Amy Bishop and lactose intolerance

By Razib Khan | February 15, 2010 9:07 pm

It just gets weirder. Ipswich neighbors recall confrontations with Amy Bishop:

Bishop once stopped a local ice cream truck from coming into their neighborhood. According to WBZ-1030 radio, she said it because her own kids were lactose intolerant, and she didn’t think it was fair that her kids couldn’t have ice cream.
“That’s who it was!” Lafoe said. “When we were younger the ice cream truck just stopped coming around. That’s strange.”

Bishop & her husband both seem to have a history of self-centered anti-social behavior. There seems a precedent of many actions aimed at optimizing their own short-term utility at the expense of the greater good. No one else existed in their universe. This sort of behavior isn’t totally uncommon, the prickly neighbor who dictates the norms of the community through threats of legal action has often been a problem. I recall reading years ago about a woman who had a litigious reputation who set off a wave of home sales in one community after she relocated because her potential neighbors anticipated a much lower quality of life after she moved to their block. She’d had a notorious past history of simply suing everyone who displeased her.*


Of course, some of these recollections of Bishop and her family might be selection bias as people think back to strange events which might have prefigured her murders. But the incident with her brother and the later the possible association with a bomb can’t be dismissed, I assume most of readers of this weblog wouldn’t have two events like this in their own lives. This is particularly true of individuals from upper middle class backgrounds who tend to be embedded in a world characterized by less social chaos and interpersonal violence.
Note: The argument about lactose intolerance might simply have been a spurious rationale, the rest of the story indicates that Bishop and her husband seem to have objected to the neighbor children riding their bikes at 3 or 4 in the afternoon because of the noise. I recall a sensitivity to sounds is a problem with some people with autism. Everything I’ve read strongly points to Amy Bishop possibly being easily diagnosed with aspergers syndrome.
* I had some friends who lived in a cul-de-sac several years ago. One of their neighbors decided to sue everyone else on the block so as to force them to maintain their properties at the same level and style that they did. Whether they would have won the suits was debatable, but most of the neighbors caved in because the cost of litigation was going to be more than the minor aesthetic changes demanded. The couple who sued their neighbors naturally kept to themselves, and had a great deal of disposable income (they were proudly child-free), so the cost of legal action wasn’t particularly onerous for them. My friend found in the public records that there were instances of past lawsuits where this couple had been litigants.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture
  • Mark

    Brilliant, poor social skills, rage attacks, lactose intolerance, no empathy = Asperger’s. I’d put money on it.

  • http://akinokure.blogspot.com agnostic

    Re: anti-depressants, “What ever happened to *crazy*?” I can see it being due to Aspberger’s and psychopathy, both caused by unusually high testosterone levels. She looks like an ugly man with a cheap wig.

  • Victor

    Hi I dont agree with the coments.
    Every brutal mudrerer has one or other kind of mental disorders.
    Amy Bishop should be hanged.
    Dont try to save her on mental reasons.
    She is sick before giving antidepressants or before killing her brother.
    Dont try to save a sick person.

  • me_wv

    this Bizarre individual Rosiecee places the same cut an paste comment on every thread they encounter. Might they have an axe to grind with antidepressants? Unless Bishop claims she was driven to this deed by the antidepressants, this comment is telling more about Rosiecee’s agenda than anything else.
    When I googled this link, I thought it might be to simply mock how everyone is coming out of the woodwork to describe how awful this woman was. I know lots of weird college professors and they don’t go shoot up the faculty meetings. This is why the story is odd- because of her violence completely out of proportion to losing her job. Her desire to piss of the folks in Ipswich seems well within the raange of normal- nothing particularly Asperger’s about it. Smacks of egocentricity and personality disorder.
    An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior deviating markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture. This pattern is manifested in two (or more) of the following areas:
    cognition (perception and interpretation of self, others and events)
    affect (the range, intensity, lability and appropriateness of emotional response)
    interpersonal functioning
    impulse control

  • Shelby

    Many people are anxious and depressed and don’t shoot anybody.
    Many people take anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants and don’t shoot anybody.
    Many people have Asperger’s Syndrome and don’t shoot anybody.
    Many people are brilliant or eccentric or both and don’t shoot anybody.
    Many people have career disappointments–tenure denials, layoffs, missed promotion opportunities–and don’t shoot anybody.
    This is an individual matter. Tragic and heartbreaking to be sure, but NOT an example of a trend. Instead, this is an example of a damaged person who perhaps should have been isolated earlier–but who doesn’t represent an excuse to crack down on everybody who doesn’t fit a particular mold.

