I sent an article to a friend of mine who is a well respected therapist, and with whom I have discussed psychopathy through the years. My friend also has a son in prison for killing an infant, and believes his son is a psychopath, just like his mother. So my very learned friend who works with sex offenders among other offenders, is pretty “up on” the biological as well as the environmental issues in offending behaviors.
The article I sent him is http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/18/nyregion/the-day-when-neurons-go-on-trial.html?ref=science
The Day When Neurons Go on Trial By JIM DWYER
Here are law students on a Tuesday morning in 2013, hearing that researchers hope over the next decade or so to map the wiring of the human brain, seeing how individual cells link to bigger circuits. A decade is a sprint, less time than since 9/11, to use one benchmark. The scientists want to lift the hood and get a look at the human mind. The students, in a seminar at Fordham University School of Law taught by Prof. Deborah W. Denno, wonder what that will mean for the law. Over and over, they put questions to a guest speaker, Joshua R. Sanes, director of the Center for Brain Science at Harvard, about the implications for society if and when brain science can identify with confidence a propensity for violence, or for lying.
In response to my article, he sent the link to this article and a quote from Dr. Novella, a neuro scientist.
In my opinion the best approach is something in the middle. There is a common pearl of wisdom in clinical science that, before you can recognize the abnormal you have to recognize the full spectrum of what is normal. So – on the one hand we need to recognize the full spectrum of human nature, accept less common and atypical forms of human mood, thought, and behavior, and also recognize the relative roles of biology, situation, and culture (and their interactions) in forming a person’s mental state.
On the other hand, the brain is an organ, it is biology, and it can malfunction biologically just like any other organ. Further, even a biologically healthy brain can be pushed beyond tolerance limits resulting in an unhealthy mental state. We can reasonably define “unhealthy” in this context (probably a more appropriate word than “abnormal”) as follows – a mental state that is significantly outside the range of most people, may represent the relative lack of a cognitive ability that most people have, and results in definable harm. That last bit is critical – it has to be harmful.-
In reading on Dr. Novella’s blog, which contains a wealth of information and scientific research, I am amazed at the insight this man has into the brain’s functions as well as the role of environmental issues as well .http://theness.com/neurologicablog/
Just as Dr. Hart’s research goes to show that even long addicted substance abusers have choices in how they respond to the available drugs versus other “rewards” for foregoing the drugs, Dr. Novella’s research and the research of other neuro and behavioral scientists show that there is a genetic tendency to offending behavior but there are still choices, and there are social and environmental aspects as well.
The human brain and human behavior is very complex, and can’t be summed up in a few words or a few theories. We must look at the entire picture to see what the problem is. Unfortunately, there are not “solutions” to fix every person who offends, because they don’t want to be “fixed” in the way that we would have them behave.
Being able to “rehabilitate” an individual from engaging in offending behavior relies on the willingness of that individual to conform their behavior to what society expects.
In the meantime, those of us with offending family members must protect ourselves from those who would use or abuse us, and many times that protection means that we are not able to have a relationship with these people. We must exclude them from our lives. Whether the problem with them is DNA or environmental doesn’t really matter when it comes to our lives and the effects these individuals have on our lives.