[Paleopsych] genes made me do it

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Fri Jul 8 22:19:10 UTC 2005


I think the criminal justice system has always done what you propose, 
though not formally, which says free will is either-or. In practice, 
sentences are handed down according to the degree of responsibility. It's 
ironic that those who have the least self-control are given the harshest 

On 2005-07-07, Michael Christopher opined [message unchanged below]:

> Date: Thu, 7 Jul 2005 13:55:55 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Michael Christopher <anonymous_animus at yahoo.com>
> Reply-To: The new improved paleopsych list <paleopsych at paleopsych.org>
> To: paleopsych at paleopsych.org
> Subject: [Paleopsych] genes made me do it
>>> 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
> prevention.
> 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?
> Michael

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