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Author Topic: Are criminals born or made?
Zatamon
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posted 28 May 2003 12:19 PM      Profile for Zatamon        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
To continue the discussion started on the "If you had only one year left..." thread

[ 28 May 2003: Message edited by: Francis Mont ]


From: "The right crowd" | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
Trisha
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posted 28 May 2003 12:37 PM      Profile for Trisha     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Research has been underway for some years that has shown some deviation in the ways the mind works mechanically in people with the tendancy toward criminal or unsocial behaviour. MRI imaging has shown deviations in certain areas of readable activity in the brain. There is still a lot of work to be done.

Among the images I've seen discussed on the internet and in magazines are larger areas connected with some emotions or lack of them, mini-explosions in the brain, variations on section sizes in the brain itself and more. I think this research should be persued.

When you consider the variations of "taste" in the general population, it's no surprise that sexual variations exist. However, the ability to see where choices may be harmful could be missing in pedophiles and certain other people, like habitual rapists and killers who see nothing wrong in their actions.

The potential problem with this kind of research is directly connected with mankind's tendancy to overdo everything. Correcting imbalances that could cause criminal behaviour is far in the future but the potential for misuse of this ability to control the general population should be looked at long before the ability to do it is there.


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WingNut
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posted 28 May 2003 12:40 PM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Both, I think.
From: Out There | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 28 May 2003 12:52 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I agree. Some of each.
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lagatta
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posted 28 May 2003 01:10 PM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Also, I believe a very large percentage of violent offenders are FAS sufferers.
From: Se non ora, quando? | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Tommy Shanks
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posted 28 May 2003 01:12 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
There's 6 of some, a 1/2 dozen of another.
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Cougyr
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posted 28 May 2003 01:34 PM      Profile for Cougyr     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Theft is related to oportunity. Violent crimes are heavily related to alcohol.

One thing that does not deter crime is severity of punishment. The important thing is being caught, prosecuted and dealt with. If the chance of being caught is very low, the crime rate goes up. If there is a guarantee that one will be caught and prosecuted and punished (however lightly) the crime rate goes down.


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WingNut
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posted 28 May 2003 02:06 PM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Cougyr:
Theft is related to oportunity. Violent crimes are heavily related to alcohol.

One thing that does not deter crime is severity of punishment. The important thing is being caught, prosecuted and dealt with. If the chance of being caught is very low, the crime rate goes up. If there is a guarantee that one will be caught and prosecuted and punished (however lightly) the crime rate goes down.


I would like to see some evidence with regard to your alcohol comment.

And also I disagree with the latter half. Severity of punishment is a factor. It is why burglars do not carry weapons and why, soon, we all carry less than 19 grams of pot in our pockets.

But I also agree that tougher penalties do not mean less violent crime. If they did, there would be no safer place to live on earth than the US. We knao that isn't true. But I don't think being caught is a factor either primarily because criminals do not plan to be caught.

If we break violent crime down into two categories: premeditated and non-premeditated, it is easier to see. Two guys who get into an argument, drunken or otherwise, and wind up assaulting each other do not consider they could face charges when throwing punches commences.

Premeditated crimes involve planning. And the planning generally involves escape routes and alibis.


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Tommy Shanks
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posted 28 May 2003 02:38 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Apart from these quibbles, I agree with you, nonesuch. Criminals are made, not born. If the 'misbehaver' is taken behind the barn early enough, by a few of his peers, and explained in a no-nonsense-way what is and what isn't acceptable, and then let go home where he is treated with love and respect by his family and community, very few would persist.

So Francis, not to badger, since you started this new thread are you going to elaborate on your contention that criminals are only made?


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Zatamon
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posted 28 May 2003 02:43 PM      Profile for Zatamon        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
No.

It is an assumption I lean toward -- I have no proof either for or against it.


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sophrosyne
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posted 28 May 2003 03:12 PM      Profile for sophrosyne     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Personally I'd say a small portion of criminality may be biological, but overall I belive that criminals are created. And furthermore I believe that even if a small portion of criminality is linked to biology, ultimately every person makes a choice. After all, we all have biological urges - for food, water, sex - but we choose not to act upon them.

