:
13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it]. (1Corinthians 10)
I suspect therefore that if a previously righteous man were trained as a marine, and wantonly killed innocents as a direct result of that training, that the Lord would look at his record of behaviour prior to that training. To expect a viciously trained killer to obey God's sixth commandment would not seem to me to be a fair test of that Marine:
13 Thou shalt not kill. (Exodus 20)
I suspect this individual may find himself in the Kingdom under a suitable programme of rehabilitation to the human race whilst his drill instructor will likely find himself on the wrong side of the judgement even if that one had not actually killed anyone directly with his own hands. As we have found elsewhere on this web-site, the Lord judges us by our heart condition:
7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for [the LORD seeth] not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. (1Samuel 16)
Perhaps a killer marine had a good heart condition, prior to his training, which will be how God judges that one. I would not wish to explore exactly how the dehumanising training programme of boot camp actually works on the brain/spirit complex but it is possible that, throughout all of it, the spiritual heart of the man remains intact. It may be the spiritual conscience that gets impacted and God will judge us all by how we obey our consciences. What knowledge we have right now would suggest that the art of ‘killology' would appear to circumvent the fore-brain and desensitise the mid-brain either of which effectively takes the conscience out of the marine's killing decision-making. Whatever the truth of the matter, God is quite capable of judging each of us, almost regardless of our external behaviour, in ways that are completely outside of our grasp. Mind you I would have to ask what righteous man would be a willing recruit for the marines if he had the full prior knowledge that he will be turned into a remorseless killing machine.
This experiment, to check if the oxytocin hormone was released in the individuals during a rugby team bonding activity, proved positive. Oxytocin is known to generate empathy (at least!) between people (and voles apparently!):
The experiment also found that testosterone was released to generate mutual team aggression against the opposition. Games mirror society's positive and negative behaviours identifying the good v evil battleground of everyday life. But the results of this experiment are interesting because, given these are natural reactions to being put into a team game situation, it demonstrates that it is perfectly acceptable to both bond strongly with one's own team members on the one hand and be prepared to act decisively and aggressively against opposition team members when the situation warrants, i.e. when in danger (of losing). I have said elsewhere on this web-site that to be a child of God means to share in His full range of emotions which include both love and anger. So it would seem to be acceptable to our God that team games are a good thing in building strong positive relationships between brothers but to also be prepared to stand together to defend one's brothers against the opposition team. There is no better example depicted in the bible as that of our saviour Michael aka Jesus Christ in defending His heavenly brothers against the demon hordes:
7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12)
It is also worth mentioning in this context that, although we are exhorted to love ALL men, there is no sin in loving some more than others as demonstrated directly by our Lord:
20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? (John 21)
Now whilst the results of this test can only be considered to be a result of some statistical relevance, it nonetheless can be argued that it shows a preponderance for good over evil preferences in humans who have had virtually no experience of life. Therefore good or evil tendencies could be argued as an innate function of the early human spirit. Traditional psychology could not even consider that possibility. Check out this link and judge for yourself:
Interestingly scripture recognises the innocence of children as having no knowledge of good and evil:
39 Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it. (Deuteronomy 1)
16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings. (Isaiah 7)
In this regard, the man Adam was also a child until he deliberately disobeyed his father Jehovah and chose to carry out a disobedient act. It was this enactment that was deemed the knowledge of good and evil, not that Adam could not recognise good from evil prior to his sin:
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2)
22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: (Genesis 3)
So it may be with today's infants. Discerning good from evil at an early age provides the basis of our having a free choice to enact evil in defiance of one's conscience or parental advice in later life. It is this latter choosing between acting for good or for evil which is when we truly begin to have the knowledge of the angels. Indeed this knowledge should grow with our years as we should be adding wisdom to that knowledge as we have more experience of life. In recognition of this Paul had this advice to give for the Hebrew congregation's ministry:
12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5)
Whilst this virtual experiment determined that most people would make the 'apparently' good moral choice as an instinctive reaction, I am by by no means certain that God would necessarily see that sacrificing the one, albeit to save the many, was necessarily a good moral choice. Nonetheless I would like to think in the cold light of day that, if I had been subject to that experiment, I would have made the choice to send the shooter down to the ground floor. My thinking here is that taking the five out of harm's way by sending the shooter down in the lift cannot of itself be anything other than a positive moral choice. Whether the shooter would then kill the one person on the ground floor is not necessarily certain at that point, although it could be argued that choice would cause potential endangerment to him/her. In the end of the day the choice to kill that one would be the shooter's alone.
Since the choice was an instinctive one, given the timeframe to react to the situation, we can only conclude that saving the many at the expense of the one is a natural and therefore God-given human reaction to an imperfect pair of choices. Everything in life that we do seems to be the result of weighing in the balance the implications of all our decisions on a daily basis. Every decision we make, even if made with good intention, seems to have a negative side-effect. It is this practice, to make the correct moral decisions, that represents a significant part of our spiritual development in this Adamic world. The good or evil element can only be judged by God from the original intent of each decision and not the actual outcome.
Actually, thinking about it, this virtual game could be likened to the overall bible characters and plot. The person making the moral decision is none other than Jehovah God Himself. The one on the ground floor, making the sacrifice for the many, would be Jesus Christ. The five on the first floor would be representative of the whole of mankind who the Christ died to save. Last, and most certainly least, the shooter would be Satan who would happily murder the whole of mankind and Jesus given half a chance. So God clearly asked Jesus to sacrifice His human life to save the whole of mankind. Jesus agreed to do so, which possibly represents a 'slight' divergence from the plot of the experiment where no such agreement was sought. In the end though all will be saved; no-one dies in the spirit at the hand of man:
4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. (Luke 12)
Interestingly it would seem that the experimenters that designed this test seem to have, probably unwittingly, copied the same test that God Himself took in order to gain the best possible outcome for all his children:
28 so also the Christ was offered once for all time to bear the sins of many; and the second time that he appears it will be apart from sin and to those earnestly looking for him for [their] salvation. (Hebrews 9)
It is probably best if I start out with a clear statement of what I believe are the major points to have been made in that programme. Unfortunately the programme is no longer available on the BBC's iPlayer web-site but the following press review gives a reasonable synopsis of the key findings presented:
The programme was also available on YouTube albeit in four not very well spliced parts. Some of the experiments described are untidily split between two parts presumably in an effort to equalise the running time of each part. I have to say that I am sure that it could have been done a lot better with very little additional effort. I provide links to those programme parts as appropriate throughout the body of this web-page.
Unfortunately it now appears that even this version of the programme has been removed subsequent to this web-page being published. Consequently the links to You Tube below no longer work. However I have retained them on this page in the hope that they may be recreated at some time in the future. It is almost as if someone, Satan perhaps, does not want us to see the show! I wonder why not??
The key elements of the programme are as follows:
So let us analyse these findings a little further and see what we can make of them from a spiritual stand-point.
Good or Evil
I am writing this paper as a direct result of watching the BBC TV Horizon programme ‘Are you Good or Evil?'. The research that it reported on is seriously challenging the established ‘wisdom' of human psychology with regard to moral thinking and behaviour. ‘Surprise surprise' do I hear you say? You might like to review my earlier paper on ‘Spirit v Brain' where I am nothing if not scathing of the pillars of human knowledge on the psychological and psychiatric pseudo-sciences. They refuse to acknowledge the existence of the human spirit as a separate entity from the bio-mechanical ‘machines' that we inhabit even before we are born. No wonder they have lead to seriously flawed practices that are still causing extreme anguish to 'mental' patients today unnecessarily and, in many cases, without hope of a real cure for the cause of the illness.
Jewish Lords' Witness