Genetic determinism is a way of liberating us from free will and taking full responsibility for our actions.  One would think that “my genes made me do it” defense would go no further than pleading, “The devil made me do it.”  Alas, one would so hope in vain.  In Italy, a murderer received a lower sentence based on that very idea. From the story:

An Italian court has reduced the sentence of a convicted murderer by a year based on evidence that he carries genetic mutations linked to aggressive behaviour. This is the first time that genetics have been considered a mitigating factor in a European court sentencing. In March 2007, Abdelmalek Bayout admitted to stabbing Walter Felipe Novoa Perez to death because he had insulted Bayout over the eye make-up he wore for religious reasons. At his trial, his mental illness was taken into account and he was sentenced to nine years and two months imprisonment - three years less than he would have received otherwise. At an appeal hearing in May this year, the judge requested a new psychiatric report. Two independent neuroscientists performed tests on Bayout. They found abnormalities in brain scans, and five gene mutations previously associated with aggression. Based on their report, the judge reduced the sentence by another year in September.

We should note that this is far from settled science. And even if it were, one would think that if a criminal was genetically predisposed to offend, it would justify a longer sentence to protect society and give him an incentive to control his gene urges.  But that isn’t going to happen.  This is just one story in an ongoing saga that seeks to excuse people from self control and normative behavior.  Mark my words, the abuse and misuse of genetic science is just beginning.

Articles by Wesley J. Smith

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