On Friday, Elliot Rodger (22) murdered six other people and himself – in an act of stabbing and frantic shooting – in Isla Vista, California. The son of the British-born Hollywood director Peter Rodger has previously announced his plans to murder many women – those who rejected him – because of his sexual frustration. I think that there are too many men who say similar things so it would be impractical to "stop" all of them. So it's disputable whether the event could have been avoided. But the feeling that it could have been is particularly annoying.
Isla Vista is the town adjacent to the campus of the University of California in Santa Barbara. It only has 23,000 people – 1 / 300 thousand (thanks, Gene!) of the world population – but it just happens that I have lived there for half a year, H1 of 2001, before my PhD defense on 9/11/2001. (And I have visited UCSB approximately 3 times at other moments.) It is a coincidence that my visit in 2001 began with another memorable shooting spree in February (yes, I have better alibi in 2014). So I know the town rather well which is why I found the news more shocking than some generic reports about murders.
It's not just the name "Isla Vista" that feels so close. The shooting took place in the Isla Vista Delimart, see the picture at the top taken from Google Maps Street View. I have eaten there many times! It's some place with sandwiches and things like that. See the new pictures from that place. I also think that there is a nearby restaurant where I ate with the Czech American general relativist Karel Kuchař – the only time I met him in my life (it's the son of this one). Also, I recognize Seville Road where he lived and started with the stabbing.
I don't remember where I precisely lived in Isla Vista and I won't investigate because it could be scary. Note that the UCSB campus is formally in Goleta, the adjacent town. And maybe it doesn't belong to Goleta.
The motive seems as mundane as you can get – the lack of sex that the shooter needed. Among the chemical compounds, testosterone is the likely culprit. Its molecules are driving many men to be godless f*cking machines and if that's impossible, godless killing machines.
Looking at this single terrifying event, it would be easy to outlaw testosterone and many feminists are actually working on that plan. However, I would claim that testosterone is also responsible for much of the positive progress that the human civilization has experienced (not to mention the more general progress of mammals in their quest to evolve). Aggressive, self-confident men may look dangerous and annoying. But the same testosterone-driven energy leads them to compete and create some positive things as well. And by the natural and cultural selection, the positive things are more likely to pass the test of time.
When I once suggested to a close enough non-feminist female colleague that she had to have some excessive testosterone as well, she would reply that she had actually been diagnosed with the complete lack of testosterone and the surplus of estrogen, or something like that. It's plausible she was right and estrogen may act in similar ways as testosterone. Motivated by other reasons, Al Gore has proposed to give the world one big shot of estrogen. Maybe he had a point.
But we would surely enter an uncharted territory without testosterone.
So the deaths are making me sad and upset but there's some sense in which I think that the best solution should have been that the ladies around Mr Rodger should have been more open to this horny simple and potentially dangerous man.