For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak.

So said the Bard—and it seems he was right on the money. Murder doth speak and has an echo far more pressing than any comment on the living. After all, we are, to this day, asking ourselves this: are we predisposed to kill, or are we puppeteered?

Understanding the Reptile Brain

Also called the triune brain, the reptile brain is a part of every human being’s cerebral makeup. This is the part of the brain associated with our most primal, most self-preserving, and often most primitive desires. This area of the brain allows us the fight or flight instinct. So far, so good, right?

Right. Except serial killers have theirs a lot more polished and enhanced than the rest of us—or so claims Dennis Dutton, the writer of The Wisdom of Psychopaths.

These are individuals whose senses of fight and flight, along with their sense of empathy, are very distinct and utilitarian. Dutton says humans evolved to have many such individuals in every society—because we all need someone to do our “dirty work.” CEOs, surgeons, law enforcement officials are all eerily classified under the same banner—and Dutton suggests that these “tougher” individuals are needed in a society.

The term “reptile” is operative here. It indicates a sly cunning that allows people who do not end up as surgeons or CEOs to exact aimless revenge on other unsuspecting beings—just because they can.

Or are they motivated by something else?

Nature or Nurture?

Whenever a debate about senseless murder arises, the binary that exists between nature and nurture is sure to pop up. We still don’t know for sure why orcas torture baby seals before eating them: do they do it because they are hardwired to torture and kill, or do they do it because they learned it? Either way, we humans have dubbed orcas “killer” whales—and that, perhaps, says something about our true nature, that we are more than just predators.

The annals of human history, it is no secret, are drenched in blood. The pages that mark every period of significance are written in red ink, telling the terrible tales of human belligerence and barbarity. Whether you believe in Abel and Cain or the Neanderthals, it matters not. Researchers say the earliest successful cavemen were also serial killers, so there’s something.

Many people like to say that some killers were “born to kill” (such as Andrei Chikatilo and Richard Chase), whereas others chose to (such as Ted Bundy and Dennis Nielsen). Regardless, if you talked to any of them, they will all say they had no choice but to indulge themselves.

In light of the presence of a lizard brain in all of us, coupled with the common human predisposition to maim and murder, many consider that nature might be the weightier option here. But what distinguishes us from animals like the orca is the fact that humans are capable of much more: not of spleen alone, but of sympathy; of acrimony as well as affection; of spite as well as sentiment. This is an important clue that evil might not be our true nature, but something imposed on us.

Are There No More Serial Killers Now?

Historians and other enthusiasts who like looking more closely at serial killers have always wondered why one or two decades, in particular, were so much about serial killers. So many of them were killing around the same time, and then, it all abruptly stopped.

We don’t think serial killers have stopped existing or stopped killing. We believe they’re just getting better at it and are killing with greater resolve and cunning. After all, there were killers who managed to flee the law
enforcement agencies for a long time—case in point: Jeffrey Dahmer and the Zodiac Killer. Several others, such as Edmund Kemper and the Gay Killer, were only caught because they turned themselves in. Individuals like these are usually far more intelligent than the average Joe, and since we now have such a treasure of material on how police caught their ancestors, they might be taking notes.

Think about it: you can easily find scores of videos on YouTube where former policemen explain, in great detail, how they brought such-and-such killer to justice. If you have ever read any books by Michael Douglas—Mindhunter, in particular—you’ll know that this top FBI profiler, the very man behind FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit, has put it all in ink. It’s all out there: how he led the investigation for Dennis Rader aka the “BTK”; how he accurately profiled the killer of the Atlanta Child Murders; and what Edmund Kemper told him. A smart serial killer—which they usually are—who is well-read will always know how to stay ahead of the game.
That’s exactly what we think has happened. Read more here.

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Author's Bio: 

Emily Scott writes about creativity, technology, spirituality, health, fitness, fashion, education, literature and everything that needs to be pondered on. She has been passionate about writing from an early age, which can be seen through the articles, blogs, research papers she has been delivering.