On Wednesday, an 18 year old boy, Pekka-Eric Auvinen, went on a killing spree at his high school in the Finnish village of Jokela, and then killed himself. Before committing the murders (seven students and a teacher), he posted a series of videos on YouTube under the heading “Manifesto of a Natural Selector”. news.com.au reports that:
Wearing a shirt proclaiming “Humanity is overrated”, Auvinen told the world of his plan to murder those he saw as “unfit, disgraces of human race”.
Some samples of what he posted in the run-up to the tragedy:
“I cannot say that I am of the same race as this miserable, arrogant and selfish human race. No! I have evolved a step higher … I’m a natural selector and will eliminate all those I see as unfit,”
The BBC reports that he is “described as holding “extreme Darwinian” views – although they don’t say who described him in that way. No doubt this will be picked up on by those who would like to reject the theory of evolution. So let’s put the record straight.
Darwinism (more correctly “evolution by natural selection”) is all about passing your genes on to the next generation. If an individual kills himself, this is not a good Darwinian strategy. If an individual behaves in a way that is going to get himself killed or locked up by others, then this too is not a good Darwinian strategy. In fact, in Darwinian terms, Auvinen is a failure: an evolutionary dead end.
Avuninen misappropriated Darwinian terminology, but in no way can his actions be described as a logical consequence of Evolution Theory. What is clear is that Auvinen was a disturbed young man, who was legally entitled to hold a firearm and who was inspired by images of violence in the media. In fact, more than anything else, Auvinen was suicidal.
An interesting aside is that suicide is well known to be contagious. According to the US National Institute of Mental Health:
Research finds an increase in suicide by readers or viewers when:
- The number of stories about individual suicides increases
- A particular death is reported at length or in many stories
- The story of an individual death by suicide is placed on the front page or at the beginning of a broadcast
- The headlines about specific suicide deaths are dramatic (A recent example: “Boy, 10, Kills Himself Over Poor Grades”)
Sure enough, among Auvinen’s videos, he:
uploaded a selection of scenes from Schindler’s List in which Jews are tortured and killed, a tribute to Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and a post glorifying the last days of the Twin Towers. American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and a tribute to the Unabomber were also among Sturmgeist89’s collection of macabre tributes.
This is not to say that the media is the prime cause of these kinds of tragedies. Many factors contribute (see the paper by Gary Jensen, Professor of Psychology and Vanderbilt University, “Social Learning and Violent Behavior“). But such behaviour is emphatically not Darwinian in nature.