A Wall Street Journal article of April 27, 2013 states, “Brain-imaging techniques are identifying physical deformations and functional abnormalities that predispose some individuals to violence.” The article hails the rising field of “neurocriminology” as “revolutionizing our understanding of violent behavior.” Speculation is offered that, in the future, violent behavior may be “reformulated as a symptom of a physiological disorder.”
We are a long way from having conclusive scientific evidence to warrant such a “reformulation.” One, among many, important questions to be answered is whether there are people with identical deformations and abnormalities who do not engage in violent conduct? For decades, we have seen innumerable formulations about alleged causes of criminal behavior. In the 1960s, the emphasis was on aspects of the social environment, particularly poverty, that allegedly cause crime. We have been hearing a lot recently about violence depicted in the media and in video games allegedly playing a major contributory role in criminal behavior. And, for years, we have heard about exposure to lead, particularly in the form of lead paint, as a contributing factor to criminality. Most poor people are not criminals. Millions of people watch violent programming and play violent games but do not even think about enacting what they see. And certainly there have been innumerable youngsters who were exposed to lead who did not turn into criminals.