Saturday, July 19, 2008

Study finds genetic link to violence, delinquency

The conclusions of the report below have much precedent but are of course unpopular. For some reason that escapes me, the idea of genetic influences on behaviour seems to threaten lots of people, despite the vast evidence for it. Leftists certainly seem to need to believe that only social influences can affect behaviour.

Somewhat to my surprise on the present occasion I note that a libertarian writer seems very hostile to the study too. But libertarians often do seem to have little role for genetics in their thinking. The main hole in this libertarian writer's thinking is that he seems unable to accept that genes and environment usually have to interact to produce a given result. That he has difficulty with what is a universally accepted idea among geneticists just suggests to my mind that his hostility has overcome his reason.

Nonetheless there are real criticisms that could be made of the study. Looking at Table 2 in the original research report, it would appear that there were only 11 boys in the MAOA2R group and it was only that group which had strikingly high rates of delinquency. That is a pretty slender sample size upon which to base any generalizations. Taken in conjunction with previous research (which the authors cite) the conclusions of the study are, however, reasonable. It is rare for a single study to be decisive by itself
Three genes may play a strong role in determining why some young men raised in rough neighborhoods or deprived families become violent criminals, while others do not, U.S. researchers reported on Monday. One gene called MAOA that played an especially strong role has been shown in other studies to affect antisocial behavior -- and it was disturbingly common, the team at the University of North Carolina reported.

People with a particular variation of the MAOA gene called 2R were very prone to criminal and delinquent behavior, said sociology professor Guang Guo, who led the study. "I don't want to say it is a crime gene, but 1 percent of people have it and scored very high in violence and delinquency," Guo said in a telephone interview.

His team, which studied only boys, used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a U.S. nationally representative sample of about 20,000 adolescents in grades 7 to 12. The young men in the study are interviewed in person regularly, and some give blood samples.

Guo's team constructed a "serious delinquency scale" based on some of the questions the youngsters answered. "Nonviolent delinquency includes stealing amounts larger or smaller than $50, breaking and entering, and selling drugs," they wrote in the August issue of the American Sociological Review. "Violent delinquency includes serious physical fighting that resulted in injuries needing medical treatment, use of weapons to get something from someone, involvement in physical fighting between groups, shooting or stabbing someone, deliberately damaging property, and pulling a knife or gun on someone."


They found specific variations in three genes -- the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene, the dopamine transporter 1 (DAT1) gene and the dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) gene -- were associated with bad behavior, but only when the boys suffered some other stress, such as family issues, low popularity and failing school.

MAOA regulates several message-carrying chemicals called neurotransmitters that are important in aggression, emotion and cognition such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

The links were very specific. The effect of repeating a grade depended on whether a boy had a certain mutation in MAOA called a 2 repeat, they found. And a certain mutation in DRD2 seemed to set off a young man if he did not have regular meals with his family. "But if people with the same gene have a parent who has regular meals with them, then the risk is gone," Guo said. "Having a family meal is probably a proxy for parental involvement," he added. "It suggests that parenting is very important." He said vulnerable children might benefit from having surrogates of some sort if their parents are unavailable.

"These results, which are among the first that link molecular genetic variants to delinquency, significantly expand our understanding of delinquent and violent behavior, and they highlight the need to simultaneously consider their social and genetic origins," the researchers said.

Guo said it was far too early to explore whether drugs might be developed to protect a young man. He also was unsure if criminals might use a "genetic defense" in court. "In some courts (the judge might) think they maybe will commit the same crime again and again, and this would make the court less willing to let them out," he said.

Source. Another account of the study here

Reference: Guo, G.; Roettger, M.E.; & Cai, T. (2008) "The Integration of Genetic Propensities into Social-Control Models of Delinquency and Violence among Male Youths" American Sociological Review, Vol. 73, No. 4. (August), pp. 543-568.

My conclusion? Among whites, the percentage of people who are criminal enough to go to prison is quite small. Figures between 2% and 5% are usually quoted. So a genetic feature which predisposes to criminality might also be expected to be relatively rare -- as the MAOA2R combination is. Nobody is however saying that criminality is all due to one gene or set of genes or due to one cause or set of causes. Low average IQ is another striking feature of criminals and that alone is known to be polygenetic in origin.



The quotas that won't die: "Preferential contracting is a multibillion dollar business. According to a study by Justin Marion of the University of California at Santa Cruz, government contracting is estimated at almost 10 percent of gross domestic product and the practice of giving preferential treatment to disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) contractors and subcontractors is widespread. In 2002, 6.75 percent of federal procurement dollars, for example, were awarded through the Small Business Administration to DBEs. And between 1983 and 1999, all Department of Transportation contracts required 10 percent `goals' - their term of art for set-asides - for minority- and women-owned firms. The original intent of the DBE programs was to spread work around to a variety of struggling minority business owners, lifting them from poverty to the ranks of the successful. But study after study has shown that a small number of firms, a monopoly of just one or two in some jurisdictions, gets the overwhelming share of the contract awards."

Leftism isn't progressive: "Marginal tax rates in excess of 50% aren't conducive to progress. Protectionism isn't conducive to progress. Not even if you call it `fair trade.' Price controls that reduce the returns to medical innovation aren't conducive to progress. Throwing more and more money at schools that have failed year after year to educate students adequately is not conducive to progress. Policies that discourage the accumulation of capital (e.g., income vs. consumption tax) are not conducive to progress. (Market) Liberalism is progressive. Leftism is not." (07/16/08)

Prisoner Exchange: "Israel's trauma over the release of one of the world's most contemptible murderers in exchange for the remains of the bodies of two abducted soldiers is heart-rending. And it should remind citizens of civilized nations of the most important arguments in favor of the death penalty for captured terrorists: Execution removes the incentive for further acts of terrorism intended to win their release."

British Leftists beginning to face up to the housing shortage: "Thousands of new homes are set to be built on the green belt over the next 20 years under Government plans to force local councils to allow development on previously protected land across the south east. Waste incinerators and landfill sites could also be constructed on green-belt land, parks and even areas of outstanding natural beauty, under the Government proposals released today. Ministers want almost 100 new homes to be built every day in the south east for the next 20 years and are preparing to over-rule local opposition by allowing towns to spread into the green belt. The Government is pushing ahead with the large house-building programme despite the global credit crisis leading to a slump in the house-building industry. Several of the country's biggest developers are facing difficulties and laying-off staff. Although house-building is likely to stall for the next few years, ministers hope that the industry will recover to deliver the ambitious long-term programme. Documents released today reveal that ministers have ordered that the green belts around Oxford, Guildford, Woking and other towns in the south east are reviewed."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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