Oct 13, 2011

The Bad Show

Cruelty, violence, badness... This episode of Radiolab, we wrestle with the dark side of human nature, and ask whether it's something we can ever really understand, or fully escape.

 

We begin with a chilling statistic: 91% of men, and 84% of women, have fantasized about killing someone. We take a look at one particular fantasy lurking behind these numbers, and wonder what this shadow world might tell us about ourselves and our neighbors. Then, we reconsider what Stanley Milgram's famous experiment really revealed about human nature (it's both better and worse than we thought). Next, we meet a man who scrambles our notions of good and evil: chemist Fritz Haber, who won a Nobel Prize in 1918...around the same time officials in the US were calling him a war criminal. And we end with the story of a man who chased one of the most prolific serial killers in US history, then got a chance to ask him the question that had haunted him for years: why?

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Speaker 2:

Oh wait you're [inaudible 00:00:41].

 

Amy Scaroni:

Okay.

 

Speaker 2:

All right.

 

Amy Scaroni:

Okay.

 

Speaker 2:

All right.

 

Amy Scaroni:

You're listening-

 

Speaker 2:

Listening-

 

Amy Scaroni:

To RadioLab, lab-

 

Speaker 2:

RadioLab.

 

Amy Scaroni:

From [inaudible 00:00:52]-

 

Speaker 2:

WNY-

 

Speaker 3:

C.

 

Amy Scaroni:

C?

 

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

 

Amy Scaroni:

[inaudible 00:00:55] NPR.

 

Pat:

Hello David?

 

David:

Yes, hello.

 

Pat:

This is Pat.

 

David:

Oh, hi Pat, all right.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Let's begin with this story from our producer, Pat Walters. Pat, go ahead.

 

Pat:

Okay, so I heard this one from this guy named David-

 

David:

He was David Buss?

 

Pat:

Two S's. He's a psychology professor-

 

David:

At the University of Texas at Austin.

 

Pat:

And this particular story, it comes from a book that David wrote. Could you just tell me the little story that you begin your book with?

 

David:

Okay. Yes, this is one of the things that sparked my interest in the topic of murder.

 

Pat:

The whole thing happened several years ago.

 

David:

I had a very good friend-

 

Pat:

Another professor at the university.

 

David:

And I used to socialize with him and his wife. And one evening, they were throwing a party and invited me over. And so when I went to the party, the party was already in full swing when I got there. Walked in and asked his wife where this friend of mine was, and she got a disgusted look on her face, and said that he was up in the bedroom. And so I went up to the bedroom to find him and he was in a rage.

 

Pat:

In a rage how? You walk into the room, what do you find?

 

David:

Well he started fuming that his wife had dissed him, and-

 

Pat:

What did she do?

 

David:

She expressed disapproval about his clothing choices.

 

Pat:

She made fun of his shirt or something?

 

David:

But did it, publicly, in front of her friends. So he felt publicly humiliated.

 

Pat:

And while David's sitting in the bedroom with this friend, the guy looks up at him, and he says-

 

David:

"I'm going to kill her."

 

Pat:

How did he say it? Quietly or-

 

David:

Like through his teeth, "I'm going to kill her."

 

Pat:

David always known this guy to be pretty mild mannered.

 

David:

But he is a large, very strong man with a black belt in karate. I knew what he was capable of, so I suggested that we go out for a walk and I, basically, spent the next half hour walking around with him trying to cool him off.

 

Pat:

But eventually he did.

 

David:

He just calmed down.

 

Pat:

Hmm. And did you go back to the party then and continue dinner partying for a while?

 

David:

Yeah, I did.

 

Pat:

And he did too?

 

David:

Yes, and he did too. And then he seemed fine. When I said, "Goodbye." To him, he seemed calm and I left, and went home. And then it was several hours later, in the middle of the night, that I got the call.

 

Pat:

And it was his friend.

 

David:

And he says, "Can I come over and sleep on your couch? If I don't leave my house right now, I'm going to kill her." He was in this state of fury, he said, and instead of hitting his wife, he smashed his fist into the bathroom mirror, and then realized that he had to leave the house, or he was going to do damage to her.

 

Pat:

And so he says that and you're like, "Okay, yes come over now."

 

David:

Yeah, exactly.

 

Pat:

Meanwhile, later that night on the other side of town-

 

David:

His wife went into hiding. Literally disappeared for six months, and didn't tell anyone where she was because she was terrified that he was going to kill her.

 

Robert Krulwich:

This story made us wonder, "Is David's friend-"

 

Pat:

Is he unusual? Or-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Does everybody, at some point, have something dark in them that just tiptoes out, from time to time?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yeah. This is Radiolab, and today we're going to get back, so to speak.

 

Robert Krulwich:

We've done a good show.

 

Jad Abumrad:

This is the bad show.

 

Robert Krulwich:

So you ask like, "Why do people do bad things?"

 

Jad Abumrad:

What does it actually mean to be bad anyways? How do you tell the real baddies from the rest of us?

 

Robert Krulwich:

That's [inaudible 00:05:02].

 

Jad Abumrad:

I'm Jad Abumrad.

 

Robert Krulwich:

I'm Robert Krulwich.

 

Jad Abumrad:

This is RadioLab.

 

Robert Krulwich:

The bad show.

 

Robert Krulwich:

(singing)

 

Jad Abumrad:

Back to bed.

 

Pat:

Okay, so what happened to David that night with his friend got him really curious about murder, and badness, and all these things we're thinking about. But it wasn't until a few years later that he learned something that really put what happened that night into context.

 

David:

The next-

 

Pat:

By this point, David moved on to a new university and he's teaching an introductory psychology class.

 

David:

And I devoted one class session to the topic of homicide and why people kill. And I designed a little questionnaire where I simply asked the students, "Have you ever thought about killing someone?" And they would circle yes or no.

 

Pat:

Then you left some space at the bottom for them to elaborate if they said, "Yes."

 

David:

And the class ended, and I went back to my office, and I just sat at my desk, and I started reading these. And I was just astonished-

 

Pat:

To find page after page of yeses. And not just yeses.

 

David:

But these very vivid descriptions about-

 

Pat:

Who they would kill, where they'd do it, when.

 

David:

The precise method.

 

Pat:

How many of them went into that kind of detail?

 

David:

I would say 75 or 80 percent.

 

Pat:

Wow.

 

David:

And-

 

Pat:

Were you a little bit-

 

David:

Yeah.

 

Pat:

Horrified like, "Oh my God, my students are murderers?" [inaudible 00:06:31]

 

David:

Well not horrified, it was I pretty stunned. And so I expanded the sample where we asked about 5,000 people-

 

Pat:

All over the world.

 

David:

Singapore, Peru, the UK-

 

Pat:

That same question.

 

David:

"Have you ever thought about killing someone?" And 91 percent of the men said, "Yes." And 84 percent of the women.

 

Pat:

Said, "Yes, I've thought about killing someone?"

 

David:

Yes. If any sizable fraction actually acted on their homicidal fantasies, the streets would be running red.

 

Pat:

Yeah, but those are fantasies, they're ... some of them actually seem like-

 

David:

Well here's one-

 

Pat:

Something more than just fantasies.

 

David:

From a woman.

 

Pat:

Sure.

 

David:

Okay, this is a 20 year old female. We asked, "Who do you think about killing?" And she said, "My ex-boyfriend. We lived together for a couple months, he was very aggressive, he started calling me a whore, and told me he didn't love me anymore, so I broke up with him. Then a few months later, he started calling me trying to get back together, but I didn't want to. He said that if I ever had a relationship with another man, he was going to send videos of us having sex to all the people in my university. The thing is that I do have a new boyfriend, but my ex-boyfriend doesn't know that yet, and I'm terrified that he'll do what he says. Then suddenly the thought occurred to me that my life would be much happier without him in existence."

 

David:

And then she said, "I actually did this. I invited him for dinner and as he was in the kitchen looking stupid peeling the carrots to make salad, I came up to him laughingly, gently so that he wouldn't suspect anything. I thought about grabbing a knife quickly and stabbing him in the chest repeatedly until he was dead. I actually did the first thing, but he saw my intentions and ran away." When we asked how close she came to killing him, she estimated 60 percent.

 

David:

Hmm 60.

 

Robert Krulwich:

I don't think I ever had a fantasy that anatomically specific where I would see the part of the other person that I was going to stab or plan it like that.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Well, have you ever been blackmailed the way this woman was being blackmailed?

 

Robert Krulwich:

No. No one has ever said about a sex tape that I've ever, so no.

 

Jad Abumrad:

So you don't know? It is a fair question to ask, "What are the conditions under which you, or me, or any of us could do-

 

Robert Krulwich:

[inaudible 00:08:57]

 

Jad Abumrad:

Awful things."

 

Robert Krulwich:

I think they have to be extreme in the extreme.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Well-

 

Robert Krulwich:

You know how my mild-

 

Jad Abumrad:

No.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Mannered I am.

 

Jad Abumrad:

No. And you know what? This actually brings us to our first top of the hour, so just to set it up, Robert, I'm going to give you this piece of paper here.

 

Robert Krulwich:

What is this?

 

Jad Abumrad:

So these are some word pairs. So read these words that you see here.

