S5:E27 Leopold and Loeb

S5:E27 Leopold and Loeb

The perfect murder goes completely wrong

Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were wealthy young men in the early 1920s. They lived in big homes in Chicago and had world-class educations. They were both pushed hard academically, and Richard was sexually abused as a child. Both graduated early from high school and college. The two were an odd pairing. Nathan was quiet and awkward, not particularly handsome. Richard was gregarious and outgoing, good-looking… and a psychopath.

Nathan loved Richard, and the two sometimes had sex with each other. Richard realized he could control Nathan by trading intimacy for criminal activity. They started with typical juvenile delinquent behavior. Soon, though, Richard wanted more. He considered himself a master criminal, someone too smart to get caught.

Nietzsche’s concept of the ubermensch or superman

He and Nathan were exposed to the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche wrote that the ultimate purpose of humanity was to evolve into what he called the ubermensch or superman. Leopold and Loeb thought they were that evolved human. Therefore, they should be able to plot and execute the murder of a young boy without ever getting caught.

Only, they were so bad at it that it took very little time to pin it on them. Only the brilliance of Clarence Darrow, the country’s most prominent defense attorney, could save their lives.

In this episode, we’re joined by Candace Fleming. She’s the author of the book Murder Among Friends about the crime.

The version of Also Sprach Zarathustra used in this episode is courtesy of the Creative Commons License and was produced by Kevin MacLeod.


Discussion Questions:

  • Now that you know what the song Also Sprach Zarathustra is about, does it change your opinion of the piece?
  • Do you think Nietzsche was right to worry about what would happen after Christianity took a back seat to world events? What should have been our response?
  • With this little bit we covered about Nietzsche today, what do you think of his work? Can you see why it makes Chris nervous just to mention it in an episode?
  • Do you see the connection between evolution and superman?
  • Were people like Darrow and Bryan right to be concerned about young people learning Nietzsche’s philosophy?
S5:E27 Eugenics

S5:E27 Eugenics

The history of eugenics and Buck v. Bell

Eugenics. It’s one of those words that gets thrown around these days, often by people accusing “the other side” of wrongdoing. But what is eugenics?

I invited law professor Paul Lombardo, author of “Three Generations, No Imbeciles”, to join me to try to answer that very question. It turns out that that question is harder to answer than you’d think. In the early 1900s, the word “eugenic” was often used to mean “pure” or to imply that a product was healthy for babies. But that word also extended into segregating certain populations from society and forced sterilizations.

It is important to understand the history of eugenics because some Christians use the fear of eugenics as a lens to understand the Scopes “Monkey” trial. I think that is an accurate connection, but we really should understand it. Did William Jennings Bryan support eugenics? Can Christians support eugenics? Many did. There were even competitions that rewarded pastors for writing pro-eugenics sermons. That was especially true for liberal pastors.

In this episode, we attempt to answer some tough questions. I hope you enjoy it!

Helpful Sources:

Discussion Questions:

  • What is eugenics?
  • How did the term “eugenics” differ in the early 1900s from today?
  • Are you in favor of eugenics? Why or why not?
  • How is eugenics tied to evolution? How is it not?
  • Do Christians have a responsibility to play when it comes to protecting people with special needs?
  • What can we do to help those with special needs?