In “Anatomy of Evil”, the author has clearly used his understanding of psychology and the human behavior to try to understand and explain in a well and clear manner the reasons why people commit acts that are considered to be evil by the society in general. He looks at such acts as murder, rape and violence and he explains why he thinks they happen and the factors that lead to their occurrence. He gives his findings from a scientific point of view as his analysis of the whole aspect of evil is based not on a particular case but several cases from which he makes his findings and this in scientific analysis gives a conclusive finding.
In his book Dr. Stone uses detailed biographies from more than 600 perpetrators of crimes that are considered to be evil and he also conducts interviews with people who have been imprisoned due to crimes to try to understand, give more insight and explain the logic behind their actions. Some of the people he looks at in his book as he gives a history of violent acts include Charles Mason, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer who are considered as high profile killers. The inclusion of the fore mentioned in his study reinforces his aim of wanting to find out the reasons behind their actions. With such information it is seen that Stone’s research is wide and broad.
From his studies and interviews Stone manages to determine that those involved in atrocious crimes can be categorized into levels which reflect on their behaviors. He managed to create a 22- level hierarchy of evil behavior that could be used to rank the level of evil that has been committed by an individual. Though he creates a hierarchy of evil behavior, it is not clearly understood why he ranks evil because evil is evil. The hierarchy consists of such evil behaviors such as crimes of passion, sadistic torture, violent rape and murder. It also adds to it behaviors such as aggression, narcissistic tendencies and also psychopathic tendencies.
In his hierarchy, Stone considers the taking of life through misperception or psychosis to be the lowest levels in the hierarchy and the highest levels he relates to serial homicides, murder and violent rape which he observed that the assailants tend to be sadistic and show no remorse. Using the created hierarchy by Stone, it is possible for one to have a clear understanding on the kind of evil behavior being exhibited by an assailant. This has been used by law enforcement agencies to understand the actions of the assailants and their behaviors and from such understanding it has made it possible to deal with people involved in heinous crimes.
The act of Dr. Stone personally interviewing the deranged personalities, going through the whole process of interviewing emotionally disturbed people and even dangerous situations so that he would obtain the most informed logical views to the dysfunctional behavior of these people. This shows that in his research on the anatomy of evil, Dr. Stone went out of his way so as to be able to give findings which are well informed rather than based on hypothetical and theoretical views which for a long time have been used to explain and understand the evil behavior of these perpetrators of such heinous acts.
Other than only focusing on the reasons for explaining such evil behavior, he also looks at the human experience of behaviors such as anger, resentment, confusion, pain and violent lashing. He is able to show that such evil behaviors are in a way connected to human experience as he explains that some people commit dreadful acts due to anger as it tends to cloud a person’s judgment.
In the book, Stone discusses some of his findings which would in a way help to explain the causes of evil. Some of the facts he puts forth that might lead people to commit despicable crimes include heredity, adverse environments, violence prone cultures, mental illness and abuse of mind altering drugs such as anti-depressants. In his study, most of his respondents, those who committed the crimes were found to be of a sound mind and therefore the mentioning of mental illness cannot be exactly expected to be the cause of evil as it is medically proven that mental illness can cloud a person’s judgment and also affect his logic ability. In addition, severe head injury reduces ones inhibitions. This case is noted in the book when he mentioned the story on Charles Whitman. It was determined later that Whitman had a brain tumor in the region of the brain that controls emotion. Such an example is not appropriately used because his case was a profound medical condition.
We observe in the book according to Stone, characteristics of violent criminals can be traced back to their childhood and also in their youths. He explained such behaviors to be observed in the way they commit violence against their animals, petty crimes and even arson attacks. He further observes that when in their adulthood, these people turn violent against their human counterparts. Such was due to those children growing up unloved, unwanted or even abused. Though he supports his claims on causes of evil, he still believes that it is possible to have a society that can be free of evil behavior by predicting that signs of evil behavior can be corrected while still in childhood before potentially dangerous patterns become entrenched. From Stone’s findings, some of these people with evil behavior do not exhibit psychotic behavior but have a charm that they use to manipulate others into doing what they want thus leading people to become their victims by luring them.
Stone’s book can be read by any person who has an interest in reading and psychology studies but it is a good book for those who are doing or studying forensic psychology as it gives an understanding of people said to commit heinous crimes such as murder, violent rape and suicide. In the book, Stone also talks about the latest scientific research into pathology and the minds of those people involved in such despicable acts. He does explore the fact on the causes of evil by giving short details on known killers but does not focus on them in totality as killers are just a small part of the whole anatomy of evil. Even though he gives small accounts of these perpetrators, the book to some extent appears to be a horrendous book due to the imagery he uses to give an account of the crimes committed by these people with evil behavior.
Though the idea of the whole book is well brought out, the arranging of ideas in the book was somehow confusing as there was no structure in writing the arguments in the book and the book contained errors such as typing ones which seem to have been ignored by the editor. Another issue with the book is that the definition of evil and the causes of evil are not clearly defined because even with the use of illustrations by the author from past crimes, evil is not clearly defined. Furthermore, it raises the question if stating that mental illness is a factor to evil behavior is correct.
In conclusion, the book carries with it a great explanation to something that people don’t usually ask or get involved in but it has not sufficiently dealt with the issues as suggested by the title as the author is seen to mainly give brief stories on evil crimes perpetrated by individuals making the book look like a compilation of stories.