 

Robert Krulwich:

These words here?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yep.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Nice day?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Uh-huh.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Fat neck?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yes.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Sad face. What is this? Soft hair?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yeah.

 

Robert Krulwich:

I don't know what this is.

 

Jad Abumrad:

You just work here, it's-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Why-

 

Jad Abumrad:

I want you to commit them to memory.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Commit them to memory? You know I can't-

 

Jad Abumrad:

And while you're doing that-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Yep.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Just give me your finger, [crosstalk 00:09:28] I'm going to-

 

Robert Krulwich:

The [inaudible 00:09:29]

 

Jad Abumrad:

Connect this little electrode-

 

Robert Krulwich:

The [inaudible 00:09:31]

 

Jad Abumrad:

To your finger; here we go.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Hard. Wait a second.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Up there and just going to-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Clear air?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Okay so just give me the paper back.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Already?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Time's up. So I'm just going to go into this other room over here. Can you hear me?

 

Robert Krulwich:

What-

 

Jad Abumrad:

All right, so I'm going to talk to you over this intercom, okay?

 

Robert Krulwich:

Okay.

 

Jad Abumrad:

I'm going to give you a test.

 

Robert Krulwich:

I'm not ready for this.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Pay attention.

 

Robert Krulwich:

All right.

 

Jad Abumrad:

In the best of your memory, which word was matched with nice? Was it nice day, nice sky, nice job, or nice chair?

 

Robert Krulwich:

Days?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Answer [inaudible 00:10:05].

 

Robert Krulwich:

I don't ... Wait a second.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Just push the button that corresponds to the right word. Go.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Okay I'm choosing job?

 

Stanley Milgram:

Wrong. Answer is day.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Sorry man.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Two hundred and eighty-five volts.

 

Jad Abumrad:

I'm going have to give you a little.

 

Robert Krulwich:

What did you just do?

 

Jad Abumrad:

You just burst my-

 

Robert Krulwich:

No.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Ear drums, God. Obviously no need to be alarmed, that was not a real shot. We were just enacting an old, very famous experiment that you may have heard about.

 

Stanley Milgram:

It is May 1962.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Done by this guy.

 

Stanley Milgram:

An experiment is being conducted in the elegant interaction laboratory at Yale University.

 

Jad Abumrad:

That's Stanley Milgram talking about the experiment in a film. In case you've never heard of this, probably have, but in case you haven't, here's what he did. He recruited a bunch of subjects-

 

Stanley Milgram:

The subjects of 40 males between the ages of 20 and 50.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Just normal everyday dudes.

 

Stanley Milgram:

The subjects range in occupation from corporation presidents, to Good Humor men, and plumbers.

 

Jad Abumrad:

And he ran them through something like what you and I just did.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Right.

 

Jad Abumrad:

He would have each subject sit down at a table.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Have a seat right here.

 

Jad Abumrad:

In front of this really impressive looking machine.

 

Stanley Milgram:

This machine-

 

Jad Abumrad:

That had lots of switches on it.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Carries electric shocks. When you press one of the switches, all the way down, the learner gets a shock.

 

Jad Abumrad:

And in the other room, there was a guy, who he called the learner, who was supposed to have memorized some words. And every time that guy got a word wrong-

 

Stanley Milgram:

Wrong.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Like you just did-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Yep.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Which happened constantly.

 

Stanley Milgram:

The answer is neck.

 

Jad Abumrad:

The volunteer-

 

Stanley Milgram:

Three hundred volts.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Was instructed to shock that guy.

 

Speaker 9:

Ow.

 

Jad Abumrad:

With higher and higher voltage. Now the volunteer couldn't see the guy he was shocking, but he'd definitely hear him.

 

Speaker 9:

Oh.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Milgram staged the whole thing like it was some experiment about memory and punishment, but of course it wasn't about that.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Continue please.

 

Jad Abumrad:

It was about how far would these people go? How many times would they shock that sad-

 

Speaker 9:

Ow.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Sap in the next room just because they were being told to?

 

Speaker 9:

Let me out of here. Let me out of here.

 

Jad Abumrad:

The guy yelling, of course, was an actor, and the shocks weren't real. But the questions in the air, at the time, were very real.

 

Speaker 10:

Prosecution, [crosstalk 00:12:03] the Attorney General.

 

Jad Abumrad:

This was a moment when human cruelty was on trial, quite literally.

 

Speaker 11:

When I stand before you, judges of Israel, in this court [Foreign 00:12:14] to accuse Adolf Eichmann [Foreign 00:12:18], I do not stand alone.

 

Ben Walker:

So Stanley Milgram actually begins these experiments-

 

Speaker 12:

This moment.

 

Ben Walker:

The same year that Adolf Eichmann goes on trial for Nazi war crimes.

 

Jad Abumrad:

That's radio producer Ben Walker, he'll be our guide for this segment.

 

Ben Walker:

And in the trial, when the prosecutors, essentially, ask him how you came to commit genocide he would say, over and over again-

 

Adolf Eichmann:

It was not my personal affair-

 

Ben Walker:

"I was just following orders."

 

Adolf Eichmann:

I had to do what I was ordered.

 

Ben Walker:

And it's this defense.

 

Adolf Eichmann:

It was my obligation.

 

Ben Walker:

This is basically what Stanley Milgram set out to test.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Two hundred and eighty-five volts.

 

Ben Walker:

In a lab at Yale University with a bunch of regular Americans.

 

Speaker 9:

Ow.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Is that something that's universal?

 

Ben Walker:

Yeah.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Or just an Eichmann thing?

 

Ben Walker:

Yeah. He figured maybe one percent of these men would keep flicking the switches, up to the highest voltage. But that's not what he found. Sixty-five percent-

 

Stanley Milgram:

Continue please.

 

Ben Walker:

Were willing-

 

Speaker 9:

Oh.

 

Ben Walker:

To shock their fellow citizens, over and over again-

 

Speaker 9:

Ow.

 

Ben Walker:

Even past when they were screaming in pain.

 

Speaker 17:

Something's happening to that man in there.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Even when they stopped screaming?

 

Ben Walker:

Yeah when they were maybe dead.

 

Speaker 17:

You better check in on him sir. He won't answer me or nothing.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Please continue. Go on please.

 

Ben Walker:

They continued shocking their corpses. His experiment remains one of the most famous experiments of the 20th century.

 

Speaker 18:

In 1962, Stanley Milgram shocked the world with his study on obedience.

 

Ben Walker:

It is still trotted out to explain everything from hazing to war crimes.

 

Speaker 19:

What is there in human nature-

 

Ben Walker:

To gang behavior.

 

Speaker 19:

That allows an individual to act inhumanely-

 

Ben Walker:

Genocide.

 

Speaker 19:

Harshly, severely?

 

Ben Walker:

It's like a downloadable from the internet; instant defense for doing wrong. But if you look at Milgram's work closely

 

Alex Haslem:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

Ben Walker:

Like this guy did.

 

Alex Haslem:

Alex Haslem, Professor of Psychology at the University of Exeter.

 

Ben Walker:

Then a different picture will emerge.

 

Alex Haslem:

Really, that story's been told a million and one times for the last 50 years, we've just got to get over it.

 

Ben Walker:

Now what you need to understand about Alex Haslem is that he hates it when interviewers only want to talk about the baseline study.

 

Alex Haslem:

The one that everybody knows, the so called baseline.

 

Ben Walker:

The 65 percent one.

 

Jad Abumrad:

The one we just talked about?

 

Ben Walker:

Yeah.

 

Jad Abumrad:

So there's more? There's more to it?

 

Alex Haslem:

Yeah. Because actually, he studied between 20 and 40 different variants of this same paradigm.

 

Ben Walker:

Stanley Milgram took electric shock very seriously. He did this experiment a bunch of times, and in a bunch of different ways.

 

Alex Haslem:

Had all sorts of different things again-

 

Ben Walker:

Would change where the shocker and the shock-ee sat.

 

Alex Haslem:

Yep, women participants, he had an experimenter who wasn't a scientist, but was a member of the general public.

 

Ben Walker:

And every scenario produced a different result.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Really?

 

Ben Walker:

Yep.

 

Alex Haslem:

I got it in front of me, I've just got the data from the Milgram study. Let me just get that out. I mean-

 

Ben Walker:

So again, the baseline study is the one where 65 percent of the volunteers-

 

Alex Haslem:

Go all the way.

 

Ben Walker:

Highest dose of electricity.

 

Alex Haslem:

X, X, X.

 

Ben Walker:

But in experiment number three, if they put the shock-ee in the same room-

 

Alex Haslem:

Same room.

 

Ben Walker:

With the shocker so the shocker could actually see the person that he's shocking-

 

Alex Haslem:

Obedience droops to about 40 percent [inaudible 00:15:40].

 

Ben Walker:

And in experiment number four, when the teacher has to hold the learner's hand down-

 

Alex Haslem:

On the plate.

 

Ben Walker:

In order for him to feel the shocks.

 

Alex Haslem:

It drops to about 30 percent.

 

Ben Walker:

Wow, experiment 14.

 

Alex Haslem:

If the experimenter is not a scientist, but is an ordinary man-

 

Ben Walker:

Not wearing a white coat.

 

Alex Haslem:

Obedience drops to 20 percent.

