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The Science of Evil Audiobook

The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty

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Audible Editor Reviews

Famed British psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen has spent the last 25 years publishing his research on theories of mind, consistently demonstrating that he is one of the most experimental and cutting-edge specialists in the field of cognition. The Science of Evil, published abroad as Zero Degrees of Empathy, brings together several strands of Baron-Cohen's work into a unified theory of human cruelty that describes empathy as a brain-based and therefore scientifically accessible phenomenon. East Sussex actor Jonathan Crowley does a superb job of conveying how groundbreaking and interesting Baron-Cohen's premise truly is. A frequent voice worker and recent winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award, Crowley is no stranger to the invigorating possibilities of scientific non-fiction narration. The psychologist makes it easy on him, with clear writing that explains cognition in everyday terms and with a view toward the practical applications of his theory.

Essentially, there are three diagnoses that have a lack of empathy in common: borderline personality disorder, narcissism, and psychosis. Each of these mental states is missing either the ability to recognize the feelings or others, or the ability to respond to those feelings, or both. This is Baron-Cohen's fundamental argument about the cause of human cruelty. Cruelty is only possible given a lack of empathy, and he devotes a chapter to each of these diagnoses. He devotes additional chapters to autism, the subject around which the majority of Baron-Cohen's research has long orbited. Because autistics are highly systematizing thinkers, they generally develop strong moral rules and a sense of injustice that is not premised upon having empathy, which is a characteristic they lack.

Crowley's lively rendering of the case studies for each type of person having zero degrees of empathy is deeply engrossing. Listeners will be shocked to recognize bits and pieces of their own less than understanding moments embedded in the anecdotal evidence provided here. The book concludes with a hint of the larger implications for a complete study of empathy as a brain-based behavior. Crowley delivers Baron-Cohen's final plea with all the earnest optimism it deserves: if we could use science to isolate the biological sources of empathy, we could eliminate cruelty, and voila -- world peace. —Megan Volpert

Publisher's Summary

Borderline personality disorder, autism, narcissism, psychosis, Asperger's: All of these syndromes have one thing in common---lack of empathy. In some cases, this absence can be dangerous, but in others it can simply mean a different way of seeing the world. In The Science of Evil, Simon Baron-Cohen, an award-winning British researcher who has investigated psychology and autism for decades, develops a new brain-based theory of human cruelty. A true psychologist, however, he examines social and environmental factors that can erode empathy, including neglect and abuse. Based largely on Baron-Cohen's own research, The Science of Evil will change the way we understand and treat human cruelty.

©2011 Simon Baron-Cohen (P)2011 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Baron-Cohen's professorial background shines through in the book's tone and in step-by-step, engaging prose urging both academic and lay reader alike to journey with him in scientific inquiry." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Jim 02-26-16
    Jim 02-26-16 Member Since 2012
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    "Possibly the best book I've ever read/heard...?"

    Learned so much about myself & others from this informative work. Thank you, Simon Baron-Cohen!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kate 01-31-16
    Kate 01-31-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Powerful Information!"

    A must book when trying to understanding where evil comes from. Very insightful. Powerful message about empathy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Daniel Crumbo Tucson, AZ 10-20-15
    Daniel Crumbo Tucson, AZ 10-20-15 Member Since 2011

    Author, editor, critic, teacher, etc.

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    "Hasn't aged well"

    Halfway between an insightful query into the complexities of social emotions and a big steaming crock of woo. I groaned aloud several times. Iffy science, lazy philosophy, and a lousy copy editor combine to make this THE can-miss book on empathy and antisocial behavior.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    dayyoung Hoover, AL, United States 07-06-15
    dayyoung Hoover, AL, United States 07-06-15
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    "Great read"

    Good read very informative. The book covers lots of origin. Giving great examples from the brains perspective.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Teresa Conca 07-02-15
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    "A perspective that is original"
    Would you listen to The Science of Evil again? Why?

    The science is amazing; his conclusion definitely opens up the topic to debate even if you don't agree but it will make a reader think deeply about the motivations behind human action


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. Mackey Atlanta, GA 05-16-15
    L. Mackey Atlanta, GA 05-16-15 Member Since 2014

    retroatl

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    "Amazing!"

    Insightful and informative! I liked it so much that I'm immediately starting it again. I have been wanting to read this for years. Fascinating!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Thomas J. Fitzgerald 04-09-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Very interesting and informative."

    Presented a scientific case for evil that gave me a completely new perspective. Nonmember kg tot Togo. Ogle goal rod

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    E. Fox 02-12-15
    E. Fox 02-12-15
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    "One of the best of its kind"

    The author brings brain research into the ongoing debate on the nature of evil. I've read the classic works on psychopaths, and found baron-Cohen's concept of empathy, degrees of empathy and the variability of empathy within an individual to be an important contribution to our understanding of evil.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Amazon Customer Los Angeles 02-11-15
    Amazon Customer Los Angeles 02-11-15 Member Since 2014

    CMKx

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    "empathy understanding explained"

    this is one of my favorite topics that I enjoy listening to. I find the material easy to understand.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Kirby Thompson 02-03-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Inspiring"

    This book gave me hope that there may one day be a world in which helping others and caring about their needs is smiled upon and accepted as the proper way to do things. Well researched and well read, while also being simplified and condensed very well. A must read for anyone who seeks to make the world more peaceful or seeks to understand the roadblocks to peace that currently inhabit the world.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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