Britain’s Daily Mail is reporting that scientists “have been asked to search for an ‘evil’ gene in the DNA of Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who killed his mother before he opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School, slaughtering 20 children and six adults. The study, which will be the first of its kind involving a mass murderer, will try to detect any abnormalities in Lanza’s individual DNA.”
What’s the “normal” moral baseline in DNA given evolutionary assumptions of how we got here? In the world of science, “good” and “evil” are words concocted by religion. Piers Morgan believes the Bible should be amended because it calls certain types of behavior “evil.” Maybe Adolf Hitler was a person born out of evolutionary time. Maybe the next step in evolutionary development is a genetic mutation that weeds out certain populations. Only the person with the gene knows.
Science isn’t in the good and evil business. Science can’t say what’s good or evil or that there is even a moral category in the long history of human development. Evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins has said as much:
“In the universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. . . . DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”
This isn’t the first time scientists have been looking for genetic causes for behavior.
“Some of us, it seems, were just born to be bad. Scientists say they are on the verge of pinning down genetic and biochemical abnormalities that predispose their bearers to violence. An article in the journal Science . . . carried the headline EVIDENCE FOUND FOR POSSIBLE ‘AGGRESSION’ GENE.”1
One person’s aggression is another person’s perfect fighting man. There are a lot of aggressive people who play sports, climb the corporate ladder, and pursue politics. Adam Lanza did not display any aggressive behavior prior to his murdering rampage.
Watch the true-crime show “Snapped“ sometime. There are 13 seasons of non-aggressive women committing aggressive or what we would describe as “evil” crimes. In most of these cases there are no prior indicators that these women would act in such an “evil” way. The best that science can say is that the people “snapped.” No DNA study could have predicted their uncharacteristically “evil” behavior. Here are some examples from Season Eleven (2012):
- “Velma Ogden Whitehead” — Velma Ogden Whitehead, her 16 year-old son, and his friend are responsible for plotting the carjacking death of her husband in April 2005.
- “Sandra Jessee” — Sandra Jessee is accused of hiring hitmen, one of whom is her own son, to kill her ill husband Jack Jessee in August 1998 so she does not have to pay expensive treatments.
- “Jennifer Womac” — Jennifer Womac orchestrates the September 2009 murder of her own father, Grady Nichols Jr., by seducing her boyfriend to shoot him to death on his front porch.
Science can’t make moral distinctions. It doesn’t have a moral standard to go on. There’s no moral measuring device in a purely materialistic world. “Evil” is non-physical. It can’t be isolated and put under a microscope because “it” doesn’t have any physicality. Science has thrown God under the materialistic bus, and they wonder why people still do evil things. But of course, given science’s presuppositions, they are just being themselves. DNA neither knows nor cares.
- Dennis Overbye, “Born to Raise Hell?,” Time (February 21, 1994), 76. [↩]