Risks of a genetic approach to crime prevention

I have a piece in the Hartford Courant‘s special set of editorials on the Sandy Hook tragedy. The headline-writer missed the point–I am not asking whether genetics could help in understanding and preventing such violence. Of course it can yield at least a partial explanation. My concern is the risk of any prevention program grounded in that genetic understanding. That way leads us toward pre-emptive medication of a class of “future criminals”–a frightening prospect indeed.

Adam Lanza
Adam Lanza [photo from The Blaze]
Here’s the piece.

The piece was written two weeks ago. Yesterday, Wayne Carver, the Connecticut Medical Examiner who ordered the genetic analysis, called it a “fishing expedition.” He continued, “but that doesn’t mean you don’t look.” Why doesn’t it? Only because you don’t see the risks as being greater than the benefits, however tiny they may be. My argument is that the risks are greater than we realize.

2 thoughts on “Risks of a genetic approach to crime prevention”

  1. I wonder if you are aware of the new version of eugenics called biodemography. The American eugenics society has renamed itself the Society for Biodemography and Social Biology (2010) and has renamed its journal Biodemography and Social Biology (2008). The leaders in the field of biodemography are the Officers and Directors of the Society for Biodemography and Social Biology , e.g. James Vaupel Jim Carey Eileen Crimmins, Hillard Kaplan, Shripad Tuljapurkar and others (see the Society website at biodemog.org and compare that list with the authors in Zeus and the Salmon, Cells and Surveys, Offspring and the Integrating Genetics with Social Sciences Conferences at the University of Colorado.)

    There will be a definite push by this group to associate crime and race as can be seen by studying the work of Kevin Beaver and his associates. Kevin Beaver writes for Biodemography and Social Biology. He is a major figure in criminology though a very new PhD because of his incredible industry. He is producing an article, talk or presentation once every ten days and some of his associates are equally industrious. Hence their point of view is everywhere. Yet I can’t help feeling that the work must be sloppy and an unworthy basis for public policy. I don’t think its thoughtful or much involved with the question of ethics. – how could it be when most of the work is being done by graduates students and even undergraduates at Florida State University and elsewhere?

    At any rate I think that if you began to follow up on biodemography you could write The Science of Human Perfection – Part II just in time to inform public debate on the new eugenics.

    I maintain a list of eugenics society members which is online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/97130973/American-eugenics-society-1945-2012‎ And I can see that eugenics is preparing a new breakout in a new and terrible form.

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