Searching for Mr Bad

Searching for Mr. Bad
Coming Full Circle in Biological
• Which readings did you do?
Rice: “Biological Theories of Crime”
Katie Lambert: “How Atavisms Work”
Healy: Sampling on the Dependent Variable
Cohen: "Genetic Basis for Crime: A New Look." NYT 2011
Goleman: "Storm Brews On Whether Crime Has Roots in Genes." NYT 1992
Yong: "Dangerous DNA: The truth about the 'warrior gene‘”
Friedland: "A Vision of the Future“
Ferguson/Beaver "Natural born killers: The genetic origins of extreme violence.”
Jones: "Overcoming the Myth of Free Will in Criminal Law: The True Impact of the Genetic
 Spiegel: Can A Test Really Tell Who's A Psychopath?
• NYT articles describe two conferences on genetics and crime. What
happened to the 1992 conference?
• Who was Cesar Lombroso?
Essay Question
• The thinkers and theories we have briefly visited
have taken a number of basic starting points:
people basically good, bad, mixed; people never
change; a small defect defines the entire person;
biology is destiny. What’s your take on human
nature? What kind of a thing is a person for the
purposes of thinking about social control? Which
readings or thinkers do you feel you line up with?
Which ones do you seem to reject?
• Submit both your first and your final draft of the
Basic Outline
• Lombroso – late 19th century – atavism
– Appearance reveals character/temperament causes crime
• Sheldon – somatotypes – ecto/endo/mesodorph
– Causal direction?
• 1950s-1970s super-male, testosterone, etc.
• 1980s-present genes
• Now what?
Partly a Sociology of Knowledge Story
• Not a simple forward march of science
• Knowledge embedded in socio-political
– what facts we look for, how we interpret facts,
how we act on interpretations –
• Debates about whether or not to research
• Strange bedfellows? Not so simple.
– Physical science & right
– Social science & left
Caste of Characters
• Lombroso
– Goring
– Sheldon
– Gluecks
• Sampling and Explanation
• New Biology
– Genes
– Super males & Testosterone
– Twin and Adoption studies
• Determinism, Naturalistic Fallacy
• Modern model of genes, environment, triggers, risk factors
Lombroso (1835-1909)
Revolutionaries and Political Criminals
Useful Distinction
• Phenotype: what shows up in the organism
• Genotype: what’s in the DNA
“That Powerful Drop”
Langston Hughes
• Polymorphism: more than one phenotype
• Polyphenism
• Molecular biology : point mutation in
Why is SSSM skeptical about biology?
History of past abuse
Too easy to tell “just so” stories*
Naturalistic fallacy
Biological Determinism
Lack of ethical solutions
Bad policies (e.g., 3 strikes, sex offenders)
Methodological problems
* A just-so story (aka ad hoc fallacy) refers to an unverifiable and unfalsifiable narrative explanation for a practice, trait, or behavior (Wikipedia)
Naturalistic Fallacy
• Just because we discover that we have a
biological tendency to X does not mean that X
is a good or desirable behavior.
Biological Determinism
• Strong:
There and Back Again…
• Lombroso : replace moral judgment with
• Eugenics & search for born criminals rejected
• Social environment, learning
• Some things are innate
• How would legal system deal with biological
• Replacing science with moral judgment