  • Shelby

    Victor, I understand your concerns, but your argument would have more validity if you spell-checked and fact-checked your comments.
    It’s “murderer,” not “mudrerer.” Also, “brutal murderer” is redundant. A murder is always brutal, regardless of how it’s committed.
    There is no evidence that all murderers have mental disorders. In fact, insanity rarely works as a defense.
    It’s “don’t” (with an apostrophe), not “dont” (no such word).
    There is, at this writing, no evidence that Amy Bishop was on antidepressants or any other kind of medication; this is just speculation. We also don’t know of any mental diagnosis before the 1986 shooting of her brother.
    Finally, why shouldn’t people try to save a sick person? Maybe if someone had, this tragedy wouldn’t have occurred…

  • Rosenthal

    @Shelby, I would more than agree with yout comment. This is not a trend. We need to also keep in mind that the media will over-dramatize everything about this case and any other situation in order to gain viewers which we all know equals money…This woman obviously had an issue a long time ago, however, not one person mentioned anything about her prior to this tragic event…Not one person…Why do we all say how “weird” people are after they blow their lid? Someone should have done something to prevent her from going over the edge a long time ago….Just a thought

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    “harvard-educated professor who was weird kills colleagues” makes “good copy.” no, i don’t think we should draw social scientific conclusions….

  • B

    It is a real shame that they let her go when she killed her brother. It sounds very fishy. Looking at her picture I can see a vacant unhappy look…I find it very odd she was educated at Harvard and was a university professor. What a stupid thing to do. Did she think she could get away with murder again?

  • Eamon

    An interesting and dumbfounding story regarding the tyrants of the cul-de-sac. Are there no legal sanctions available in the jurisdiction to deter such people?

  • dearieme

    “Bishop once stopped a local ice cream truck from coming into their neighborhood. According to WBZ-1030 radio, she said it because her own kids were lactose intolerant, and she didn’t think it was fair that her kids couldn’t have ice cream”. That’s as good an anecdotal characterisation of the socialist mindset as I’ve seen in many a year. So good that I admit I’m a little sceptical.

  • krapnek

    i’ve read that it’s common in cases of fratricide for parents to protect the murderous sibling. understandable that a parent might not want to loose both children, but of course not acceptable. it seems clear that’s what happened here, and in the ensuing years amy’s psychological issues continued to manifest in antisocial behavior culminating in the shooting. it’s funny how the story is serving a screen upon which different people project interpretations: it was autism, it was her liberalism, it was political correctness in the tenure process at the university, it was her elite upper-class background that allowed her to avoid prosecution, it was prescription anti-depressants, etc.
    one thing does seem clear is that her parents had some pull in braintree, and both they and her husband seemed willing to role the dice with her stability. it’s pretty creepy stuff, whatever the underlying diagnosis.

  • http://nldthoughtsandfeelings.wordpress.com reader

    Please, everyone, read about Asperger’s Syndrome. The defendant has difficulty in social situations–not an excuse, but an explanation. I am very sad that these events couldn’t have been prevented. Asperger’s and its related learning disabilities–you can be a genius and still have a learning disability, so it’s very common that someone would go into the academe–are treatable. I hope the affected families are getting the help and support they need.

  • downhill

    What an entitled, self-centered piece of work is Amy Bishop. Her “rights” to tenure and recognition trump other peoples right to live. Mentally unwell? Sure. Depressed? Most likely. But tack on “evil” to that for being completely unwilling to do the uncomfortable, introspective kind of self review that makes a person recognize they aren’t more special than anyone else. Sounds like she grew up with a bunch of enablers to make excuses for her, and married into an family that does more of the same. Another site reported her Father-in-Law stating someone else must have been an instigator. Hey FIL, news flash. People can instigate all they want, it was Amy who decided to take the gun in there. You remember, the genius who decided the best way to resolve a problem is to throw a tantrum with a gun? Is it any wonder that selfish, spiteful woman was denied tenure?