Alcohol is very certainly directly related to violence. This is an excellent website with a lot of information on the subject:

ariv (alcohol-related injury and violence)
http://www.tf.org/tf/alcohol/ariv/

I also agree with Cougyr that severity of punishment is not so much a deterent as is the likelihood of being caught.

For instance, on the books there is what appears to be severe enough legal deterent to prevent cruelty to animals. But in practice very few people are actually charged and convicted and so there is effectively not much of a deterent whatsoever.


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Tommy Shanks
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posted 28 May 2003 03:46 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
It is an assumption I lean toward -- I have no proof either for or against it.

I find it interesting that on the other thread you asked for proof of the opposite side of this discussion, and sort of mocked that position as being rather muddled thinking.

Perhaps you should have disclosed the fact that while you're perhaps convinced, its really just your opinion and not been so quick to demand proof when you can't provide it yourself to buttress your contention.


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Zatamon
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posted 28 May 2003 03:51 PM      Profile for Zatamon        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Tommy, why don't you get a life?
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WingNut
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posted 28 May 2003 03:56 PM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I amvery disappointed in you Francis, has it not occurred to you that maybe this is his life? You could be more sensitive.
From: Out There | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 28 May 2003 03:58 PM      Profile for Zatamon        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
What a horrible thought -- I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.
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Tommy Shanks
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posted 28 May 2003 04:10 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
HAHAHA I just find it interesting, tis all, Francis' long-winded discourses on various topics and his haughty responses to those that disagree. I'm disappointed I didn't get one of "clicks"

And don't worry Wingy and Francis, I don't visit here too much so it really does'nt take up much of my life. I do enjoy a laugh though and like to drop by when I have absolutely nothing better to do. Unlike yourselves for example judging by the numbers of posts.


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WingNut
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posted 28 May 2003 04:14 PM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Oh, Tommy, see now I am truly disappointed. I mistook your for someone with a sense of humour. Sorry. Won't happen again.
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Tommy Shanks
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posted 28 May 2003 04:28 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I guess it is hard to tell with the laughs, puns, and other pithy comments that typically dot my posts.

I guess your idea of a sense of humour is resonding to yours and good old Francis's comments with a blush and cast down eyes, as if to say, "Oh no, you got me" with the quip Oscar Wilde himself could have wrote:

quote:
Tommy, why don't you get a life?

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WingNut
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posted 28 May 2003 04:31 PM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Certainly, not. I would never presume to tell you what to post. But given my one and only post with regard to you on these two related threads, well, you inject the flavor of bitterness into your reply.
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Tommy Shanks
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posted 28 May 2003 04:39 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
What this?

quote:
I amvery disappointed in you Francis, has it not occurred to you that maybe this is his life? You could be more sensitive.

Who could ever take that as a sarcastic aside? Isn't that being a tad disingenuous, pretending to be concerned about little ole' me?


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Tommy Shanks
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posted 28 May 2003 04:56 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
And Francis:

This is a couple of times that, after you've been challenged on some aspect of your obviously stridently held viewpoints, your responses have gotten more and more curt, finally devolving into insults.

While no-one likes to have people disagree with them your petulence in dealing with me and others strikes me as similar to a child grabbing their ball and going home. I can see you standing in front of your computer stamping your feet and waving your fists around.

I know it is hard for you to deal with those who differ on issues. I was only asking why on one page you were so assured on your point, but in a flash, as the page turned so-to-speak you clammed up on what you called a fascinating subject. Out of bounds I guess.

Ah, why do I bother.

[ 28 May 2003: Message edited by: Tommy Shanks ]


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clersal
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posted 28 May 2003 05:40 PM      Profile for clersal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
If you have a problem Tommy Shanks why don't you take it to PM or stick to the subject.
There are a lot of grey areas in this subject.
Some criminals are alcholic, drug fiends, suffer from FAS, psychopathic and whatever other label we can stick on them.
I would bet that most of them are very ordinary people who do extra-ordinary things and we don't know why all the time.
I think we probably could figure out why most of the crimes are committed. I still stick by prevention.

