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Searching for Mr. Bad Coming Full Circle in Biological Explanations.

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Presentation on theme: "Searching for Mr. Bad Coming Full Circle in Biological Explanations."— Presentation transcript:

1 Searching for Mr. Bad Coming Full Circle in Biological Explanations

2 Quiz 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 Revolution."  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?

3 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 essay.

4 Basic Outline Lombroso – late 19 th 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?

5 Partly a Sociology of Knowledge Story Not a simple forward march of science Knowledge embedded in socio-political context – 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

6 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

7 Lombroso (1835-1909)

8 Revolutionaries and Political Criminals

9 Somatotypes


11 Useful Distinction Phenotype: what shows up in the organism Genotype: what’s in the DNA

12 “That Powerful Drop” Langston Hughes



15 Polymorphism: more than one phenotype exists Polyphenism Molecular biology : point mutation in genotype

16 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)ad hocfallacyunfalsifiableWikipedia

17 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.

18 Biological Determinism Strong:

19 There and Back Again… Lombroso : replace moral judgment with science Eugenics & search for born criminals rejected Social environment, learning Some things are innate How would legal system deal with biological determinism? Replacing science with moral judgment

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