 

Ben Walker:

Oh?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Really?

 

Ben Walker:

Well how low can we go?

 

Alex Haslem:

Okay.

 

Ben Walker:

Here's another one.

 

Alex Haslem:

This variant-

 

Ben Walker:

Experiment 17.

 

Alex Haslem:

There's you, and there's two other participants.

 

Ben Walker:

Both actors.

 

Alex Haslem:

If those two participants refused to go on-

 

Ben Walker:

Saying like, "I don't want to kill a guy."

 

Alex Haslem:

Only 10 percent, under those circumstances, go on. And then the final one-

 

Ben Walker:

Experiment 15.

 

Alex Haslem:

Of course, normally you just have one experimenter who's giving you these instructions.

 

Ben Walker:

But if you put two experimenters in the room, and-

 

Alex Haslem:

They start disagreeing with each other, and this one you get zero percent going all the way.

 

Ben Walker:

Zero?

 

Alex Haslem:

Zero in that condition.

 

Ben Walker:

You said, "Zero."

 

Alex Haslem:

Normally go-

 

Ben Walker:

That's-

 

Alex Haslem:

Right to the unknown.

 

Ben Walker:

Absolute zero?

 

Alex Haslem:

Not one person.

 

Ben Walker:

No one?

 

Alex Haslem:

No.

 

Ben Walker:

Not a soul?

 

Alex Haslem:

Exactly zero percent.

 

Ben Walker:

Well all right, I'm starting to feel a little bit better about my fellow man.

 

Jad Abumrad:

One second. Hey, hey, hey, hey. Okay.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Where is he?

 

Jad Abumrad:

I'm in a closet.

 

Ben Walker:

In a closet?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Because this room's echo-y. And you know there's nothing a closet full of clothes to help balance that out.

 

Ben Walker:

That's true, that's true.

 

Jad Abumrad:

All right so keep going.

 

Ben Walker:

So you see it's just in that one experiment that 65 percent of people are willing to go all the way.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yeah.

 

Ben Walker:

But in all of these other scenarios, they don't.

 

Stanley Milgram:

[inaudible 00:17:05]

 

Ben Walker:

And even when they do say, "Yes." Even when they go along with the experiment-

 

Speaker 17:

[inaudible 00:17:08]

 

Ben Walker:

As you can see in the film-

 

Speaker 17:

Woman.

 

Ben Walker:

They struggle.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Continuing using the last switch on the board please.

 

Speaker 17:

I'm not getting no answer.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Please continue. The next word is white.

 

Alex Haslem:

They have debates with themselves.

 

Speaker 17:

Think you should look in on them please?

 

Alex Haslem:

Debates with the experimenter.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Not once we've started the experiment.

 

Speaker 17:

Well what is something's happened, the man had an attack or something there?

 

Stanley Milgram:

The experiment requires that we continue. Go on please.

 

Speaker 17:

Don't the man's health mean anything?

 

Stanley Milgram:

Whether the learner likes it or not, we must-

 

Speaker 17:

But he might be dead in there.

 

Ben Walker:

What's interesting is that how all of these struggles, all of them-

 

Speaker 17:

[inaudible 00:17:39] and I don't-

 

Stanley Milgram:

Please continue.

 

Speaker 17:

Have to [inaudible 00:17:40].

 

Ben Walker:

Play out the same way. [crosstalk 00:17:42], It's the experimenter-

 

Stanley Milgram:

You go on please.

 

Ben Walker:

Prodding the shockers along.

 

Speaker 17:

You're going to keep giving him what, 450 volts every shot now?

 

Stanley Milgram:

That's correct.

 

Ben Walker:

For me, it's all about the prods.

 

Stanley Milgram:

The next word is white.

 

Ben Walker:

This is what totally pulled me into this story, the prods. Stanley Milgram had four scripted prods that he wrote out for his experimenters.

 

Jad Abumrad:

For when the subjects didn't want to continue?

 

Ben Walker:

Yep. The first one was, "Please go on."

 

Stanley Milgram:

[crosstalk 00:18:07] Continue please.

 

Ben Walker:

And if they didn't go on, if they resisted [crosstalk 00:18:11] the experimenter would break out prod number two.

 

Speaker 17:

[inaudible 00:18:14]

 

Ben Walker:

"The experiment requires that you continue."

 

Stanley Milgram:

The experiment requires that you-

 

Speaker 17:

Well I mean, I know it does, sir. But I mean, he's up to 195 volts.

 

Ben Walker:

And if they still were resisting or struggling, they'd get proud number three.

 

Stanley Milgram:

It's absolutely essential that you continue.

 

Ben Walker:

"It's absolutely essential."

 

Jad Abumrad:

Essential, that you continue.

 

Ben Walker:

It's a little bit more direct.

 

Alex Haslem:

It's a bit stronger it's not an order.

 

Ben Walker:

Not quite, but the fourth prod.

 

Alex Haslem:

The critical fourth prod-

 

Ben Walker:

Is an absolute order. The fourth product is-

 

Stanley Milgram:

You got no other choice teacher.

 

Ben Walker:

"You have no other choice teacher."

 

Alex Haslem:

You must continue.

 

Ben Walker:

That is definitely an order.

 

Alex Haslem:

Exactly.

 

Ben Walker:

But every time the experimenter pulled out the fourth prod ... And this was confirmed when the experiment was redone in 2006; total disobedience.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Total disobedience.

 

Ben Walker:

Anytime the experimenter said, "You must continue." The shocker would say, "Hell no I don't."

 

Stanley Milgram:

You got no other choice teacher.

 

Speaker 17:

I have a choice, I'm not going to go ahead with it.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Well, we'll have to discontinue the experiment then.

 

Speaker 17:

I'm sorry.

 

Ben Walker:

Here's another one.

 

Stanley Milgram:

We have no other choice, you must go on.

 

Speaker 22:

Yes I have a choice.

 

Stanley Milgram:

That is if you don't continue, we're going to have to discontinue the experiment.

 

Speaker 22:

Well that's to [inaudible 00:19:32], just cut it out. After all, he knows what he can stand. That's my opinion that's where I'm going to stand on it.

 

Ben Walker:

Wow. So the subjects seem willing to shock another human being, but as soon as you say, "It's an order."

 

Alex Haslem:

They don't do it.

 

Ben Walker:

Huh.

 

Alex Haslem:

Now that's important, it's very important. Because if you ask university undergraduates, "What does the Milgram studies show?" They will invariably say something like, "They show that people obey orders." Okay, well actually the one thing that the study really doesn't show is that people obey orders. I mean, it's a pretty big thing to miss. It's a pretty (bleep) thing to miss, isn't it really?

 

Ben Walker:

So wait. If it doesn't show that people are just obeying orders-

 

Alex Haslem:

Yeah.

 

Ben Walker:

Then what does it show?

 

Alex Haslem:

Okay, it's like this.

 

Stanley Milgram:

All right, let's go on to our instructions. We will begin with this test-

 

Alex Haslem:

The participants that are in study-

 

Stanley Milgram:

These pair of words, and-

 

Alex Haslem:

They've got a very plausible, very credible, high status scientist at high status scientific institution.

 

Ben Walker:

Yale.

 

Alex Haslem:

Who is going to do this powerful piece of science.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Direct your voice toward that microphone in the room [inaudible 00:20:33]-

 

Ben Walker:

So they sit down in the chair thinking, "Wow, this is really important. I'm about to help this quest for knowledge, I really want to do a good job."

 

Alex Haslem:

Now, as we sort of know in life, lots of things that we do, if they worthwhile doing, and not always easy. And you find yourself in a situation where you've got to do something that's hard.

 

Ben Walker:

Like shocking an innocent stranger over and over.

 

Alex Haslem:

But if you think that's the right thing, if you think that science is worth pursuing you say, "Okay, I'll go along with this."

 

Speaker 9:

Ow.

 

Ben Walker:

So you're saying they were shocking these people because they thought it was worthwhile?

 

Alex Haslem:

Look, the participants, it's not just blind obedience, "Oh you tell me so, yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir."

 

Stanley Milgram:

Answer please.

 

Alex Haslem:

They're engaged with the test, they're trying to be good participants.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Are you all right?

 

Alex Haslem:

They're trying to do the right thing. They're not doing something because they have to, they're doing it because they think they ought to. And that's all the difference in the world.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Go on to 20 volts.

 

Speaker 9:

Ow.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Suddenly I'm thinking this is actually a darker interpretation-

 

Ben Walker:

Yes.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Than the original.

 

Ben Walker:

Absolutely darker.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Because they are doing it?

 

Ben Walker:

No question about it.

 

Jad Abumrad:

They have the agency.

 

Ben Walker:

Yep.

 

Jad Abumrad:

And they think it's right.

 

Stanley Milgram:

Exactly.

 

Ben Walker:

Although, clearly, on some level they know it isn't.

 

Alex Haslem:

There's a sort of chilling comparison which is a speech that Himmler gave to some SS leaders when they were about to commit a range of atrocities. And he said, "Look, this is what you're going to do is ... Of course, you don't want to do this. Of course, nobody wants to be killing other people; we realize this is hard work. But what you're doing is for the good of Germany, and this is necessary in order to advance our noble cause."