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Mr. Magoo
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posted 29 May 2003 03:05 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
IMHO, our problem in suggesting that criminals are made by society is twofold: first, we don't seem to want to concern ourselves with the many people who grow up in poverty, or oppressed, or whatever, who don't become criminals, preferring instead to assume that "there must have been something different in the way the criminal was raised"... without ever going the distance to find out what that difference may have been.

Second, we don't seem to care much for the process, preferring instead (and again) to just assume. If it seems to make sense it must be true, right? As a result, we'll explain a bank robber, a mugger and a rapist as "products of their environment", without ever trying to draw the line between, say, alcoholic parents and raping a woman at knifepoint. [i]Exactly how does having parents who drank too much make a person rape a woman?? Why don't we seem to care to investigate this if we're going to use parental alcoholism as a (partial) explanation or excuse for behaviour?

Seems to me that poverty could explain shoplifting a bologna from Safeway, but how does it explain shooting someone in the face after jacking their car? If we just assume "some kind of connection" without actually studying it in depth then we aren't being very scientific.

The term "root cause" has become quite the overused buzzword recently, with people quite authoritatively proclaiming "Poverty is the root cause of ....", but rarely, if ever, have I seen it taken any further than that. Once the association is made and accepted as the truth, I guess there's no need to go further?


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Trisha
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posted 29 May 2003 03:34 PM      Profile for Trisha     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The whole theory of poverty being to blame for criminal behaviour falls apart if you look at how many well-to-do people have participated in criminal activity. Look at the Hernandez brothers, the murders connected with the Kennedy families, Leona Helmsley, that woman who ran over her husband, so many others. There are a lot of things that contribute, however, the majority of cases involve people who are totally self-centered and don't care what happens to other people.

Yes, there are some crimes triggered by poverty but a lot more seem to be triggered by greed or the search for power.


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Tommy Shanks
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posted 29 May 2003 04:29 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I agree with the "root cause" theory in the sense that if a child has been beaten by his parents, I would think he or she would be more apt to do the same to his kids. I can also see, by extension, a poor neighbourhood where a few drug dealers are making a lot of moey being an attractive alternative to school and work the rest of your life ideal for a few of the kids hanging around (not all by any stretch though).

But for many crimes like rape, murder, white collar crime, etc., I agree Magoo, how does one "learn" or absorb this type of behaviour?
These are the classic types of crime, as Trisha noted, about greed, power, and control.

I once read a great book about Edwin Boyd. The reason he robbed banks, essentially, was he didn't want to be like the schmo's he saw going to work. And robbing banks was exciting and glamourous, being in the paper and all. Even jail, and his many escapes were an adventure.

Could that devil-may-care attitude be somehow due to his parents drinking too much, or giving him a beating occasionally? I doubt it.


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Jacob Two-Two
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posted 29 May 2003 05:12 PM      Profile for Jacob Two-Two     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Boy, there's so much to say about this subject, I don't know where to start.

I would agree that most crime is about power. However, you have to make a distinction between those who have tons of power but can never be satisfied (and this attitude is not confined to what we call criminal dehaviour. There are plenty of legal ways to satisfy a pathological addiction to power) and those who have none at all and desperately are trying to take some back. At a certain point, people just stop caring what means they use to do so.

I think we can all agree that poverty breeds crime and that most crime (in the strict legal definition) is perpetrated by the poor. These people are legitimately disadvantaged by society. Their anger and feelings of powerlessness are valid and real. Of course, two wrongs don't make a right, but it is important to acknowledge that there are TWO wrongs, and not just one.

I'm sure people don't mean the original question the way it sounds. "born or made" is a false dichotomy that leaves no room for free will. Are we helpless pawns of our genetics or our environment? The answer, of course, is a little bit of both but ultimately neither, as people here seem to be saying. To suggest that anyone is "born" a criminal leads us down a dysopian "gattaca"-style road of an engineered humanity. Well worth avoiding, I think. What we're really wondering is to what degree are criminals responsible for their actions, given the clear correlation between certain societal factors and criminal behaviour.

Once again, it comes down to the difference between individuals and society, and the different mindset required to deal with each. As an individual, everyone is ultimately responsible for their own actions. Clear enough. But many go on from here to assert that because of this, the idea of a unified entity called society is nonsense and that you can only deal with individuals, which just isn't true. Humans are social animals and pretending you live in a bubble, unrelated to the behaviour of everyone else, is just putting your head in the sand.

