As scientists break new grounds in the study of criminality, fiction writers of today break their keyboards attempting to find every loose thread in the theory and spin it into a yarn.
When The New York Times reports that a STUDY SAYS CRIMINAL TENDENCIES MAY BE INHERITED, we sit up and take note.
We’ve known through multiple observations made by many different people that children take after their parents, and while nurture has a part to play in how we shape up, our nature or our genetic makeup often defines the impact of nurture on us. So a child with aggressive, short-tempered biological parents may become more subdued if brought up in a more even-tempered family, and yet growing up in its own family, the child’s genetic traits could worsen. (Thus, a hot-headed but non-criminal parental pair, may produce and “nurture” a child whose natural genetic traits would be further emboldened by its experiences.)
Unfortunately, given the growing intolerance (or thinning of skins,) the only place to discuss inherited criminality remains fiction, because fiction automatically enables us to present different opinions without getting judgmental.
I am currently re-reading “The Third Twin” by Ken Follett. Here’s Follett’s own view on inheritance of criminality. I quote from the linked page:
I don’t think that after about the age of 25 you can carry on blaming either your parents or your DNA for anything that you do. – Ken Follett.
I’m a fan of Ken Follett’s writing, especially since Pillars, but I find myself disagreeing with his view on what one may blame his DNA for. Human attitude is the sum of nature and nurture. Nurture depends not just on a child’s parentage, but on the entire environment, which once again is a function of family, friends, and society. Regardless of the age, a person, depending on his genetic makeup and upbringing would attribute reasons for his turning out the way he or she did.
It’s a sort of cyclical reasoning with no definite beginning or end, and this is why in one of the many possible futures, gene-based selection (a euphemism for gene-based elimination – the movie Gattaca is an excellent rendering of this possibility,) may become a reality.
In a world where we continually train ourselves to kill differentiation of all kinds, before such a future becomes possible, we should expect to see protests against gene-based selection/elimination erupting all over the world. We would be wearing armbands and shouting slogans; we would be marching with banners and flags – and in the end, we would give up – for after all, it would be for the betterment of the human race, and decisions are alway taken by a select few.
All this is fiction, you’ll say. But wait. Before you say it, let us reflect.
Technologically, it’s possible.
We are preserving stem-cells today, so that the untreatable diseases of today might be treated tomorrow. We are already “growing” body parts to substitute the ones we lose. In the context of our discussion, we have the technical competence to analyze the structure of the DNA. Genome-mapping is helping the scientists determine what traits of the parents have been passed on to a fetus. It’s clear that we are moving toward a future where people’s genes would tell us more about them than their resume.
Morally, the human race accepts discrimination.
We may turn a blind eye to it, but we are stepping into a discriminatory future. Frankly, we are living in a discriminatory world already. Between the haves and have-nots, who would you say has a stronger chance of surviving illnesses? The inheritance of monetary wealth, is already one of the most important determinant of success; the inheritance of genetic wealth would at best be equally discriminatory.
Economically, it may be god-send.
According to “The Cost of Crime to Society: New Crime-Specific Estimates for Policy and Program Evaluation”, the crimes committed in the US (in 2007 alone) would result in the loss of about $200 Billion. The economics of crime alone should be sufficient reason for the governments to push genetic selection through their public health system – overtly or covertly, and we all know that more often than not economics overpowers morality and ethics.
- The question is, if this alternate future becomes a reality, what then?
- The question also is, if criminality truly has a strong genetic vector then aren’t we already hurtling toward disaster?
Is it already too late?
Is it all a figment of my imagination?