 

Ben Walker:

Wow. So then ... Hey wait, I'm almost done guys, give me two more minutes, two more minutes. So in the Milgram case.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Uh huh.

 

Ben Walker:

Well if the idea is that people will do bad if they think it's good, if it's a good noble cause. Well what's the noble cause in this case?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Science.

 

Ben Walker:

Science. You can see this in the surveys that the men filled out after the experiments were over.

 

Jad Abumrad:

"This was exactly what was on my mind. If the experiment had to be successful, it had to be carried on."

 

Ben Walker:

The questionnaires they filled out are part of the Milgram archive at Yale.

 

Jad Abumrad:

"Willing to help and a worthwhile experiment."

 

Ben Walker:

And it's kind of surprising, a lot of them are really positive, even though they've just been told that they were duped.

 

Jad Abumrad:

"Research in any field is a must, particularly in this day and age. Do you think that more studies of this sort should be carried out?" "Definitely yes."

 

Alex Haslem:

We, as onlookers to this study, we have this kind of godlike sort of vision of like, "Well, of course, what they're doing is wrong." But if looked at from another perspective, there's a sense in which you could celebrate what they're doing.

 

Alex Haslem:

I mean, I'm not suggesting one should, but I'm just saying there is a sense in which these people are prepared to do something that's very painful to them, and to someone else, because they want to promote science; well, you can see that's a good thing. I mean-

 

Ben Walker:

(beep) God. Because it's like we started with this experiment that we all see as evidence of humans' latent capacity for evil.

 

Alex Haslem:

Yeah.

 

Ben Walker:

And you tell us, "Actually, you know under some circumstances, we don't do the bad thing we're told to do because, here's another flip, we don't have to be told. In fact, we hate being told, but we will do it on our own if we think it's good."

 

Alex Haslem:

Yeah.

 

Ben Walker:

Now you're saying actually that you could read that very dark fact as being actually evidence of something quite-

 

Alex Haslem:

Yeah.

 

Ben Walker:

Noble?

 

Alex Haslem:

Well if you dressed up, and if you just had some minor variance to the paradigm you could, presumably, make this up. These are people who are incredibly noble, they are. I mean it's a fact, of course, that they're administering pain to a stranger, that's what's horrifying about it, but imagine they were administering pain to themselves. Imagine they really had to administer shocks to themselves or something. But if they were prepared to do that, when I suspect a lot of them would, then we'd say, "These are people who really believe in science, and isn't this a good thing that we have people in our society, who are willing to make sacrifices-

 

Jad Abumrad:

Wow.

 

Alex Haslem:

For a the greater good?"

 

Jad Abumrad:

Hmm. So in the end, where do you come down? Do you leave this experiment in a light mood or in a dark mood overall?

 

Alex Haslem:

I would say in a powerful mood; we're close to some really fundamental truths about human nature. And my views about human nature are that it affords infinite potential for lightness and dark. There's lots and lots of lessons here, but one is I think when you're enjoying to do something for the greater good, maybe ask yourself the question, "What is greater, and what is good?"

 

Jad Abumrad:

Oh, that right there, slap some quotations around that.

 

Alex Haslem:

Yeah.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Our thanks to Ben Walker, whose podcast ... he has a podcast and it's a good one. It's called Too Much Information.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yes, it's awesome, thank you, Ben. And also thank you to Alex Haslem, Professor of Psychology at the University of Exeter. Be right back.

 

Speaker 23:

Start of message.

 

Speaker 24:

Okay, [inaudible 00:25:21] take one.

 

Ben Walker:

My name's Benjamin Walker and here are some RadioLab credits.

 

Alex Haslem:

RadioLab is supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 

Ben Walker:

Enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.

 

Alex Haslem:

For information about Sloan at www-

 

Ben Walker:

.sloan-

 

Speaker 25:

.org. RadioLab is produced by WNYC-

 

Alex Haslem:

And distributed by NPR.

 

Speaker 25:

Voila.

 

Ben Walker:

And I'm hanging up.

 

Alex Haslem:

All right.

 

Amy Scaroni:

RadioLab is supported by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. Imagine how it feels to have an award-winning team by your side through the mortgage process. Their goal is to make the home buying process smoother for you. With a history of industry leading online lending technology developed in the heart of Detroit, Rocket Mortgage is changing the game. Visit rocketmortgage.com/radiolab. Equal Housing lender licensed in all 50 states. An mlsconsumeraccess.org number 3030. Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. Push button, get mortgage.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Hey this is Jad, RadioLab is supported by IBM. What kind of tech company does the world need today? One that applies smart technologies at scale with purpose and expertise; not just for some, but for all. With AI, blockchain, and quantum technology, IBM is developing smart, scalable technologies that help businesses work better together. Let's expect more from technology, let's put smart to work, visit ibm.com/smart to learn more.

 

Clemmy B.:

I'm [Clemmy Buttonhill 00:26:56], I'm here to tell you about the Open Airs Project, the new podcast form WNYC studios and WQXR, in which people share stories about the classical music that gets them through their lives. People like director Sam Mendez, musicians Jean Batiste, and Wynton Marsalis, Call Your Girlfriends [inaudible 00:27:12], and our very own Alec Baldwin. It's part mix tape, part sonnet love letter, kind of like a daily musical journey into other human lives. Listen to free wherever you go to podcast and sign up at openearsproject.org.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Oh, okay.

 

Speaker 28:

Because if they're going to record it, I mean I'm going to record it here to but [inaudible 00:27:30]

 

Jad Abumrad:

All right, 3, 2, 1. Hey I'm Jad Abumrad.

 

Robert Krulwich:

I'm Robert Krulwich.

 

Jad Abumrad:

This is RadioLab. And today evil, although, I don't know if that's the right word for this next thing.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Yeah, because it's sort of-

 

Jad Abumrad:

More complicated.

 

Robert Krulwich:

When you call someone, "Evil." Then you're kind of done with them.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yeah.

 

Robert Krulwich:

But there's been a fellow, I've been thinking about him for the better part of year, as you know-

 

Jad Abumrad:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Robert Krulwich:

He's such a puzzle to me. I can't quite place him-

 

Jad Abumrad:

Though it's very fun to try.

 

Robert Krulwich:

And I heard about him from science writer, Sam Kean. Well talk about Fritz Haber. So first of all could you just ... When did he live, and what did he look and that kind of stuff?

 

Sam Kean:

He was doing his great science work right around the turn of the 20th century; so right around 1900. Very distinctive looking man, bald on top, trim nice mustache, wore a little [pince-nez 00:28:20]. Is that how you say that thing-

 

Robert Krulwich:

I think I call it [prince-nez 00:28:23], so I'm not sure.

 

Sam Kean:

Prince-nez? Okay, one of those very tiny old fashioned pair of glasses that would pinch on your nose. And he was someone who had very big ambitions.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Just to put that in context-

 

Speaker 30:

I-

 

Jad Abumrad:

And to bring a few other of our storytellers in.

 

Fred Kaufman:

He comes from Breslau Germany.

 

Jad Abumrad:

That's Fred Kaufman, reporter.

 

Fred Kaufman:

Which is a fairly small-ish sort of town, and so does Clara.

 

Jad Abumrad:

That's Fritz Haber's wife.

 

Robert Krulwich:

We're going to meet her later.

 

Fred Kaufman:

Right, Clara comes from the same town, and they're both secularized Jews.

 

Jad Abumrad:

"This was a moment in German history," he says, "When Jews had a decent amount of freedom."

 

Fred Kaufman:

And this is was the difference between Kaiser Wilhelm and, of course, Hitler's Germany.

 

Dan Charles:

Yeah, put it in context.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Dan Charles, he's a historian.

 

Dan Charles:

His was the first generation when a young Jewish boy could truly imagine that he could just be a regular part of that society, he could do anything.

 

Jad Abumrad:

And he believed it. Fast forward 10 years. Fritz Haber's a professor, small university, he's working with chemicals; it's about 1880.

 

Dan Charles:

And he throws himself in one of the central issues facing Germany that at that time.

 

Sam Kean:

Germany has a problem.

 

Robert Krulwich:

A big problem.

 

Sam Kean:

It has enough, what they used to call then solar energy.

 

Robert Krulwich:

You know, energy from the sun to grow crops.

 

Sam Kean:

To feed about 30 million people. However, that leaves behind 20 million Germans.

 

Jad Abumrad:

You mean they're looking at 20 million people going hungry?

 

Sam Kean:

That's what we're heading towards. I mean you have to remember, during the Crimean War in the 1850s, Europe starves.

 

Robert Krulwich:

So around the turn of the century for German scientists like Haber, this was the challenge.

 

Jad Abumrad:

He wants to feed Germany.

 

Sam Kean:

And actually this wasn't just a German thing, a lot of people were beginning to worry that with about a billion and a half people on the planet, at that point, that maybe we were maxing out, that the earth couldn't support this many people.

 

Robert Krulwich:

And everyone thought, "Well, we know the solution."

 

Sam Kean:

Yeah, we just need a whole lot more of one simple-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Element. Nitrogen.

 

Dan Charles:

Nitrogen.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Nitrogen.

 

Sam Kean:

Nitrogen.

 

Dan Charles:

They needed more nitrogen.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Nitrogen.

 

Dan Charles:

Nitrogen is an essential part of amino acids and proteins.

