Adrian Raine’s The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime amasses the latest evidence from neuroscience and uses it to inflict a devastating blow on 20th century criminology based on the Standard Social Science Model.
Dark Enlightenment types will be thrilled with Raine’s evidence and conclusions. In the course of the book, he cheekily assaults the foundational assumptions of liberals, libertarians, “progressives,” Randroids, socialists, communists, feminists, conservatives, Christians, Muslims, Jews, mind/body dualists and all types of spiritualists.
Raine believes that the reviled Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso was basically right: there is a hereditary basis to crime which is rooted in structural and functional abnormalities in physical regions of the brain. There are even “atavistic stigmata” (traits like men who have long index fingers, a singular palm crease, or adherent ear lobes) which are “biosocial markers” of criminality.
The proof of this is hidden in plain sight:
- Raine notes there isn’t a single example in the history of the world of a group of women banding together to violently invade and occupy a foreign country.
- Violence is overwhelmingly something that men do. It is something that young men in particular do.
- Socioeconomic status can’t explain why men are so much more violent than women.
- The consumption of alcohol is strongly related to violence because people who are drunk are less capable of restraining themselves.
- Impulsive murderers and criminals tend to have low IQs.
- It simply isn’t possible to reform certain types of criminals.
- Schizophrenics like Jared Loughner (and people suffering from other kinds of mental disorders) are far more likely to engage in violence.
- Severe brain trauma, malnutrition, and malignant tumors can lower intelligence, result in the loss of motor functions, and produce drastic changes in personality.
- There are various types of drugs which have a calming effect on aggressive behavior.
- Male sex offenders who are castrated are far less likely to become recidivist criminals.
The male brain plays the starring role in violence.
As Raine shows, if we study the male brain closely with MRIs, PET scans, twin studies, case studies, longitudinal studies and other lines of evidence, we can see that the brains of criminals tend to differ in many important ways from the brains of average people that predispose them to violence.
The impulsive, reactive common criminal tends to suffer from low brain functioning and structural deficits in grey matter in key parts of the prefrontal cortex which are responsible for self-control and executive functions like planning complex behavior. As a result, these people – Raine compares them to automobiles without brakes – tend to have low IQs and thus lack the mental capacity to control their more violent emotions welling up from the limbic system.
Among his more interesting findings, Raine argues that serial killers and white collar criminals tend to have excellent prefrontal cortex functioning, psychopaths lack a conscience because their amygdala is structurally deformed or because they are suffering from cavum septum pellucidum, and the common criminal is an under-aroused, inattentive, stimulation seeker with a low resting heart rate.
Raine quotes Francis Crick, the co-discover of the structure of DNA with James Watson, who believed that “free will is nothing more than a large assembly of neurons located in the anterior cingulate cortex, and that under a certain set of assumptions it would be possible to build a machine that believes it has free will.” The explosive conclusion is that “free will lies on a continuum, with some people having almost complete choice in their actions, while others have relatively less.”
In discussing an ordinary man whose late onset pedophilia was magically cured by the removal of a massive brain tumor, Raine argues:
“Regardless of this latter issue, you might view Mr. Oft as not responsible just because his tumor “caused” his pedophilia, but also because the tumor could be resected and return him to normality. He could be quickly and convincingly treated, unlike most offenders with more subtle brain impairment. His treatability is making you think different about his culpability – it’s altering your moral evaluation of his act. And yet you would view today’s untreatable offenders with volume reductions in their prefrontal cortex and amygdala as more responsible and worthy of punishment? How could we ethically condone such a difference in our evaluation? Today’s brain-impaired offenders cannot help the fact that we cannot currently reverse that brain impairment in the way we could with Mr. Oft. Would we call that difference in our opinion “justice.”
This has enormous implications for the concept “equal justice.”
If all human beings don’t have the same rational capacity or the same amount of “free will” because of heritable differences in brain structure, and these things exist along a continuum, which is to say, all humans are not created equal, then what sense does it make to treat the ticking timebombs with “volume reductions” circulating among us as if they were “equal” before the law?
In “The Future: Where Will Neurocriminology Take Us?,” Raine imagines a world in the year 2034 in which the United States adopts The LOMBROSO Program (this is too optimistic of a scenario, in my view) which subjects all males 18 and over to genetic screening and a brain scan for the “Fundamental Five Functions.”
The LPs – Lombroso Positives – are then removed from society and held in indefinite detention centers like Guantanamo Bay:
“The program works like this: those who test positive – the LPs – are held in indefinite detention. In light of the administrative lapse that originally sparked LOMBROSO when test results were mixed up, LPs are given the legal right to challenge the findings and be retested by an independent authority. The detention centers are highly secure, but are not the harsh holding bays of decades gone by. They are equipped as a home away from home. Conjugal visits are allowed on weekends, albeit under surveillance that is a bit too close to comfort for the partners concerned. There are full recreational and educational services. They are allowed to vote. The LPs have full communication access to their family and even friends – after appropriate security checks for those concerned. It sounds quite cushy, but remember that the LPs have not actually committed a crime. Perhaps the main drawback is who they live with, housed as they are in facilities with other LPs – time bombs waiting to explode.”
In the year 2049, the government passes another law that requires potential parents to get a license before they can have a child:
“It’s now 2049 and the fifteenth anniversary of the LOMBROSO program. The nation is nine years into the NCSP. Together these programs are undeniably making a dent in the rates of juvenile and adult violence. They have also significantly reduced non-violent crime. …
Cars can be killers, and so you need a license before you can drive. Kids can be killers too. So the logic goes that you should have a license before you can have a child. Just as you need to document practical skills in driving a car and also knowledge of the right way to drive, you also need to show theoretical and practical proficiency in rearing a child. It’s only right for the child and society.”
In such a way, defectives like Adam Lanza are identified and hospitalized in treatment centers, and their numbers are finally reduced altogether. America reaps a peace divided when all the resources which are currently squandered on law enforcement, the judicial system, and equality promotion are rechanneled into economic growth.
This makes too much sense for a country which could have have been on Mars and which could reap most of the benefits of the LOMBROSO program right now simply by applying segregation to the race of people who commit 95% of the violent crime in New Orleans, Birmingham, and Atlanta.
In order for something like the LOMBROSO program to happen here, America (and Enlightenment-based Americanism) will likely have to expire first.