As a part of society, we also bear the responsibility of what our society does, and the factors that we allow to exist which promote crime by promoting injustice and deprivation. We force them outside the social contract (which proports to include everyone), and they act accordingly.

So while they are fully responsible for their crimes, we are also partly responsible, and as they must make amends, so must we. They must work to change the conditions that led to their behaviour on an individual level (anger-management issues, whatever), and we must do the same on a societal level. That is our penance for allowing conditions under which crime may flourish.


From: There is but one Gord and Moolah is his profit | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 29 May 2003 08:33 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
How does a foetus know what's going to be illegal when it grows up?
Even allowing for differences in legal systems, if criminals are born, one would expect roughly the same crime-rate in all societies, in all periods.
The way to find out what actually causes antisocial behaviour is to:
1. divide criminal activity into categories of type (suggested: predation, misappropriation of property, vice, crimes of passion and mischief)
2. take a sample of, say, twenty countries, in the same year
and 3. compare their crime statistics.
If the numbers match, it would suggest that a given percentage of humans are inclined to crime, regardless of environment.
If the numbers don't match, then:
1. compare other factors in the sample countries: population density and composition; economic disparity; employment level; opportunity for education; law-enforcement; social services
2. see what the three countries with the highest crime rate have in common
3. see what the three countries with the lowest crime rate have in common
That would give you a pretty clear picture of how crime is encouraged or discouraged by society.

From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 30 May 2003 03:21 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
How does a foetus know what's going to be illegal when it grows up?

It doesn't. In fact it doesn't know anything. It's developing its own particular neural pathways, but it will have to wait until it's born to find out if these pathways are going to promote behaviours that we would call illegal, or not.

quote:
if criminals are born, one would expect roughly the same crime-rate in all societies, in all periods.

Except that all societies across time and space have not defined crime in the same way. BTW, if capitalism indeed causes poverty, then as you say, wouldn't we expect exactly the same level of poverty in all capitalist countries throughout time as well??

Personally I don't believe that crime is genetic (although studies of disorders like Kleinfelter's Syndrome suggest that it may be), and I don't believe that criminals are made by their surroundings either (or we'd expect everybody from a certain neighbourhood/skin color/financial status to become a criminal or not become a criminal.

Me, I think a criminal is born the moment someone decides that their immediate gain is more important than the rules we agree to live by in society. I don't think you need to be poor, nor a certain ethnicity, to decide you want to molest a child, rape a woman, rob a bank, etc.

I have to agree with Trisha: criminals are greedy (or selfish/self centred), and that's where it begins. We might all like our neighbour's shiny new car, but once we decide that our desire for it outweighs his right to keep it, and we act on that by stealing it, then a criminal is "born".


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nonsuch
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posted 30 May 2003 06:33 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
BTW, if capitalism indeed causes poverty, then as you say, wouldn't we expect exactly the same level of poverty in all capitalist countries throughout time as well??

Capitalism doesn't cause poverty: it causes disparity. Poverty doesn't cause crime: disparity does.

First. It's perfectly possible for a community to be poor and honest - in fact, it's easier to be honest when everyone is poor. It becomes difficult to stay honest when you are poor and somebody else's wealth is constantly shoved in your face.

Second. All 'capitalist' countries do not handle their economies the same way; nor does the same country handle it the same way at all times. When the economy is strong and employment is high, people feel they have a chance to improve their circumstances by legal means. When all segments of the population (including the differently-hued) have similar opportunities, there is less disaffection and anger. When taxation is fair and social services readily available, people don't lose hope.

Third. Cultural differences exist. This is partly why i divided crimes into categories.

Fourth. The criminal is not created at the moment of committing a crime. The drives and tendencies leading up to the decision may have been present from early childhood or even birth. Individual temperament and environmental conditions have been converging for years before the crime was committed.
What does a society do to 1. correct the child before s/he's ready to make that decision, 2. correct the circumstances that push hem over to the far side of the law and 3. prevent recurrance when a minor crime has taken place?


