Vol. 10, No. 3, 2004 Page 5


Challenging Environmentalism's Supremacy

Edited by Anthony Walsh and Lee Ellis
Nova Science Publishers, 2003

Treatment for mental illness today is often woefully inadequate, as is our understanding of the roots of mental disorders. Perhaps the word "mental" is part of the problem, because most people, including professionals, tend to think of "mental" as synonymous with "mind." Instead, as this book helps to demonstrate, they should be thinking of mental illness as a brain problem—a problem far better addressed by physiological interventions than by psychological approaches.

Walsh and Ellis, authors of innumerable books on the subject of mental illness, have provided a comprehensive multidisciplinary review of biosocial criminological theory. Included in this book, in addition to their own information, are chapters by Kanazawa, Tibbetts, Moffitt, Comings, Quadagno, Fishbein, Scarpa, Raine, Gove, and Wilmoth. The book is divided into four parts: "A Theoretical Overview," "Evolutionary Psychology," "Behavior Genetics," and "Brain Functioning: Neurochemistry and Criminology."

Although not as easily readable as some texts, this book will greatly expand the reader's understanding of mental illness as a biologically-rooted problem. It should be required reading, and spark enlightened discussion, in criminology classrooms across America.

Quotes from "Biosocial Criminology"
Edited by Anthony Walsh and Lee Ellis

Critics are quite right, there are no genes "for" crime, and no biosocial scientist claims that there are. There are genes, however, that lead via various neurohormonal routes to traits (e.g., low levels of empathy, IQ, self-control, conscientiousness, and fear, and high levels of sensation- seeking, egoism, negative emotionality, and aggression) that increase the probability of criminal behavior.
Anthony Walsh in his chapter, "Introduction to the Biosocial Perspective"

Behavioral genetic studies have found that empathy is highly variable among individuals, with a heritable coefficient of around 0.68… Consistent with evolutionary theory and with what we know about the demographics of crime, these same studies found females and older males to be more empathetic (and altruistic) than younger males. The researchers attributed this finding to testosterone levels "that predispose toward aggressiveness, which in turn decreases empathy"…..

Chronic criminals remain young children….As they grew older, they retained their childhood priorities for instant self- gratification without having developed the emotional inner voice necessary to generate a sense of discipline, responsibility, and the recognition of the rights of others.
Stephen G. Tibbetts in his chapter, "Selfishness, Social Control, and Emotions:
An Integrated Perspective on Criminality"

The common view is that the environment in which children were raised plays the major role in predicting criminal behavior. Adoption studies show that the major effect is derived from a combination of "bad genes" and "bad environment," not a bad environment per se. Placing a non-genetically predisposed child into a bad environment has relatively little effect on criminal outcome, suggesting that if the seed is not "bad," it will not grow. By contrast, the "bad seed" will grow in either environment but it sprouts fastest in a "bad environment." Two conclusions seem reasonable. First, social programs will have a maximum effect by targeting the combination of genetic and environmental effects. Second, problems with criminal behavior would be most effectively addressed by eliminating the effect of the genes rather than the effect of the environment.
David E. Comings in his chapter, "Conduct
Disorder: A Genetic, Orbitofrontal Lobe Disorder that is the Major Predictor of Adult
Antisocial Behavior"

Adult testosterone levels, cortisol levels, and the serotonin neurotransmitter system are all genetically influenced. Genes may therefore influence aggression and violence by affecting these variables throughout life.
David Quadagno in his chapter, "Genes, Brains, Hormones, and Violence Interactions within Complex Environments"

The greatest obstacle now standing in the way of advancement in biosocial understanding of criminal behavior is criminologists' lack of training in biology... Many decades from now, all students of sociology, criminology, and criminal justice will be taught that in the final analysis, all behavior is a biological phenomenon made possible by each individual's unique brain.
Lee Ellis in his chapter, "So You Want to Be a Biosocial Criminologist? Advice from
the Underground"

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