Did Adam Lanza’s Genes Make Him a Mass Murderer?

Why did Adam Lanza enter Sandy Hook Elementary School and murder 26 people? The parents of their dead children, educational officials, the police, and mental health experts are trying to find Lanza’s motive. What set him off?

Blame for Lanza’s grotesque criminal act is being shifted to some form of mental illness, easy access to guns, violent video games and even a dysfunctional family. The latest is that he feared that his mother would desert him to a mental health facility, so he killed her and showed his rage by killing 26 more people at an elementary school.

If we follow the trail of science, we will come to a very uncomplicated reason why anybody commits what we call “murder.” It’s no longer up for debate. Adam Lanza did what he did because of his DNA. There was no mental illness, because there is no mind, only electrical impulses flashing about in a glob of cranial gray matter.

If all the circumstances of the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School were taken to a socio-biologist, not one of them could ever say, given the operating assumptions of evolutionary science, that what Adam Lanza did was morally wrong. Atoms are not moral entities. Consider these comments by John Naisbitt in his book High Tech High Touch:

“Decoding the human genome and the philosophical underpinnings of that quest are forcing a deep reexamination of what it means to be human. Theories of genetic determinism—that our genes determine not only our physical makeup but also our sexual preferences, our levels of aggression, and possibly even our propensity to be religious—are causing theologians to examine their ideas of free will, the human need for religion, and the very existence of God.” (115–116)

Richard Dawkins, considered to be the most articulate of the New Atheists by those who believe that we are nothing more than matter in motion, makes it clear that “In the universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. . . . DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”

In Dawkins’ evolutionary world governed by morally ambivalent DNA, “thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so.”1

David Livingston Smith writes, “Our brains were shaped the same way as the organs of every organism that has existed in the four and a half billion years since life began on earth.” Smith goes on to argue that humans should not set themselves “apart from the rest of nature.”2

Socio-biologist E. O. Wilson assures us that genes “feel nothing, care for nothing, intend nothing.”

Let’s say that Adam Lanza did not kill himself in the aftermath of his bloody assault and John Naisbitt, Richard Dawkins, E. O. Wilson, and David Livingston Smith were called as witnesses for the defense. How would Adam Lanza’s attorney present his case? He would tell the jury that given the testimony of these eminent scientists whose views are taught in every school in the United States, there is neither moral wrong nor criminal liability in anybody’s actions. Lanza did what he did because he evolved that way. His genes determined his levels of aggression. He’s like thousands of animalsthat kill other animals every day.

I realize that most people don’t like to see the logic of these ideas, but they are there. The sooner we recognize that young people today are being fed the lie based on science that “unfeeling, uncaring, purposeless, selfish genes” can “generate beings capable of moral qualities such as feeling, caring, intention and selflessness,”3 the sooner we’ll see our nation regain its moral sanity.

  1. Richard Dawkins, “God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, 273 (November 1995), 85. []
  2. The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007), 63. []
  3. Steve Wilkens, Beyond Bumper Sticker Ethics: An Introduction to Theories of Right and Wrong, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 83. []