 

Sam Kean:

And when you stick a seed like weed seed in the ground-

 

Robert Krulwich:

One of the reasons it grows, is because it's sucking up all the nitrogen in the soil.

 

Jad Abumrad:

To make it cell walls.

 

Dan Charles:

Without nitrogen, you don't have life.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Now, of course, you could find some nitrogen out in the world.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Natural deposits would be like seaweed or-

 

Sam Kean:

Manure was one.

 

Jad Abumrad:

You could find it in cow manure or-

 

Sam Kean:

Guano.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Which was basically-

 

Sam Kean:

Bat poop and seagull poop.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Which made that poop-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Valuable.

 

Sam Kean:

Actually two nations in South America went to war-

 

Jad Abumrad:

Literally over bat (beep).

 

Latif Nassar:

You could say people were bat (beep) crazy.

 

Jad Abumrad:

By the way, that's reporter [Latif Nassar 00:30:59].

 

Latif Nassar:

This was like oil is today, this is-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Everybody was desperate for sources, new sources of nitrogen. And to make the problems even more annoying.

 

Latif Nassar:

The most common source of nitrogen is in the air around us. It makes up four out of every five or so molecules that we breathe, so it's very-

 

Robert Krulwich:

It's a lot.

 

Latif Nassar:

Yes 80 percent of the air is nitrogen atoms.

 

Robert Krulwich:

So all the nitrogen you ever need-

 

Jad Abumrad:

Was right there.

 

Robert Krulwich:

But you can't throw that air onto a plant.

 

Latif Nassar:

They couldn't deploy it, they couldn't deploy it.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Meaning they couldn't capture it?

 

Latif Nassar:

That's right and part of the problem here and ... Although once again we're getting a little ahead of ourselves.

 

Robert Krulwich:

We'll be right back [inaudible 00:31:42], let's just finish this series.

 

Latif Nassar:

Is that nitrogen is [tryvalent 00:31:48].

 

Jad Abumrad:

Trivalent. In other words, nitrogen has really strong attachments to itself.

 

Latif Nassar:

What he means is that when nitrogen atoms are just free floating in the air, they will cling to each other. These little nitrogen atoms will fiercely hold together, and it's almost impossible to pry them apart.

 

Jad Abumrad:

His calculations showed that it couldn't be done.

 

Robert Krulwich:

At least not without a-

 

Jad Abumrad:

Tremendous amount of energy.

 

Latif Nassar:

More energy that seemed-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Possible to make.

 

Latif Nassar:

Yeah. Yes, but-

 

Jad Abumrad:

Being ambitious-

 

Latif Nassar:

Haber starts thinking, "In order to do this we need to pressure this, we need to put it under a lot of pressure."

 

Jad Abumrad:

So he starts experimenting. He figures out a way to take a lot of air that's filled with these little nitrogen bonds clinging to each other, and pump it with big iron tank.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Under extreme, extreme pressure at high temperature, and then he forces hydrogen into the tank.

 

Speaker 34:

Get in there.

 

Jad Abumrad:

And the number of chemical reactions. And what happens is that your elbowing the nitrogen apart from itself, and then forcing it to bond with the hydrogen in a new way. And when hydrogen and nitrogen bond together, the thing you get-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Is ammonia.

 

Jad Abumrad:

A liquid that has captured the nitrogen right out of the air. You literally get a drip, drip, drip, of ammonia.

 

Jad Abumrad:

(singing)

 

Robert Krulwich:

It is, arguably, the most significant scientific breakthrough of them all. Bred from the air was the phrase. Because Haber figured out a way to take nitrogen from the air, put it into the barren ground and grew wheat.

 

Latif Nassar:

This has allowed the world to have 7 billion people. This is what's driving the world towards 10, 12 by 2050. Now we're seeing about 100 million tons of synthetic fertilizer produced industrially each year. And that tonnages then moves into our food source, our food source then moves into our bodies, and the rough statistics are that half of each of our bodies contains nitrogen from the Haber process.

 

Jad Abumrad:

No (beep) really.

 

Jad Abumrad:

(singing)

 

Robert Krulwich:

And so in 1918, Fritz Haber gets the Nobel Prize. But this is why this is such an interesting guy, around the same time, officials in the U.S. government are calling him a war criminal.

 

Jad Abumrad:

All right, just to back up for one second.

 

Robert Krulwich:

After Haber's nitrogen discovery-

 

Jad Abumrad:

He was promoted.

 

Dan Charles:

He takes over leadership of this institute in Berlin, and he starts hobnobbing with a whole different level of society.

 

Robert Krulwich:

That's Dan Charles again.

 

Dan Charles:

I mean it's a pretty heady thing for a Jewish kid from Breslau to be hobnobbing with the Emperor, and cabinet ministers, he's part of the club; and he really, really relished it.

 

Jad Abumrad:

And not just because he was vain, which everyone agrees he was, but because he loves his country.

 

Robert Krulwich:

He loves the fatherland, and he loves Germany.

 

Dan Charles:

So-

 

Jad Abumrad:

When World War I begins-

 

Dan Charles:

He signs up immediately, sends a letter volunteering for duty-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Saying, "You know the process that I used to make food? Well I can use that same process-

 

Jad Abumrad:

To make explosives."

 

Robert Krulwich:

Because the thing that you put into the ground to grow more food is also the thing you can explode to make a bomb?

 

Dan Charles:

That's correct, because it takes such energy and pressure to separate it, its trivalent bond is so strong that when it comes back together, that energy is released, it can be used for life or death. In any case-

 

Jad Abumrad:

Back to World War I.

 

Dan Charles:

There's trench warfare, it gets bogged down and Haber has an idea.

 

Jad Abumrad:

He goes straight to the German high command, and he pitches this idea.

 

Dan Charles:

He says, "Well, we can drive those enemy soldiers out of trenches with gas."

 

Jad Abumrad:

Chlorine gas.

 

Dan Charles:

We'll basically bring it to the front, and when the wind is right, we'll just spray it.

 

Fred Kaufman:

But the generals were not all that convinced.

 

Jad Abumrad:

No.

 

Fred Kaufman:

They just didn't like it.

 

Dan Charles:

A lot of them are like, "This is not how you fight a war."

 

Fred Kaufman:

It's like playing dirty.

 

Dan Charles:

Yeah, sort of unsportsmanlike.

 

Fred Kaufman:

But he organizes soldiers, he organizes whole gas units.

 

Dan Charles:

And nobody even had to ask.

 

Fred Kaufman:

He takes command of them partially, he travels to the front.

 

Robert Krulwich:

And on April 22-

 

Jad Abumrad:

1915.

 

Dan Charles:

Of 1915.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Haber finds himself in a little town in Belgium called-

 

Dan Charles:

[inaudible 00:36:38]

 

Jad Abumrad:

Y-P-R-E-S, Actually the Americans called it [inaudible 00:36:42].

 

Speaker 35:

Whatever you call it.

 

Jad Abumrad:

This was one of the bloodiest-

 

Dan Charles:

Arenas on the Western Front.

 

Robert Krulwich:

The Germans were on one side, the French, the Canadians, and the British on the other. And they're behind the German lines is-

 

Fred Kaufman:

Our friend, our frien-emy, Fritz Haber.

 

Dan Charles:

He's bald, he has a potbelly, he has these pince-nez spectacles, he's chomping on a Virginian cigar, he was always smoking these Virginian cigars and he's wearing a fur coat.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Really?

 

Dan Charles:

And what is basically like the Baghdad of his time.

 

Jad Abumrad:

But-

 

Dan Charles:

Nobody had done what she was about to do on the scale that he was about to do it. So basically, at 6 p.m. on April 22nd-

 

Jad Abumrad:

When the wind was just right he says-

 

Dan Charles:

Haber's gas troops, unscrew, they open the valves on almost 6,000 tanks, containing 150 tons of chlorine. That's like an adult blue whale of chlorine.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Just trying to imagine that. Is that like a green cloud?

 

Dan Charles:

Some people describe it as a cloud, and then others describe it as this kind of 15 foot wall kind of hugging the land, and it's just sort of approaching. And it's moving in about one meter per second.

 

Jad Abumrad:

And according to some accounts, as it crept across no man's land-

 

Dan Charles:

The leaves would just sort of shrivel, and the grass was turning to the color of metal. Birds would just fall from the air.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Within minutes, the gas reached the allied side. And as soon as it did, soldiers began to convulse.

 

Dan Charles:

They were gagging, they were choking; hundreds of them were falling to the ground like-

 

Jad Abumrad:

What is the gas doing to them exactly?

 

Dan Charles:

I think what it's doing is it's ... If you breathed it in, it sort of irritates your lungs to the extent that they sort of fills up with fluid so quickly that you sort of drowning in your own phlegm.

 

Jad Abumrad:

So they were drowning?

 

Dan Charles:

Literally drowning on land.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Wow.

 

Dan Charles:

Yellow mucus was frothing out of their mouth, those who could still breathe would turn blue.

 

Jad Abumrad:

This is a description of hell.

 

Dan Charles:

Yeah.

 

Fred Kaufman:

But harbor saw it as a wonderful success, and wished that the Germans had been better prepared to exploit it, because he felt they really could have made a terrific advance if they had had more confidence.

