Inside the mind of a killer
The Finnish high school tragedy once again shows that ideas have consequences
First published: 9 November 2007 (GMT+10)
Re-featured on homepage: 16 September 2009 (GMT+10)
Within just a few hours of this week’s Finnish high school shooting (in which eight people plus the killer died),1,2,3 as the tragic details were relayed by news agencies around the world, it was soon apparent that there was already one clear difference between this tragedy and the one at an American high school eight years earlier.
On the day of the Columbine high school shooting massacre in 1999, in which teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher before turning their guns on themselves, people were asking ‘How could they do such a thing?’ But with both Harris and Klebold now dead, it took investigators some time to get an insight into the mindset of the killers, as they sifted through the evidence. (One of the most telling pieces of evidence, as it turned out, was the inscription ‘Natural Selection’ on the T-shirt worn by one of the killers on the day of the massacre.)
In grim contrast, investigators of the Finnish tragedy knew within hours what had been on the mind of the suicide-murderer Pekka-Eric Auvinen in the lead-up to his shooting spree, courtesy of his home-made video clips he’d posted on the video-sharing website YouTube.
Overwhelmingly, Auvinen’s statements in his YouTube contribution (and other blogs on the internet) reveal his belief (that is, what he believed prior to his death) that there is no Creator God, and therefore there is no ultimate purpose to our existence. Note that at the root of Auvinen’s views is the presupposition that evolution is true:4,5
- ‘I am a cynical existentialist, antihuman humanist, antisocial social darwinist, realistic idealist and godlike atheist.’
- ‘Life is just a coincidence … result of long process of evolution and many several factors, causes and effects.’
- ‘There are no other universal laws than the laws of nature and the laws of physics.’
- ‘Evolution is both a theory and a fact, creationism is neither one.’
- ‘Religious people, your gods are nothing and exists only in your heads. Your slave morals means nothing to me. I’m the god & devil of my own life.’
- ‘What is the best thing in life? It ends. Well I guess there are some other great things, worth living for, but sometimes you lose them or don’t get them.’
- ‘Trust no one … and rely on your instincts.’
- ‘I’m the dictator of my own life.’
- ‘HUMANITY IS OVERRATED!’
- ‘Human life is not sacred. Humans are just a species among other animals and world does not exist only for humans. Death is not a tragedy, it happens in nature all the time between all species. Not all human lives are important or worth saving. Sometimes I feel like no one is really worth [sic] of life at all.’
- ‘Today the process of natural selection is totally misguided. Modern human race has not only betrayed its ancestors, but the future generations too.’
- ‘It’s time to put NATURAL SELECTION & SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST back on track!’
- ‘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 am prepared to fight and die for my cause. I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of the human race and failures of natural selection.’
- ‘The faster the human race is wiped out from this planet, the better … no one should be left alive. No mercy for the scum of earth.’
- ‘I am the law, judge and executioner. There is no higher authority than me.’
All of Auvinen’s statements above derive from the idea that everything just came into existence by itself—that everything just evolved. It turned out that the thinking of the Columbine killers was similarly founded on that idea. That’s the idea more formally known as ‘evolutionary theory’—the doctrine taught in our schools and universities throughout the world.
And as the shootings in Finland and Columbine show, the world is reaping the consequences.
What a person believes does matter
This latest tragedy is surely yet another ‘wake-up call’ to those who say that the creation/evolution ‘controversy’ is only of academic interest. As the high school shootings in Finland and at Columbine demonstrate, what a person believes about origins can be devastatingly destructive—not just to their own life, but the lives of people around them.
From childhood, Harris, Klebold and Auvinen had been taught that man is just an animal and that death and violence are a natural part of life. In fact, from an evolutionary perspective, one could argue that death is a good thing, for without the selection pressure of death removing the weak, man would not have evolved. So death and violence become, in the eyes of those willing to logically apply Darwinian principles to the real world, natural evolutionary mechanisms that have operated with chance processes over millions of years to produce today’s life-forms—including man.
Thus by teaching evolutionary theory at schools and universities, society is basically giving a student all the ‘programming’ he needs to justify, in his own mind, ‘helping evolution along’—i.e. removing certain individuals from the gene pool. Sometimes those ‘certain individuals’ may even include the student himself. One young Australian man told a national forum on the problem of depression in society that:
‘… I think that some people may have an inability to cope, and maybe this might sound a bit extreme, but that might be Darwinian theory, the Darwin theory of survival of the fittest. Maybe some of us aren’t meant to survive, maybe some of us are meant to kill ourselves …’
‘There’s too many people in the world as it is. Maybe it is survival of the fittest, maybe some of us are meant to just give up, and maybe that would help the species.’6
These comments echo Auvinen’s views. And both these individuals demonstrate by their statements that the potential influence of what is taught in the classroom is not confined to what a student writes on an examination paper but can have on-going effects.
Putting it in context of the school shootings, the teaching of evolutionary theory to young people at a Finnish high school and at Columbine High School sufficiently impacted the lives of three students that it has utterly disrupted, to varying degrees and varying lengths of time, the lives of parents, other students, teachers, police, ambulance and hospital staff, pastors and grief counsellors, and even national government leaders. So much for the notion that the creation/evolution debate is ‘only of academic interest’! And of course the shootings didn’t just disrupt lives, they directly destroyed (i.e. cut short) the lives of 24 people in all.
Even from a purely practical viewpoint, is that really the sort of ideology a society would want to teach to its children, now that the consequences are evident for all to see?
As we pointed out after the Columbine massacre, the only way to de-fuse the evolutionary ‘walking time-bombs’ in our societies is to teach the true account of our origins, found in the Bible. That enables young (and old) people to understand that death is not a ‘natural evolutionary mechanism’ but a consequence of sin. And they can also understand that God so loved the world that he provided a ‘rescue package’, in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins (see Good News!). The Bible makes it clear that we are not rearranged pond scum but descendants of the first man and woman, made in the image of God, and that through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour we can know that our lives have meaning—and purpose.
- MTV.COM, Nine killed, more than 10 injured after Finnish school shooting, www.mtv.com/news/articles/1573687/20071107/id_0.jhtml, acc. 8 November 2007. Return to Text.
- ABC News, YouTube gunman kills eight at school, www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/11/08/2084826.htm, acc. 8 November 2007 Return to Text.
- CNN.com/europe, Teen dead who opened fire on Finnish classmates, police say, www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/11/07/school.shooting/index.html, acc. 8 November 2007. Return to Text.
- Godfrey, A., Profile of Pekka-Erik [sic] Auvinen, the YouTube killer, www.news.com.au/story/0,32599,22723252-2,00.html, acc. 8 November 2007. Return to Text.
- Posting on YouTube apparently copied from Auvinen’s original posting, http://22.214.171.124/search?q=cache:LQUFl5ZRKkUJ:nl.youtube.com/user/ Sturmgeist89+%22humanity+is+overrated&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=39&gl=au, acc. 8 November 2007. Return to Text.
- Australian Broadcasting Commission, ‘Black Dog Days: The Experience and Treatment of Depression’, Canberra, 2 May 2000. Broadcast on 4 May 2000 on the ABC Radio National program Life Matters; abc.net.au/rn/talks/lm/stories/s120881.htm, available via web.archive.org. Return to Text.