Geneticists hope to uncover secret motive to Adam Lanza shoot out.

 

Geneticists hope to uncover secret motive to Adam Lanza shoot out.

Adam Lanza

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Can a person’s genes tell you whether they will turn out to be a massacre shooter?

Here’s an interesting theory making the rounds. Attempt to map an individual’s genes and see whether any patterns become discernible that may have made them prone to violent anti social behavior. An interesting theory if one is willing to believe one’s biological make up makes them predisposed to certain behavior. Which is just another way of saying why are some people more inclined to behave antisocially or for example become addicts more than others? Is it really a matter of one’s biology or really a situation of one’s experiences and environment that leads one to behave the way they do? Either way scientists now hope to study Adam Lanza, Sandy Hook Elementary school shooter’s genetics in an attempt to see if they come up with some clues as to what inspired his murdering spree.

nytimes: In a move likely to renew a longstanding ethical controversy, geneticists are quietly making plans to study the DNA of Adam Lanza, 20, who killed 20 children and seven adults in Newtown, Conn. Their work will be an effort to discover biological clues to extreme violence.

So biology is a precursor to whether one chooses to behave violently or not? Supposing one is inclined to go with that belief and find that people like Adam and him exhibit a tendency to show gene duplications, deletions or unexpected mutations, are we to now infer that people with such apparitions are now a danger to society? Isn’t that like saying people with curly hair or blue eyes are now more prone to violence? Or how about people who live in one part of the world who over time have exhibited a certain genetical strain, are we to now suppose those individuals are more prone to anti social behavior or even the opposite, better able to adapt to stress in the environment?

Some researchers, like Dr. Arthur Beaudet, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and the chairman of its department of molecular and human genetics, applaud the effort. He believes that the acts committed by men like Mr. Lanza and the gunmen in other rampages in recent years — at Columbine High School and in Aurora, Colo., in Norway, in Tucson and at Virginia Tech — are so far off the charts of normal behavior that there must be genetic changes driving them.

“We can’t afford not to do this research,” Dr. Beaudet said.

While Dr Beaudet is gunho other researchers believe such research would in the end only stigmatize people who have never committed a crime in the event they turn out to have a genetic aberration. Which raises another question, what about all them other violent offenders who don’t have genetic aberrations, wouldn’t that within itself raise the idea that genetic aberrations have very little to do with one’s inclination to be violent?

But perhaps the below view sums it up best:

“It is almost inconceivable that there is a common genetic factor” to be found in mass murders, said Dr. Robert C. Green, a geneticist and neurologist at Harvard Medical School. “I think it says more about us that we wish there was something like this. We wish there was an explanation.”

Reflects scienceblogs: It’s the same issue; we don’t understand the majority of the functional consequences of individual variations in connectivity in the brain, and we have a population with large amounts of random variation. So how are you going to recognize what’s special and unique and causal about Lanza’s brain (or Einstein’s brain, or my brain, or yours)?

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