 

Dan Charles:

And he is celebrated for it. He gets promoted to the rank of captain-

 

Robert Krulwich:

And he goes home for a few days a hero. But when he gets there, he has to contend with his wife, Clara Immerwahr.

 

Dan Charles:

Clara, also from Breslau, also from a Jewish family.

 

Robert Krulwich:

And also a scientist.

 

Dan Charles:

Unusually so in those times. She was actually a sort of a genius herself. She was one of the first women to earn a PhD in her country.

 

Robert Krulwich:

And shortly after his return, Clara, allegedly, confronts him and says, "Look, you are morally bankrupt. How could you?"

 

Dan Charles:

But Haber just kind of ignored her and-

 

Jad Abumrad:

According to legend.

 

Dan Charles:

He actually threw a dinner party in celebration-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Of the big victory.

 

Dan Charles:

Invited his friends over.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Now we don't actually know if he threw a party.

 

Dan Charles:

I consider that apocryphal.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Dan doesn't think so, but what's clear is that he saw no reason to question what he had done and that infuriated Clara.

 

Dan Charles:

Especially because she found out he was leaving the next day to direct more gas attacks.

 

Fritz Stern:

And they probably had an argument.

 

Dan Charles:

Yeah.

 

Fritz Stern:

Undoubtedly had an argument.

 

Robert Krulwich:

That's historian, Fritz Stern, who also happens to be Fritz Haber's godson.

 

Jad Abumrad:

They had a quarrel?

 

Fritz Stern:

More than that.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Let's call it a fight.

 

Dan Charles:

And later that night, after party, Haber takes a bunch of sleeping pills, goes to sleep. And she takes a service revolver-

 

Fritz Stern:

Fritz Haber's pistol-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Walks outside to the garden-

 

Dan Charles:

And pulls the trigger.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Shoots herself in the chest, and is found by her son.

 

Fred Kaufman:

By her son?

 

Fritz Stern:

Yes, age 13 I think.

 

Dan Charles:

And he finds her actually still alive, with the life about to run out of her.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Haber, it's unknown what happens for the rest of the evening, but it is a well documented fact that the very next morning-

 

Dan Charles:

On schedule, he goes back to the front-

 

Robert Krulwich:

To the Eastern Front.

 

Fritz Stern:

Leaving his son alone with his dead mother.

 

Robert Krulwich:

That's cold and, yeah, heartless.

 

Fritz Stern:

It was a terrible moment.

 

Sam Kean:

Did he run away? Was it duty?

 

Fred Kaufman:

The son, eventually, after he emigrates to America kills himself.

 

Robert Krulwich:

See now around this point I just don't have anything to do with this guy, I just want to take a shower, walk-

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yeah.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Walk away.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yeah, me too. On the other hand, I mean, if you look at the grand calculus, people he's helped or fed, versus people he's killed, I mean he's fed billions of people. I don't know that you could entirely call him bad, I might even tilt towards saying he's a little good, to be honest.

 

Robert Krulwich:

You wouldn't though, would you really? Would you really think that this guy's a good guy?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Honestly, yeah.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Just because of a mathematical summing up.

 

Jad Abumrad:

We're talking billions of people.

 

Robert Krulwich:

He's standing there on the front, pushing the gas into the lungs of other human beings, admittedly, it's a ware, but still. Then he goes and celebrates that, and then walks away from his child and his wife dead in the garden and says, "More of that please."

 

Jad Abumrad:

Well there's something distasteful about the fact that he was too into it, but I do think on some level, you have to divorce the man from his deeds, and you got to ask, "Is the world better with him or without him?" I think you got to answer it, "With him." Right?

 

Robert Krulwich:

Well-

 

Jad Abumrad:

Should we keep going with the story?

 

Robert Krulwich:

Yeah.

 

Jad Abumrad:

All right.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Well, Sam, what happened to this guy after World War I?

 

Sam Kean:

He actually was very humiliated that Germany had lost, and especially humiliated over the fact that they had to pay enormous war reparations to other countries. So he decided he was going to invent a process to pay for these reparations by himself. And what he decided to do is go into the ocean, into sea water, which contains very small levels of gold. But over the entire ocean, there's a lot of gold dissolved into the sea.

 

Robert Krulwich:

And he spends five years and a futile effort-

 

Sam Kean:

To distill gold from the oceans waters.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Sounds insane. On the other hand, if anyone can do it-

 

Sam Kean:

He was trying to repeat this master stroke.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Needless to say-

 

Jad Abumrad:

He fails.

 

Dan Charles:

It was actually a crushing blow for him.

 

Sam Kean:

And then things really take turn.

 

Dan Charles:

1933 comes and Hitler takes over. And one of the first acts that the Nazis do is to-

 

Robert Krulwich:

Basically issue an order-

 

Dan Charles:

That says, "There shall be no Jews in the civil service."

 

Sam Kean:

Now, Haber was Jewish, but because he'd served in World War I-

 

Dan Charles:

He technically would be exempt.

 

Sam Kean:

But 75 percent of the people who worked for him at the institute, they were Jewish-

 

Dan Charles:

And they would have to be dismissed.

 

Sam Kean:

So he decides to take a stand-

 

Dan Charles:

And says, "This is intolerable. I'm going to resign."

 

Fred Kaufman:

He says that he's always been hiring people based on how smart they are, and not who their grandparents were.

 

Dan Charles:

So he sends a letter to the Ministry of Education resigning, and he leaves Germany. Telling a friend he felt like he'd lost his homeland.

 

Sam Kean:

And then he starts this period of roaming. He eventually goes to England-

 

Dan Charles:

But in a famous incident, one of England's leading scientists refuses to shake his hand.

 

Sam Kean:

And he is basically homeless at this point. He's a man adrift.

 

Dan Charles:

Meanwhile-

 

Sam Kean:

His health is failing in 1934, he takes a trip to Switzerland to a sanatorium-

 

Dan Charles:

But before he can get there-

 

Sam Kean:

His heart fails, and he dies.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Now there's a footnote to this that is very strange. My dorsal hair stood up when I read the end of this.

 

Dan Charles:

Right. So during World War I, Haber's Institute had developed a formulation of insect killing gas called zyklon.

 

Sam Kean:

Zyklon A, which was originally just a pesticide-

 

Dan Charles:

And once again, another nitrogen compound.

 

Fritz Stern:

It was developed in his Institute. He knew about it.

 

Robert Krulwich:

In fact, his chemist had given this particular pesticide a smell. It was a warning smell so that people didn't inadvertently breathe it in and get sick.

 

Dan Charles:

But after the Nazis take over-

 

Jad Abumrad:

This is after he died.

 

Dan Charles:

They reach back to the shelf and they find this zyklon stuff. And they ask for it to be reformulated to take out the warning smell, and it becomes zyklon B, the killing gas of the concentration camps.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Did members of Haber's family die in the concentration camps?

 

Dan Charles:

Yeah, members of his extended family did; certainly friends of his did.

 

Fritz Stern:

There's something deeply, deeply wounding, stressing, upsetting at the thought that he had anything to do with zyklon B; but he did. The use of it, he couldn't have imagined.

 

Jad Abumrad:

So, how do you feel about him now? Because ... I don't know, I can't help but feel bad for the guy. Despite the chlorine gas, he didn't intend for that to happen. He could have never imagined that.

 

Robert Krulwich:

No, but there's part of me says, "You know, here's a guy who just wanted to do everything better than had ever been done before." Whether it was feeding, or killing, or-

 

Jad Abumrad:

And he does.

 

Robert Krulwich:

And he does. But he does it with a kind of amoral athleticism, he does it without humility, without a lot of doubt. And it's a craft, but it's a craft with consequences, and to approach it with kind of crazy joy? I don't know, I would rather have scientists who carry doubt with them as they proceed, I-

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yeah, I agree with that. Maybe it's all about doubt in the end. Thanks to all our great storytellers, Dan Charles, Sam Kean, Latif Nassar, Fred Kaufman, and Fritz Stern. You can find out more information about all those guys on our website, radiolab.org.

 

Josh:

Hi, my name is Josh, and I'm calling from Harlem, New York. Radiolab is supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation, and by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science, technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org. Thanks.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Hey I'm Jad Abumrad.

 

Robert Krulwich:

I'm Robert Krulwich.

 

Jad Abumrad:

This is Radiolab and today talking about?

 

Robert Krulwich:

Well, we're trying to think about what goes on in the mind of a bad person.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yeah.

 

Robert Krulwich:

And what makes a bad person so bad that he's different from the rest of us? And-

 

Jad Abumrad:

And we didn't really come to any kind of agreement with the Haber thing.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Yeah, I don't think we quite.

 

James Shapiro:

Let's go [inaudible 00:48:40].

 

Jad Abumrad:

But we ended up walking this question around different people-

 

James Shapiro:

Want to talk about bad people in Shakespeare.

 

Jad Abumrad:

And oddly enough, we got a really interesting take on the true nature of badness from this guy-

 

James Shapiro:

James Shapiro, Professor of English at Columbia University.

 

Jad Abumrad:

And he said, to start, "You want to know about bad? I'll give you bad."

