Barbara Oakley, PhD, has been dubbed a female Indiana Jones — her writing combines worldwide adventure with solid research expertise. Among other adventures, she has worked as a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers in the Bering Sea, served as radio operator at the South Pole Station in Antarctica, and risen from private to regular army captain in the U.S. Army. Currently an associate professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, Oakley is a recent vice president of the world’s largest bioengineering society and holds a doctorate in the integrative discipline of systems engineering. Her new book is Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hilter Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend.
In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Oakley explores human evil from a scientific perspective. She recounts experiences that led her to research the topic, including episodes from her sister’s life, and from her travels. She details recent advances in brain imaging and genetics that have implications for traditional views of evil, and discusses why a scientific understanding of evil is important.