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N.R.KISSED
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posted 30 May 2003 09:57 PM      Profile for N.R.KISSED     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It's interesting that you rarely see people suggesting there is a genetic predisposition towards jay-walking, minor tax fraud, or illegal parking.

Basically when you are speaking of criminal behaviour you are talking about something that is incredibly varied, diverse and also quite frequent. To try to reduce all of these actions to a single cause would be absurd.

Criminal behaviour is also something as socially defined by competing interests with diffferent degrees of power. You will not have a consensus as to what constitutes criminal behaviour even within a single culture at a particular time let alone across culture and history.

[ 30 May 2003: Message edited by: N.R.KISSED ]


From: Republic of Parkdale | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
N.R.KISSED
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posted 30 May 2003 10:45 PM      Profile for N.R.KISSED     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
It doesn't. In fact it doesn't know anything. It's developing its own particular neural pathways, but it will have to wait until it's born to find out if these pathways are going to promote behaviours that we would call illegal, or not.

The wonderful world of neurology doesn't quite work that way. You will not have complex neural pathways developed at birth, the brain goes through a process of radical transormation and growth in the first few years of birth and there remains a significant amount of neural plasticity throughout childhood and into adolescence.
A certain degree of plasiticity continues in adulthood, afterall learning is expressed physiologically in chnges in neural pathways.

To build on my last post, I would argue it is highly unlikely if not entirely impossible for their innate neurological predispostion directly related to varied and complex behviours. Remember kids the brain is an information processing system if it was predominantly dominated by simplistic fixed action patterns we would not be able to adapt and survive in complex environments.


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nonsuch
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posted 30 May 2003 11:17 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yes, yes and yes.
Therefore?

Nobody on this thread has defined crime, criminal or even antisocial behaviour. I have suggested classifying antisocial behaviour, so that jaywalking and rape, armed robbery, tax evasion and noise after midnight are not all equated.
Obviously, different crimes are differently motivated and have widely differing aeteologies.

Yet, i submit that every society has in its power to prevent the majority of crime in all categories.

[ 30 May 2003: Message edited by: nonesuch ]


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Mycroft_
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posted 31 May 2003 12:03 AM      Profile for Mycroft_     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Most people in prison and there either because they transgressed drug laws, committed a crime while under the influence of drugs or committed a crime in order to get money to buy drugs. Although drug use crosses class lines I think there is evidence that it is more pervasive among the poor as a means of escapism. Many violent crimes are alcohol related and while there seems to be some genetic disposition towards alcoholism I believe stress is the overarching factor, particularly stress related to poverty.

There is a small percentage of the population who test as psychopathic or sociopathic ie do not have a concience, cannot tell the difference between right and wrong or do not care. Generally, my understanding is that this condition is something one is born with. I don't know if there's been any success in attempts to "teach" individuals how to be empathetic. However, what a sociopathic individual does tends to differ. Those who don't learn how to succeed in society may become murderers, rapists etc. Those who do may become corporate executives (I kid you not, I wouldn't be suprised to find that a high number of people who "succeed" do so because they don't empathise with others, don't care about hurting others and are able to focus on their goals and not let anyone or anything stand in their way and are adept at manipulating the people around them).

[ 31 May 2003: Message edited by: Mycroft ]


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N.R.KISSED
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posted 31 May 2003 12:57 AM      Profile for N.R.KISSED     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
there seems to be some genetic disposition towards alcoholism
An oft repeated assertion with little credible evidence to support it, perhaps the only feasible individual differences that might be observed would be in metabolizing alcohol. The whole construct of "alcoholism" is somewhat dubious in itself.

Mycroft you also make the important point that anti-social behaviour can be rewarded(or at least rareley punished in one context(corporate crime) and punished in another( street crime).

Which also raises the question of what is a violent crime. People genuinely think of individual assaults or murders while not considering full-scale despoilation of the environment, destruction of a community , faulty and dangerous products or working conditions. All OF these things result in a greater degree of suffering than most individual assaults.

Also poverty is more than just a lack of money, it is a form of social and political violence that excludes people from particiation in society. People are intentionally marginalized in order to create a labour market that is conducive to keeping wages as low as possible and the majority of the population in perpetual fear of unemployment.


From: Republic of Parkdale | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged

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