The Anatomy of Evil
by Michael H. Stone
Nikki’s Rating: 7 out of 10
Summary: Renowned psychiatrist Michael H. Stone looks at what we call evil through the lens of psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience. Analyzing over 600 cases, Stone explores the behaviors and violent actions of criminals that society has deemed evil looking at common personality traits and experiences these criminals shared. With the hopes of potential treatment and intervention, Stone examines what led these individuals to such vile, horrendous actions.
A-Z Book Reviews, Book A: The Anatomy of Evil by Michael H. Stone
(May Contain Spoilers)
1. Minimal Gore
As someone who really struggles with blood, guts, torture and pain (I pass out at the sight of such things), I was relieved that Stone doesn’t go into gory details. Although as a trigger warning, I do not mean to say that The Anatomy of Evil didn’t have anything disturbing! As a whole, The Anatomy of Evil is full of examples of evil crimes committed that are downright terrible, but I was happy that Stone doesn’t give every gory detail into each one. There are just some things you are better off not knowing.
Numbers and statistics are all well and good but nothing drives a point The Anatomy of Evil is a detailed look of evil crimes committed specifically during peacetime. Stone points out that evil needs to be looked through a different lens when looking at crimes committed during a war. There are different rules, different goals, and different factors that need to be considered before judging actions done during a war. The Anatomy of Evil does not touch on this subject as it would require a whole other book to really look at it in depth. The other important distinction Stone makes is that only humans are capable of evil. Animals operate on instinct and do not make conscious decisions to cause pain on another being. When we hurt another being, we understand what we are doing. In some cases, it is planned and repeated until the person is caught or dies.
While there were some qualms I had about how Stone ordered his rankings, I greatly appreciated that Stone came up with a 22-level hierarchy of evil. This made sense especially when taking into account that there are a wide-range of crimes that society has deemed evil. While they are all shocking and disturbing, some are more so than others. The scale helps with giving the examples quantitative value.
4. Pictures and Diagrams
Along with plenty of examples for each of the 22-levels of evil, Stone also includes some pictures of the criminals who committed these crimes and color diagrams of some of the brain mechanisms he discusses in The Anatomy of Evil. The diagrams are really helpful to understand some of the complex operations in the brain.
Throughout The Anatomy of Evil, Stone constantly references others’ works. He pulls from research articles, books, and newspaper articles and includes their information in his “Notes” chapter allowing readers to look them up themselves if they want more information. More importantly, this long list of references adds credibility to his claims and merit to his own research and theories.
6. Brain Mechanisms
Michael H. Stone does an amazing job of describing some very complex areas of the brain in simpler terms that allows the reader to understand the basic purpose of the area and how it can contribute to thinking and behavior. Stone effectively explains how certain things can affect top-down or bottom-up areas of the brain leading to maladaptive behaviors.
7. The Road to Evil
Manipulation and fear are the main tactics that keep girls and women in the life as well as the failing of society in believing that prostitution is a victimless crime that these girls and women choose to partake in. However, the other problem that can keep many girls and women in the life is the lack of services available to them, probably stemming from the false beliefs of the sex industry. As Lloyd shared in Girls Like Us, she worked with a girl who needed help and didn’t qualify for any because she wasn’t a drug addict. This girl went out and used drugs for the first time simply to be able to get into a program that would help her get out of the life. No one should be in this position! Services should already exist and be in place for any sexually exploited person to access.