EVIL GENES: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend

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Praise for Evil Genes

"A fascinating scientific and personal exploration of the roots of evil, filled with human insight and telling detail."

Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor, Harvard University

"This story is not only good science writing, it's also achingly personal, as Oakley recounts the story of her selfish sister and relates it to what science is revealing about the way our brains work and how genes influence even our ability to tell right from wrong. It's not often that a book about science can also break your heart - Oakley's achievement is astonishing."

--Orson Scott Card, award-winning author of Ender's Game, Enchantment, and Empire.

About Evil Genes

Evil Genes is a unique non-fiction thriller inspired in part by author Barbara Oakley's unusual sister, an amoral woman who died under mysterious circumstances. Inspiration came as well from Oakley’s exceptionally broad background, which includes her interactions with the Soviet KGB when working as a translator on Soviet trawlers on the Bering Sea; service as radio operator at the South Pole Station in Antarctica; teaching in China; laying cable in Germany; drinking tea with her adopted sons' relatives in Kosovo. Underlying everything is Oakley's scientific training and research related to medical imaging and genetics--precisely the areas where important breakthroughs in brain research are being made. France or Belgium kamagra generique online.

As she pieced the pattern of human interaction together, encouragement began rolling in: Harvard psychology professor and author Steven Pinker called Oakley’s concepts "fascinating.” Investor Warren Buffett, one of the book’s few good guys, personally walked Oakley through his methods of selecting investments--which involve precisely the ideas laid out in Evil Genes. Renowned personality geneticist Robert Plomin of King’s College, London vetted the chapter on genetics, calling the book “terrific.” Photographer Mark Milstein, who knew Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic personally, termed Evil Genes’ analysis of the “Butcher of the Balkans” “brilliant.”

Evil Genes has generated such enthusiasm because it is the first book to tie together the cutting edge neuroscientific and genetic results that explain human evil. Unlike other popular books about human evil, Evil Genes goes far beyond explaining psychopathic behavior using old-fashioned psychological theories or religious dogma. Instead, the book centers on what neuroscience and genetics are revealing about not only psychopathy, but also the more subtly devious and malevolent behavior of seemingly ordinary people.


A highly-readable, entertaining, ground-breaking, must-read study with notable insights on the rise and fall of empires; but more importantly, it offers, perhaps for the first time, a distinctly plausible mechanism for explaining the origin and persistence of social inequality.”

--Glenn Storey, President, Iowa Society of the Archeological Institute of America, Associate Professor of Classics and Anthropology, University of Iowa, and editor of Urbanism in the Preindustrial World: Cross-Cultural Approaches.

Whatever you might believe about the role of genetics versus environment, Evil Genes will take you somewhere you haven’t been. Barbara Oakley brilliantly reveals the falseness of one of the ego's evil little lies: That all our behavior is decided by us.”
--Gavin de Becker, bestselling author, The Gift of Fear

"Remarkable—and difficult to put down ... a wonderfully readable tapestry of family autobiography, historical biography, and biological psychology. Without oversimplifying their psychosocial complexity, Evil Genes explores new research on the genetics and neurobiology of personality disorders. Shining this light on some of the most problematic figures of our era, it challenges our assumptions about the roots of terrorism, genocide, crime, corruption--and even the sinister sides of politics, business, and religion."

--Terrence W Deacon, Professor of Biological Anthropology and Neuroscience, University of California, Berkeley, and author of The Symbolic Species.

"From historical figures, through the science of neurotransmitters and neuroimaging, and ultimately to events in her own life, Oakley interweaves many ideas to present a fascinating treatise on the nature of evil in the world. Using an exceptionally easy and readable style, Oakley challenges us to think about evil--the interaction of complex forces of nature and the painful events of history, in a unique way."

--Kenneth R Silk, MD
Professor of Psychiatry
University of Michigan Medical School
Ann Arbor, MI

"Professor Oakley has done that rare thing: written a scientific book that is at once informative and eminently readable. She has taken “evil” out of the realm of the religious and metaphysical, placing it instead where it belongs—inside ourselves, as in the famous Pogo cartoon: “we have met the enemy, and he is us!” Her book is filled with many examples, some drawn from close personal experience, of the complicated ways genetics and environment interact to predispose toward evil. The genetic side of the story has been neglected far too long. Evil Genes makes an important and timely addition to the literature on this most fascinating topic. Professor Oakley’s book aims at, and deserves, a wide readership."

