Presumed InnocenceA lot of my thinking is based on the idea that human behavior is partially hardwired and partially learned. This is still controversial in some quarters, most notably the humanists and the feminists and I'll admit it's not a wholly proven idea. The evolutionary psychologists are the ones most likely to make extravagant claims for the influence of nature with logic that sometimes assumes the thing they are trying to prove as part of their proof. I'm not that extreme; it just seems reasonable that some portion of our behavior is genetically determined. The humanists and feminists have good reason to be suspicious. One of the problems with behaviour being hardwired, even if only partially, is the social darwinism that was (and in some areas still is) used to deny individuals basic rights. The anti feminist version goes something like: men and women are different, so women can't do the same jobs as men, and shouldn't earn the same pay, and so on. If some portion of our behavior is genetic, the almost logical inference is some kind of caste system where those who are "deficient" or have "abnormalities" are relegated to inferior status along with their children. I say "almost" because I think the logic behind it is simplistic, one of those ideas that sound appealing because of its simplicity, but doesn't really hold up when tested against the complexities of the real world. Men and women are different, but that doesn't mean that we know how that affects behavior. Even if we did, the complexities of extrapolating the 'usefulness' of those differences is well beyond our current capacity. It's like trying to predict the temperature a year from now. The study that got me thinking about this was titled Altered connections on the road to psychopathy. and was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Abnormalities in a brain area called the uncinate fasciculus correlate with levels of sociopathy in test subjects. In the summary I read, they noted that one of the research team suggested that such scans might one day be evidence in criminal trials. A disturbing possibility. Jurisprudence in the US is based on presumed innocence. If there is even one person who has an abnormal uncinate fasciculus but does not act psychopathologically, then the presence of an abnormal uncinate fasciculus doesn't prove pathology. I know my fellow species, however. Prosecutors will try to use the existence of an abnormality to imply criminal leaning, and given the scientific illiteracy of our judiciary it may even be allowed. I didn't read the study itself, only a summary, so I don't know the subject population. If it was only on sociopaths, we don't know how many 'normal' people also have abnormal uncinate fasciculi. I'd also be willing to bet there are non criminal areas where success is due to some variety of sociopathic behavior. It's not a far stretch to suggest that successful corporate CEOs might have some of these traits. And that comes back to my argument about extrapolating the complexities of behavior. A behavior that is anti-social in one context can be socially necessary in another. We behave differently in different situations. The complex chaos that is human society rivals the complex chaos that is the weather. Presumed innocence, even in the presence of genetic evidence really still needs to be the rule.
9 Jul 2013
Copyright © 2013 Truck Smith