[Paleopsych] genes made me do it

Michael Christopher anonymous_animus at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 7 20:55:55 UTC 2005

>>Consider: you are no longer responsible for
anything. Sound familiar? Once it was the devil. Now
it is the gene that made you do it. You are officially
off the hook. It isn't your fault at all. It's your
faulty genes. It gets even better. Not only is it not
your fault, but you actually are a victim, a victim of
your own toxic gene pool.<<

--We ought to distinguish between the scientific
question, "What causes human behavior" from the
political question, "How do we encourage people to
control behavior that might harm society". Confusing
the two questions is a bad idea. 

It's entirely possible that some people are
genetically driven to violence. But that would leave
us where we already are: with a group of people who
can't or won't control their behavior. We may say "You
must control yourself" but we have no faith that the
command will be enough. So we confine criminals
instead -- Exactly what we would do if it were proven
their genes made them do it. The only real difference
would be that we'd no longer view "deserving it" as
reason to heap scorn on those we've incarcerated. The
most violent criminals were almost uniformly treated
with extreme abuse in their formative years, and we
already KNOW that shaming them only produces more
violence rather than less. Keeping people who can't
(or won't -- it makes no practical difference) control
themselves away from situations where they could harm
others is still the only reliable method of

However, identifying people at risk for violence,
whether it's a genetic trait or a result of early
abuse and role modeling, is a good idea. Pre-emptive
incarceration would not be an acceptable strategy, but
providing counselling and cognitive therapy might
counteract any existing tendency toward violence.
Cognitive therapy can identify subliminal thoughts
that accelerate violence (demonization of others,
shifting blame, shame spiraling into rage, etc) and
increase the individual's ability to calm himself and
counteract the hypnotic trance-like triggers that
would otherwise lead to reactive violence. It may also
be helpful to view groups which demonize one another
as victims of bad programming, and introduce
counter-programs enabling each side to see members of
the other as human rather than as symbols of evil.
Regardless of whether free will exists or not, it's a
good thing to be able to respond in the early stages,
before violence breaks out, rather than merely
punishing people after the fact. 

Perhaps the fear of society is not that people can't
control themselves, but that by demonizing criminals
we are accelerating their pathology. What if we're
making things worse, by focusing on who deserves what
kind of punishment, rather than how to interrupt
patterns of violence before they become lethal?


Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam?  Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around 

More information about the paleopsych mailing list