Vol. 9, No. 3, 2003 Page 7


"Are some people born bad? A better way of putting it is that some people are born with characteristics that make them poor fits for most of the honest jobs available in most societies, and so far we haven't learned how to deal with them. We are at risk of becoming their victims but they are victims too—victims of the evolutionary history of our species…..Almost all the characteristics of the 'born criminal' would be, in slightly watered-down form, useful to a male in a hunter-gatherer society and useful to his group. His lack of fear, desire for excitement, and impulsiveness make him a formidable weapon against rival groups. His aggressiveness, strength, and lack of compassion enable him to dominate his groupmates and give him first shot at hunter-gatherer perks.

"Unlike the successful hunter-gatherer, however, the career criminal tends to be below average in intelligence. I take this to be a hopeful sign: it suggests that temperament can be overridden by reason. Those individuals born with the other characteristics on the list but who also have above average intelligence are evidently smart enough to figure out that crime does not pay and to find other ways of gratifying their desire for excitement."
Judith Rich Harris, in The Nurture Assumption—Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, 1998

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