Episode 84: Criminality and Genetics

Social scientists generally, and criminologists especially, often lack the ability (usually due to both ethical and practical concerns) to perform randomized controlled trials, the gold standard of research.
— Brian Boutwell, J.C. Barnes, The Boston Globe, March 6, 2016
The way parents treat children is, in part, a product of their own personality and temperament. Personality is partly heritable, so the observation that parents and children tend to have similar levels of self-control could be due to social transmission, genetic transmission, or both.
— Brian Boutwell, J.C. Barnes, The Boston Globe, March 6, 2016

Invariably, the societies we establish force us to ask difficult questions and often present equally difficult, nuanced and uncomfortable answers. How do we define "justice"? How will we share or distribute resources? Who will defend us? These questions are particularly potent when describing individual behavior. This week, we react to a Boston Globe article entitled "Is crime genetic? Scientists don't know because they're afraid to ask". Would the answers to such questions make us a better society or might they cause even more stratification and division than already exists? After all, crime is both legally and socially determined and therefore might vary between cultures. Furthermore, how does our seemingly unconditional trust in scientists lead us to believe any conclusions they might draw? We explore the ideas surrounding criminality and how developmental mechanisms might also influence what we define as "criminal behavior".

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