 

James Shapiro:

In Titus Andronicus, there's a character by the name of Aaron the Moor-

 

Jad Abumrad:

And there's a moment in the play where Aaron gets up on stage, looks at the audience and says, "Let me just tell you the kinds of things I've been up to recently."

 

James Shapiro:

Said, "Deadly enmity between two friends make poor men's cattle break their necks, set fire on barns, and haystacks in the night, and bid the owners quench them with their tears. Oft have I digged up dead men from their graves and sit them up right at the dear friend's door.

 

Crowd:

Oh.

 

James Shapiro:

Even when their sorrows almost were forgot, and on their skins is on the bark of trees, have written my life with my knife carved in Roman letters. Let not your sorrows die though I am dead."

 

Crowd:

Whoa.

 

Robert Krulwich:

So he's bad?

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yeah, so here's the interesting thing. According to James, he is not the baddest-

 

Robert Krulwich:

No.

 

Jad Abumrad:

In Shakespeare, or life. Because, ultimately, the play offers up a reason for his nastiness.

 

James Shapiro:

The reason why he's telling all this stuff is because he has cut a deal. They will spare his son if he fessed up and tells them what they need to know. So there's a way in which there's a touch of spark of humanity.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Just a little glimmer. And he says, "That's what people wanted. They wanted someone who was really thrillingly bad but, in the end, was redeemed a bit."

 

Robert Krulwich:

Yeah.

 

Jad Abumrad:

This wasn't just a theater thing.

 

Robert Krulwich:

No, because if you couldn't afford a ticket for a play, you'd seen all the plays, in the 1500s, you could always go to a public hanging.

 

Jad Abumrad:

And you'd go-

 

Robert Krulwich:

For much the same reasons.

 

James Shapiro:

In those days if you're a convicted male felon, you are strung up, but you're not allowed to hang until you die; you're cut down before then.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Warning. This next part's a little graphic.

 

James Shapiro:

Then the executioner castrates you, cuts you open, and takes out your internal organs, and then separate your head; which is put on a post.

 

Robert Krulwich:

But even with all that gore and horribleness, there was often a moment that people waited for; and in a way we wait for it still, even now.

 

James Shapiro:

We want what Elizabethan's got at the scaffold, which was a confession. Before the guy is cut to shreds, he's allowed to confess, "I heartily regret the fact that I killed the young maiden or defamed the king." Whatever it is. The expectation is somebody is made to make his peace with his maker before he dies; that's what you do.

 

Jad Abumrad:

And that's what Shakespeare did in all of his plays. He would give all his baddies at least one moment where they could be understood.

 

James Shapiro:

Except this one time.

 

Iago:

So will I turn her virtue into pitch.

 

James Shapiro:

Iago. He is a solder, he works for a general, the general's name is Othello. They're, supposedly, chums but General Othello has no idea that that Iago-

 

Iago:

I hate-

 

James Shapiro:

Hates him.

 

Iago:

[inaudible 00:51:56].

 

Jad Abumrad:

So he plans to destroy Othello. Now we don't exactly know why, there are hints of reasons that maybe he thinks Othello's sleeping with his wife; we're not sure. But the weird thing is that he decides not just to take down Othello, but everybody.

 

Iago:

I don't know what he did. What lie.

 

Robert Krulwich:

He stirs up hatred between friends, between lovers, he even schemes against his own wife.

 

James Shapiro:

This is just somebody who's performing brain surgery without anesthesia on other people. He's a master planner.

 

Robert Krulwich:

And as for why?

 

James Shapiro:

Maybe Othello was sleeping with Amelia.

 

Jad Abumrad:

But as the play goes on, you begin to think that maybe that's just another lie.

 

James Shapiro:

Eventually Iago convinces Othello that his wife has been disloyal; which she hasn't.

 

Speaker 41:

[inaudible 00:52:47]

 

James Shapiro:

And then Othello goes and kills his own wife, smothering hew with a pillow. This is just a tsunami of evil-

 

Othello:

[inaudible 00:52:57]

 

James Shapiro:

That passes through the play.

 

Othello:

Desdemona's dead. Desdemona's dead.

 

Jad Abumrad:

And at the very end of the play, when everyone finds out what Iago's done, Othello asks him, "Why? Why did you do this?" And Iago-

 

James Shapiro:

He refuses what we fully expect, and what everybody on stage, at that moment, fully expects from him. What does he say? "Demand me nothing, what you know-

 

Iago:

You know.

 

James Shapiro:

From this time forth, I never will speak word." "I'm not saying a word, I'm not going to give you what you want, I'm not going to give you ... I'm not going to help restore the sense that there is a moral order to the world and a moral norm. What you know, you know."

 

Jad Abumrad:

If this is the singular moment in Shakespeare where he gives you an un-understandably evil man, no motives, no reason; any idea what the hell he was intending?

 

James Shapiro:

What you know, you know.

 

Jad Abumrad:

What's [inaudible 00:54:21]-

 

James Shapiro:

You missed it.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Meaning, any idea what was in his mind? Was he trying to make a commentary, and so was he grappling with something? Do we know?

 

James Shapiro:

No, you know.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Dammit.

 

James Shapiro:

The good Iagos make you want to shower the minute you leave the theater. Because you are sullied by them.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Thank you to Jim Shapiro, whose most recent book is called Contested Will.

 

Jad Abumrad:

You know what? I'm left-

 

Robert Krulwich:

He has you there.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yeah, well. You know what I'm left thinking though is, if you could somehow ... I mean, that was make believe. But if you could somehow get a real Iago in the room, and subject that person to questioning, and really get them to sort of fess up as to why they did it, would that make a difference?

 

Robert Krulwich:

We should say that this next section of the program has some references which are extremely graphic-

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yeah.

 

Robert Krulwich:

And not to everybody's taste. So if you have kids in the room, maybe this is a time to tell them to go brush their teeth or something.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Yeah, yeah.

 

Robert Krulwich:

It comes to us from our reporter, Aaron Scott.

 

Jeff Jensen:

[inaudible 00:55:20] Jeff Jensen.

 

Aaron Scott:

Nice to meet you.

 

Jeff Jensen:

Nice to meet you.

 

Jad Abumrad:

All right, so who is this guy over here?

 

Aaron Scott:

This is Jeff Jensen, and he's a reporter in LA. And he wrote this graphic novel that I read about one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history; Gary Leon Ridgeway, the Green River Killer.

 

Jeff Jensen:

The first victims of the Green River killer were found in the summer of 1982.

 

Speaker 45:

The Green River murders terrorized Seattle in the 1980s.

 

Speaker 46:

In Seattle today a man called the Green River killer-

 

Jeff Jensen:

Ridgeway murdered at least 49 women.

 

Speaker 47:

The so-called Green River killer-

 

Jeff Jensen:

But it's--

 

Speaker 47:

Was blamed-

 

Jeff Jensen:

Suspected that it could be upwards of 75.

 

Speaker 46:

Making him the most prolific serial killer in American history.

 

Speaker 48:

All the victims were prostitutes.

 

Jeff Jensen:

He buried them, or left their bodies in these little clumps in the woods-

 

Speaker 49:

The killer seemed to have placed the bodies as if they were mannequins.

 

Jeff Jensen:

And in January of 1984, the Green River Task Force was formed, and my father was recruited to the task force.

 

Aaron Scott:

So Jeff wrote this book because his father, Tom Jensen, was one of the lead detectives tracking Gary Ridgeway. He, ultimately, spent 17 years searching for this man.

 

Jeff Jensen:

In December of 2001, my father and his colleagues-

 

Speaker 50:

Have arrested-

 

Jeff Jensen:

Make the arrest.

 

Speaker 51:

DNA testing matched him to the crime.

 

Aaron Scott:

They arrest Gary Leon Ridgeway-

 

Jeff Jensen:

And on June 13, 2003, Gary was secretly taken out of his jail cell, and brought to a sort of very nondescript, concrete, ugly office building.

 

Aaron Scott:

And over the next six months-

 

Jeff Jensen:

From June to early December-

 

Aaron Scott:

It was Tom's job to get Gary to open up-

 

Jeff Jensen:

And give up the few details that they really needed to link him, certifiably, to all these crimes.

 

John Matsen:

Today's date Is June 17, 2003. The time now is 0836 hours.

 

Aaron Scott:

So every day, they would bring them into this conference room-

 

John Matsen:

This is a continuation of an interview with Gary Leon Ridgeway-

 

Aaron Scott:

And interrogate him.

 

Tom Jensen:

What did you remember since we last talked [inaudible 00:57:19]?

 

Gary R.:

I got those all at night, mostly. That I remember picking her up and-

 

Aaron Scott:

It immediately became apparent that there was going to be difficulties.

 

Gary R.:

As far as I know, I don't know if I did or not.

 

Aaron Scott:

He would deny things, he would obscure, he would dance around things.

 

Jeff Jensen:

He didn't really want to cop to everything that he did.

 

John Matsen:

I got to tell you, I'm not totally comfortable that you're providing all of the information [inaudible 00:57:52]-

 

Aaron Scott:

Especially when it came to one particular fact.

 

Jeff Jensen:

What my father and his colleagues know is that something was done to these bodies; many of them after they were murdered.

 

John Matsen:

Tell us anything about [inaudible 00:58:03]-

 

Aaron Scott:

Is he saying what I think he's saying?