Michael H. Stone, MD
Professor of Clinical Psychiatry: Columbia

"A fascinating book that manages to make the neurosciences intelligible to a layman. Its argument that at least some of human evil is encoded on our genes is hard to refute, and this reader wasn't tempted to do so."

Dr. Colleen McCullough, author of The Thorn Birds

"Through a fascinating blend of state-of-the-art science, political biography, and personal catharsis, Evil Genes constructs a provocative blueprint for our understanding of the "successfully sinister" among us.

--David J. Buller, Presidential Research Professor, Northern Illinois University, and author of Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the
Persistent Quest for Human Nature

"Einstein once said that all important new science would be found at the interstices of existing disciplines; if you need proof of that, this book is it. Starting with a background in the military, linguistics and electrical engineering, Oakley deftly moves through psychology, functional brain imagery and molecular biology to weave a compelling and provocative case for a genetic base for evil. 'Scientific non-fiction' and 'page turner' aren’t two phrases I’d expect in the same sentence, but for the remarkable Evil Genes, they fit."

--William A. Wulf, President Emeritus, National Academy of Engineering

"A magnificent tour through the sociology, psychology, and biology of evil. No one should pass up the experience of stepping through the portals of this fascinating book to answer Oakley's crucial question: Why are there evil people, and why are they sometimes so successful?"

–-Dr. Cliff Pickover, author of A Beginner's Guide to Immortality and The Heaven Virus

"Are all children born good? Are bad people bad because of the way their parents brought them up? Barbara Oakley's fascinating book might change your mind about the answers to these questions."

--Judith Rich Harris, author of The Nurture Assumption and No Two Alike.

“This book conveys an enormous amount of complex, up-to-date scientific information in an extremely 'digestable' manner. Dr. Oakley manages to illustrate how, although our genetic make-up is not our destiny, there are clearly people who have an unfortunate dose of risk genes. These people often have impoverished social and emotional experience and can cause suffering to those around them. Although firmly grounded in science, this book is also compassionate and forces the reader to examine their own beliefs and prejudices in the light of what is currently known about the nature and nurture of 'evil'.”

--Essi Viding, PhD, Department of Psychology, University College London

"As a forensic psychologist who has spent much of my career delving into the darkest recesses of the criminal mind, I have often wondered what roles genes and environment play in subsequent psychopathic behavior. Barbara Oakley's outstanding Evil Genes provides the answers."

--Helen Smith, PhD, author of The Scarred Heart: Understanding and Identifying Kids Who Kill

"Blending brisk studies of notorious evil-doers with her own difficult family history, Dr. Oakley skilfully weaves together a panoramic mix of history, psychology and the complications of human behaviour to make a stimulating, provocative and accessible read."

--Adam LeBor, author of Milosevic: A Biography and Complicity With Evil: the United Nations in the Age of Modern Genocide.

"Many of us encounter people whose reactions are puzzling. They are easily hurt and offended. Even when someone is being generous, or kind to them they might react with anger, revengefulness, defensiveness, suspiciousness or aloofness. These are difficult people to have as friends, relatives, colleagues and even as patients. Dr. Oakley has written a comprehensive and compassionate explanation for why some people are like this that will be fascinating to anyone who has encountered this type of person and cared enough to wonder ‘why?’"

--Regina Pally, M.D. psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, author of The Mind-Brain Relationship

Selected Works

Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend
“A fascinating scientific and personal exploration of the roots of evil, filled with human insight and telling detail.”
--Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor, Harvard University
Hair of the Dog: Tales from Aboard a Russian Trawler
“Always revealing, sometimes explosive, and often hilarious... a book any reader is sure to drink up.”
--critic and writer, Brian Arundel of the National Fisherman
"The Killer in the Lecture Hall," The New York Times, April 19th, 2007.
A professor’s reaction to the Virginia Tech Massacre.
Picture Board Game
Herd Your Horses
A perennial best-seller that was selected as a top-100 game by Games Magazine.