Epigenetics & Evolution/ History of Serial Killers

Hosted byGeorge Noory

Epigenetics & Evolution/ History of Serial Killers

About the show

Peter Ward Ph.D. has published more than 140 scientific papers dealing with paleontological, zoological, and astronomical topics. In the first half, he talked about how epigenetics is overturning standard notions of Darwinian evolution, which states that all changes occur slowly as part of natural selection and genetic mutation. A form of epigenetics was first described in the 1700s by the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who suggested that organisms are highly adaptive to their local environments. New studies in DNA and RNA have confirmed this reasoning, he reported, and "what we're actually seeing is that if organisms are exposed to a really profound environmental change such as a huge heat increase" on a molecular level the genome is changed, and various genes can get switched on or off.

These genetic changes can be passed on to subsequent generations leading to an evolution that is perhaps 1,000 times faster than Darwinian evolution, depending on the severity of environmental change. The man-made chemicals in our environment are a much bigger threat than climate change when it comes to birth count, he cited, adding that we should look carefully at what's being sprayed on our agricultural fields. Ward also addressed how CRISPR gene editing technology can make radical changes in evolution such as the Chinese "super dog" that had its muscle mass doubled by deleting a gene. Of concern, he pointed out that such technology could be used to breed super soldiers, while on a positive note it could help eradicate disease.


In the latter half, investigative historian Peter Vronsky, an expert in serial killers and their motivations, discussed how these criminals evolved throughout history, and why we are drawn to their horrifying acts. He proposed the idea that in a sense we're all the "sons of Cain," and that it's in our instinctual heritage to kill in order to survive, "but good upbringing unmakes most of us and teaches us how to inhibit these violent impulses." Yet, a small minority retain this impulse, and some twist it into revolting murders that involve rape, torture, and cannibalism. One such case he looked at was that of Jerry Brudos, who abducted women in the Pacific Northwest, and sometimes cut off their feet and kept them.

Another killer, Eddie Kemper, who murdered a series of co-eds in California, described what he was doing as "having to evict the women from their bodies" before he could do what he wanted with them. Vronsky also shared how he had a literal run-in with a serial killer by accident in 1979, as they crashed into each in an elevator as he was checking into a hotel in New York. The killer had beheaded a victim and was trying to flee the hotel. Fascinatingly, the victim's daughter (who'd been adopted and learned later in life that her birth mother was murdered) contacted Vronksy to see if he would interview the imprisoned killer to find out where he'd buried her mother's head.

News segment guests: Mish Shedlock, Steve Kates

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