 

Jeff Jensen:

Yeah, necrophilia. Gary is dancing around this topic, Gary had denied this to his own lawyers.

 

John Matsen:

And that we're not going to be shocked with anything-

 

Jeff Jensen:

So my father and the other interviewer in that room that morning, Detective John [Matsen 00:58:19], they start using a line, a tact of interviewing that was very.

 

Tom Jensen:

It's okay. It's okay if you did.

 

Jeff Jensen:

Stunningly, shockingly empathetic.

 

Tom Jensen:

Nothing to be ashamed of.

 

Gary R.:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Tom Jensen:

Thousands of people have done it before you. You're not the first one.

 

Jeff Jensen:

"You know, you're not the first person that's ever done this."

 

Tom Jensen:

Not going to be the last one.

 

Jeff Jensen:

"You won't be the last."

 

Tom Jensen:

That's one of the things that we need to know.

 

Jeff Jensen:

Father's trying to reach out to him-

 

Tom Jensen:

Okay, I know it was more than courage.

 

Jeff Jensen:

"It's okay to admit this, you need to admit this."

 

Tom Jensen:

Okay, it's all right, but we've got to know that. That's one of the things we have to know, and that's why it's okay to let it out.

 

Jeff Jensen:

And he does.

 

Gary R.:

Yes I did lie about that. [inaudible 00:59:10] I went back one time before and [inaudible 00:59:13] that I ... Like I said, I got to give it out, can't keep holding it in.

 

Tom Jensen:

[inaudible 00:59:22] it's building up [inaudible 00:59:24]

 

Jeff Jensen:

This is a major breakthrough.

 

Aaron Scott:

So he ends up admitting it?

 

Jeff Jensen:

In graphic detail. And it gets even more disturbing for my father as the conversation suddenly pivots to another victim.

 

Gary R.:

Other than one that was close to me-

 

Jeff Jensen:

By the name of Carol Christensen.

 

Gary R.:

[inaudible 00:59:42] Christensen. I dated her several times a year. Three times a year, two times before-

 

Jeff Jensen:

He brings her up as an example of a woman that he actually had strong feelings for.

 

Tom Jensen:

You liked this girl?

 

Gary R.:

Yeah, I liked her.

 

John Matsen:

She was good to you?

 

Gary R.:

She was good to me.

 

Jeff Jensen:

And as it happens, my father has very vivid memories of investigating the Carol Christensen murder. Speaking with Carol's mom, Carol's little daughter-

 

Gary R.:

Killed her. I knew she had a daughter and-

 

Jeff Jensen:

And so-

 

Gary R.:

The last one-

 

Jeff Jensen:

Gary starts going through this narrative of what he did to Carol.

 

Gary R.:

The last time she was in a hurry.

 

Jeff Jensen:

She was allegedly in a rush.

 

Gary R.:

And she didn't-

 

Jeff Jensen:

And it kind of hurt his feelings.

 

Gary R.:

Wasn't satisfying me, it made me mad that she was very much in a hurry, she had something else on her mind, and I killed her.

 

Tom Jensen:

How'd you kill her?

 

Gary R.:

I choked her.

 

Tom Jensen:

With?

 

Gary R.:

With my arm. And why I cared for her because I dated her before, but this day didn't turn out right.

 

Jeff Jensen:

Up until that point, Gary refused to say, "That from the minute I picked these women up, I wanted to kill them." He claimed they were in the middle of a sex act, he would get distracted, something would happen, he just kind of went crazy, he had snapped; and almost blaming the victims. And my father wasn't buying it.

 

Tom Jensen:

So let's backup a little bit.

 

Jeff Jensen:

The fact that he kept on doing it over, and over, and over again was like, "Come on."

 

Tom Jensen:

Been through this a lot of times before, and she's already told you she's in a hurry.

 

Jeff Jensen:

"You knew what was going to happen."

 

Tom Jensen:

You've done how many times before?

 

Gary R.:

A lot of times.

 

Tom Jensen:

Ten, 15, 20 -

 

Gary R.:

[inaudible 01:01:30]

 

Tom Jensen:

Times. You know what's going to happen if she pisses you off.

 

Gary R.:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Tom Jensen:

And you like her. You're telling us all this.

 

Gary R.:

Yes.

 

Tom Jensen:

Yet you go into this anyway, knowing full well that it could-

 

Gary R.:

Yeah.

 

Tom Jensen:

End up in her death.

 

Gary R.:

Yeah.

 

Jeff Jensen:

And Gary just says-

 

Gary R.:

Yes.

 

Jeff Jensen:

"That is true. When I picked them up, I was going to kill them." Finally acknowledging, "Yeah, that's true." There's a pause and my father just says-

 

Tom Jensen:

Why?

 

Jeff Jensen:

"Why? Why did you do this?"

 

Tom Jensen:

Did you need to kill?

 

Jeff Jensen:

And that was a question that had haunted my father for decades.

 

Tom Jensen:

Why?

 

Jeff Jensen:

In that, "Why?" That one simple, "Why?" That he asked Gary, there was a lot of questions he was asking. "Why did you inflict all this suffering on them, on us? Why did you take these women off the streets and want to destroy them?"

 

Tom Jensen:

Why?

 

Jeff Jensen:

"Why?" And the answer is unsatisfying.

 

Gary R.:

Yes I did need to kill. I needed to kill her because that-

 

Aaron Scott:

Wait, what?

 

Jeff Jensen:

"I just needed to kill because of that." And then he just trails off.

 

Aaron Scott:

"I need to kill because of that." That's it? It just that-

 

Jeff Jensen:

Yeah. "Just wanted to kill them, I just needed to kill them." In that moment, my father, he stands up and he says-

 

Tom Jensen:

Touched me Gary.

 

Jeff Jensen:

"You've touched me, Gary."

 

Tom Jensen:

You've touched me. I'm going to take a break.

 

John Matsen:

Okay, we're going off tape now. It's 0924 hours on June 17th, year 2003.

 

Jeff Jensen:

He walked out of the room, and just started weeping.

 

Jeff Jensen:

They spent the next six months interrogating him, they brought in psychiatrists, and forensic psychologists to try to get an answer. Gary says, "I needed to kill." And they go, "Why?" And he says, "Because of the rage." And, "Well why the rage?" And, "Because women have stepped on me all my life." "Well why can't you deal with it in a normal way?"

 

Jeff Jensen:

Each answer just begs another why. And even though, in the end, they got him to confess to these 49 murders, they never really get any closer to an answer than this first one. That afternoon, he gets in his car, goes home, he finds my mom on the deck, sits down next to her. She says, "What happened today?" And my dad said, "I don't want to talk about it." And to this day, they have not talked about that day, and he hasn't talked about it with anyone until I interviewed him for the book.

 

Aaron Scott:

And why is it so important, do you think, to understand the why behind such an evil act?

 

Jeff Jensen:

Well the thing that haunts me about the why question is that I'm reminded of one of the oldest stories in the Bible, which is the story of Job. The story of Job is that one day God and Satan are having a conversation, and they're saying, "Have you checked out Job? I'm really proud of Job, he believes in me, and he trusts me in so much, and he has such great faith in me."

 

Jeff Jensen:

And Satan is like, "Well I bet I can change his mind." And so Satan, basically, systematically destroys Job's life. Takes away his wife, his children, all his material possessions. What follows is this ongoing conversation between Job and his friends about why does this happen? Why does God allow this to happen? Only then does God speak up and kind of say like, "You're going to question me? Who are you?"

 

Jeff Jensen:

My point is sometimes when we ask the why in the face of profound evil, I kind of wonder if what we're doing is that we're daring God to show himself. And I think what we want out of the why is meaning. Meaning to life to reveal itself in a way that restores order and gives us hope that all of this isn't just meaningless chaos.

 

Robert Krulwich:

Jeff Jensen's book is The Green River Killer, A True Detective Story. It's a graphic or an illustrated novel.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Thanks also to reporter Aaron Scott for that story.

 

Robert Krulwich:

This is Radiolab.

 

Jad Abumrad:

Thanks for listening.

 

Dan Charles:

Hi, this is Dan Charles.

 

Jeff Jensen:

Hi, my name is Jeff Jensen.

 

Fred Kaufman:

Hey, it's Fred Kaufman, I'm calling to read the credits; here we go. Radiolab is produced by Jad Abumrad.

 

Dan Charles:

Our staff includes-

 

Jeff Jensen:

Ellen Horn.

 

Dan Charles:

Lauren Wheeler.

 

Fred Kaufman:

Pat Walters.

 

Dan Charles:

Kim Howard.

 

Jeff Jensen:

Lynn Levy

 

Dan Charles:

Brenna Farrow.

 

Jeff Jensen:

And Shawn Cole.

 

Fred Kaufman:

With help from Adam Cole, Rachel James, and Matt [Kielty 01:07:25].

 

Dan Charles:

Othello recording courtesy of BAM-

 

Jeff Jensen:

Brooklyn Academy of Music, ham archives.

 

Dan Charles:

Special thanks to Louie Flack-

 

Fred Kaufman:

Eugene [inaudible 01:07:32], Sierra Hahn, and everyone in the manuscript and archives department at the Yale University Library. Thanks.

 

Speaker 23:

End of message.

 

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