  • miko

    “The defendant has difficulty in social situations” = Asperger’s syndrome? Please. By that criteria half the people in the building I’m in right now have Asperger’s syndrome. (You should see the Christmas party.)
    And if she was “diagnosed” with whatever MDs are deciding falls within ASD this week, BFD. This explains what? I am unaware of any link between ASD/Asperger’s and retributive murder.
    You can take any combination of her life experiences and psychology and find a thousand similar people who haven’t gunned anyone down. Twice. Trying to rationalize or medicalize this kind of behavior is a normal reaction, but a fruitless one. Guns are too easy to get. Some people are time bombs.
    I am interested in why her tenure was denied–she seemed a reasonably productive scientist. The tenure process is sometimes used to get rid of people with difficult personalities, or people no one likes, which would be my guess here. This is a difficult issue in academia, where getting along with colleagues is important on one level, but strongly favors certain types of people (independent of their academic qualifications) and in some disciplines strongly favors people by gender, political ideology, etc. Biology is typically not one of those, however.

  • thinker

    Amy is a person that is beyond brilliant according to all I’ve read. She devoted her life’s work to sciende and produced a project that the university picked up and will earn big money from. Amy will also earn half the profits. BUT, going hand in hand with that gift to UAH of half her project should have been a gift from UAH to Amy in the form of tenure. UAH stole that project from her. I do not support violence but do understand how one gets to such a point in this situation.
    Too bad there were no thinkers in her old neighorhood to suggest lactose free ice crean be available on the truck. Knowing how tuff it is to deal with the lactose free diet I can understand why she did not want the truck to upset her kids each day……….although I would have suggested allowing her kids to get lactose free popsicles.

  • Eamon

    dearime@11
    That’s as good an anecdotal characterisation of the socialist mindset as I’ve seen in many a year.
    Wow, that’s as broad-based an ad hominem attack as I’ve seen in many a year.
    You should express your predjudices on more suitable forums.

  • Mike

    Perhaps the article’s author is too young and never moved around.
    Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, there were a number of letter bombs sent to college professors. At the time, law enforcement could not figure out who was doing it. The case wasn’t broken until the brother of Kaczynski (aka the unabomber) reported him.
    During these years, there was a period of time when the activity stopped. It restarted the same year Bishop’s professor received a letter bomb. We may never find out whether Kaczynski, Bishop, or a copycat did it. A number of these cases were never officially resolved.
    As for trying to psyco analyze Bishop and her family, you unlicensed arm-chair shrinks obviously have never moved around. There are numerous communities around our country which are not very friendly to newcomers and where neighbors do not know most folks on the same street or surrounding neighborhood.
    It can be quite lonely being treated as an outsider by neighbors. What you’ve decided is their self-centered, anti-social behavior may in reality be cliquish or anti-social residents shunning the newcomers. This happens a lot around our country.
    As for the aspergers syndrome diagnosis, maybe you can’t relate to her intolerance because you and/or your own kids act wild. Thirty-somethings and older with well behaved children or no children usually have a much lower tolerance level for someone else’s rowdy kids. Dirt bikes and motorized bikes are not appropriate for the street that they lived on. The latter can generate uncomfortably loud noises operating in front or right next to one’s home.
    Also, many upper middle class and rich have “social chaos and interpersonal” problems going on their lives. It doesn’t all play out in the national news. A review of police and court records will show it’s far more common than you apparently believe.

  • BH

    Having personally known the Bishop/Anderson family for many years, I can state that they were not anti social. We shared many fun family outings together. Yes They were odd. in a rocket scientist sort of way. they had many good attributes, were very involved in church and school activities. Amy often demonstrated care and great concern for others.with actions. not words.. In life we all rub someone the wrong way. I feel great sadness that so many lives have have been lost and damaged. I trust that a just outcome will be achieved. Please those Springerites and Political wingers from both sides shut up and learn some compassion for the suffering.

  • jooj

    My friends have taken her classes and she wasn’t a very good professor. She admitted that she knew she was a bad professor, but that she taught so that she could do research. At UA-Huntsville, early on the student evaluations matter.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    the previous two comments check out in terms of IP locations (they’re where amy bishop has lived).

  • Melykin

    Now it has come out that in 2002 she punched a woman in a pancake restaurant and was charged with assault.
    http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/02/amy_bishop_was.html
    You couldn’t make up a story this weird.

