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Evil

The Science Behind Humanity's Dark Side
Written by: Julia Shaw
Narrated by: Julia Shaw
Length: 7 hrs and 21 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (50 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An original and scientifically rigorous exploration of the darkest recesses of the human mind.

What is it about evil that we find so compelling? From our obsession with serial killers to violence in pop culture, we seem inescapably drawn to the stories of monstrous acts and the aberrant people who commit them. But evil, Dr. Julia Shaw argues, is all relative, rooted in our unique cultures. What one may consider normal, like sex before marriage, eating meat, or being a banker, others may find abhorrent. And if evil is only in the eye of the beholder, can it be said to exist at all? 

In Evil, Dr. Shaw uses case studies from academia, examples from popular culture, and anecdotes from everyday life to break down complex information and concepts, such as the neuroscience of evil, the psychology of bloodlust, and workplace misbehavior. In grappling with thorny dilemmas - from "Would I kill baby Hitler?" to "Why do I want to murder my spouse?" - Dr. Shaw offers listeners a better understanding of the world, ourselves, and our Google search histories.

©2019 Doubleday Canada (P)2019 Julia Shaw

What the critics say

"Curious readers will be riveted by Shaw's deliberate, rational discussions of such taboos as cyberbullying, homicide, pedophilia, and the ways money and power corrupt the souls of formerly good men and women.... A consistently fascinating journey into the darker sides of the human condition that will push on the boundaries of readers' comfort zones." (Kirkus Reviews)
 

"Julia Shaw has crafted a brilliant panorama that elucidates humanity's dark side in her masterpiece, Evil. This science-based foundation for studying the minds of sadists, mass murderers, freaks and creeps, as well the new role of tech in promoting evil is presented in a totally engaging fashion." (Philip Zimbardo, author of The Lucifer Effect)

What listeners say about Evil

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Simple but....

Great intro into the topic for people who have never thought about it before. For someone with even limited experience in the subject it might be a bit too simple. Sometimes the distance between academic writing and science journalism is a bit jarring, and in this case it's due to the very personal, human injections by the author. I would like to read her academic work.

2 people found this helpful

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Rethinking Your Perspective on Evil

Not an in-depth look at evil and she states as much in the beginning but it definitely gives you a different perspective on what is deemed "evil" and presents reasoning as perhaps why we should rethink our perspective. I found the chapters on murder (Chapter 2 Murder by Design), businesses (Chapter 7 Snakes in Suits), and compliance (Chapter 8 And I said Nothing) to be the most interesting whereas my husband thought the chapter on technology (Chapter 4 Two-faced Tech) to be the best. So needless to say there is a little something for everyone here. Some of the science and experiments were familiar others were new to me so that helped my understanding and to keep my interest. I really liked this and had me talking about it long after I was done reading.

1 person found this helpful

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Dr. Shaw's second book is, well, sophmoric

I learned much from Dr. Shaw's first book, The Memory Illusion, mostly from the surprising science behind our confabulist minds. On this, she is an expert. As far as Making Evil goes, it seems a step too far outside her expertise. It lacks a strong enough organizing principle and with a loose thesis, it meanderis from psychological detail (which she is really good at) to social commentary (in which she loses her scientific acuity). While she may begin with a fascinating insight granted by evolutionary psychology, she then extracts rather generalised dictums from anecdotal episodes from her own life. Unfortunately, she is trying to infuse her own considerable knowledge with the greatest hits from the social justice songbook. It was rather off-putting for someone trained in social science. It seemed more like a book written by a journalist than a scientist, by an dilettante than an expert.

I think if a reader's aware and honest, they would realise the lack of evidence-based science when she moves from psychology to more sociological observations. These are the moments when she tries to strike the right political chords. It is at precisely these points when she loses her academic rigour regardless of whether you agree with the points or not ... basically because it is not required when you invoke these banal platitudes, and make statements unable to be disproven (therefore unscientific) because they are part of a tautological system.

The last chapter was very good. She visits the Stanford Prison experiment to put context on Abu Gharib; however, she interjects a non-sequitur comment complaining that the Stanford Prison experiment was yet again an experiment with only male subjects. While this may have been a useful comment in another context, it seems bizzare to complain to not be included in an unethical and condemned study which was shut down halfway through the experiment. Dr. Shaw feels aggrieved, like the rest of the humanities department. If you read the chapter, you may perceive the power of grievance which she ironically condemns while she shares her grievances.

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Dry Academic Writing

This book opens saying it's going to discuss the causes of evil without making any value judgement. And that's just what this book does. It covers a bunch of studies of things society believes to be 'evil' without commenting too much on any one study. The result is it reads like a dry University textbook. Also it does not go into very much detail on the topics. It is quick to make hand-wavy statements such as 'that's just how people are' which although probably true isn't very compelling.

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recomend with reservation

very insightful. heavy topics, not for everyone. made me reflect about many things. I would recommend with reservations because of sensitive subjects

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Propaganda

This book seemed to be very one sided. She sympathizes with the worst of the worst people, rapist child molesters and murders, but calls Men in the patriarchy the problem, painting all men as the problem. This book is very perverse on all levels. Waste of money and time. She needs to leave her liberal bubble and realize by calling men and the patriarchy the problem she alienates the majority of Good men in the world. I under stand this isnt a PG rated book, but my goodness she is a sad and perverted woman.

4 people found this helpful

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Thought provoking with a good sense of humor.

Really enjoyed the book, I love social sciences and psychology, so this was very interesting. If you like the title, the book won't dissapoint.