EVIL GENES by Barbara Oakley


Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend
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An unorthodox romp with wrongdoers.

Cutting-edge biotechnology allows us to peer more deeply into the brain and human personality, explains Oakley (Engineering/Oakland Univ.; Hair of the Dog: Tales from Aboard a Russian Trawler, 1996). People with what she calls a Machiavellian pattern of behavior may have an especially sinister type of psychopathic personality that could be due to their genetic makeup as well as environmental conditioning. The author describes the use of imaging genetics to explain how the size and shape of different parts of the brain correlate to particular variants (alleles) of specific genes. While there is no way to predict whether or not a person with a specific genetic mix will suffer mental illness, it is becoming possible to determine risk factors. She describes new research on how patterns of activation of neurotransmitters in different areas of the brain may correlate with different personality types. Brain-scanning technology makes it possible to study subjects while they undergo different tests. Oakley’s suggestion that ruthless dictators such as Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Miloševic and Saddam Hussein share special genetic quirks with Princess Diana, Enron’s Andy Fastow and the author’s sister Carolyn demands a big leap of faith that many readers may not be willing to take. Diana may have been occasionally bad-tempered and impulsive in her behavior, Fastow was certainly a crook and the author’s sister Carolyn was one mixed-up kid…but were any of them genetically comparable to Hitler?

Combines the interesting and the not too probable.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-59102-580-1
Page count: 380pp
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2007


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