  • Anna

    I think you’re on the money. She’s also got a journal citation involving SSRIs, with her kids as co-authors.
    “Anderson, L. B., Anderson P. B., Anderson T. B., Bishop A., Anderson J., Effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors on motor neuron survival (2009) International Journal of General Medicine. In press ”
    http://www.uah.edu/biology/amy/publications.html

  • diana

    Her daughter was named Phaedra and she was possibly a vegan.
    What kind of person names their daughter Phaedra?
    It might be time for UAL to take down her faculty page:
    http://www.uah.edu/biology/amy.html
    (All the links on the page are dead; perhaps Google is keeping this online as a non-cached item?)
    I must say, her complete publications list was awesome.
    http://www.uah.edu/biology/amy/publications.html
    (This title of this paper is morbidly funny:
    Bishop A. & Anderson J. (2005). NO signaling in the CNS: From the Physiological to the Pathological. TOXICOLOGY )
    Phaedra won an award from “Peace Valley Foundation”
    http://www.peacevalleyfoundation.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=63:essay-contest-winners-2009&catid=38:hunstville&Itemid=18
    Curiouser and curiouser…..

  • Aki_Izayoi

    I really did not know that her children were co-authors… but the article wasn’t published yet since it is in press.

  • Joseph Amato

    February 17, 2010
    It is an important discussion on the killings related to Professor Amy Bishop. As stated in the New York Times, the death of her brother was an enormous psychological forces that tore at her soul and in light of the fact that she was exploring, seemingly obsessively in the interior of mind. Here’s where can find the awesome connection to how thoughts and the mind play out in the aftermath of tragic events. This is the inverse of the Lyle and Erik Menendez Brothers 1993 convicted of killing their parents over the stresses of mismanagement of the emotional cultivation of our psychic interior that has a written record very far back in recorded history. Imbalances surely exasperated her powerful determined ambitions.
    Here we can see how Alfred Adler, Freud, Jung all worked in this area to explore the sick personality and come to terms with counseling. What is expressed is that her intimate relationship with her immediate husband, extended family, and colleagues were strictly eternalized and her wall of authority of self was a dike waiting to crumble and it did. However, somehow she knew she did need to explore in writing the issue but it was to little and to late and what comes out is the very fact that – This Can’t Happen Again and challenges herself – it being murder or accidental murder in the history of her brother and its intensity to – what is the science of the psychological actions irrupting form the what both Jung and Freud emphasized the unconscious mind. Here as well Alfred Adler stresses that family counseling could indeed prevent the deterioration of thinking and dreaming minds into the abyss and what occurred Professor Bishop was not afforded this path of exploration – all she had to admit – as my own conjecture and therapeutically did I find fault and fratricide in my actions in my own brother and what if I did so, then she would learn how universal the mind is of the deep issues that we wrestle with and should we fail to do we are tore and damaged to the point of uncontrollable behaviors in: words, deeds, or interior degeneration that ultimately be express in physical medical suffering or lashing on others as problematically and unfortunately took the lives of three in the awfully preventable killings. Literature and the psychology is not a game it is woven in the fabric of our minds and we be deterministic to advance the science and social commitment to enhance the education in the world we share.
    Notes
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyle_and_Erik_Menendez
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oedipus_complex
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Adler

  • http://scienceblogs.com/grrlscientist/ “GrrlScientist”

    wow. it looks like one of her kids was first author on that paper while she and her husband was the penultimate and last authors. which makes me wonder why did she give just three of her four kids co-authorship? and do you suppose that paper was written in crayon?

  • http://network.nature.com/people/boboh/blog Bob O’H

    The paper Anna mentions is available online. One wonders what the other kid did to not be included. Steal the crayons?
    (OK, to be serious, it might be legit research – I can imagine some families being like that)

  • http://offseasontv.blogspot.com brian X

    dearieme:
    That’s not socialist. That’s self-centered, narcissistic insanity.

  • cj

    @Melykin: “You couldn’t make up a story this weird.
    More weirdness: From the link above we get the victims name:
    … The woman, identified in court documents as Michelle Gjika, declined to comment, saying only “It’s not something I want to relive.”
    A Google search of the victim, minus all the current links, ie: “michelle gjika” -”amy bishop”, leads to a weird Salem police report.

  • peabrain

    @24
    Phaedra…..a possible reference to Pirsig’s Phaedrus (also a troubled academic….)?

  • http://hmprescott.wordpress.com Knitting Clio

    You’re not a mental health professional so your “diagnosis” doesn’t convince — even if you were, it would be professionally irresponsible to make a diagnosis of someone whom you never met based solely on media reports.

  • diana

    In the other post on Bishop I said that her pubs list was “awesome.” I retract that. I’m beginning to wonder whether her publications included a huge element of fraud. Is it possible she repeated herself dozens of times?

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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