Vol. 5, No. 4, 1999 Page 7

Book Review: A MIND TO CRIME

By Anne Moir and David Jessel
Paperback, 405 pages
Signet Books, 1997

The paperback edition of this book is already out of print. Yet because the book is so well written, and provides an unparalleled review of the research published in the last three decades, we recommend it for any readers able to locate a copy.

Anne Moir, who has a doctorate in genetics, and David Jessel, an independent TV producer specializing in the law, have referenced nearly 800 research reports on which their findings and conclusions are based. Interspersed with the research reports are fas scinating case histories, as well as reports on the many effective efforts to prevent and treat criminality. The authors include discussions on the interrelationships between hormones, neurotransmitters, alcohol, drugs, epilepsy, family violence, PMS, and d rape. Petty thieves, schizophrenics, suicides, and psychopaths are all covered.

Although Moir and Jessel ask tough questions-ones that should have been asked long ago-they admit not having all the answers. But they present solid evidence that physiological problems involving the brain require biological, not psychological, solutions. . And they conclude, “We are better equipped than ever before to identify those who have criminal potential and do something about crime before it happens.”


“Genetic theory has advanced in sophistication, and we now know that environmental factors can interact with the genes, as it were switching their messages on or off. So you can inherit a predisposition to crime-but you will not necessarily be a criminal. . Without that predisposition, you are less likely to take up a criminal career, whatever the environmental temptations. There is no ‘gene for crime’ (except one-the gene that makes us male) but a whole array of genetic influences. What’s more, there seem m m to be genes that predispose some to non-violent property crime, and genes that predispose others to violent behavior.”

“What has become startlingly clear is that there are explanations for ‘bad’ or ‘immoral’ behavior which may stem from abnormalities in the brain’s structure or chemistry.”

“The latest research suggests that in the brains of aggressive psychopaths the area that creates feelings, and hence our ability intellectually to comprehend guilt, shame, and remorse, is disconnected from the more ‘thoughtful’ frontal lobes. The thinking g part of the brain is not being informed by the emotional part, so it lacks the necessary moral education.”

“Faced with gargantuan costs, public and political panic at crime, and the proven failure of virtually all strategies to curb it, one would expect governments to clutch at even the least plausible straw that promised some sort of solution. Yet solid, scie entific evidence, clinically assessed and reported in textbooks and periodicals of unimpeachable authority, goes disregarded.”

“Vandalism isn’t mindless-it’s the consequence of minds hungry for sensation.”

“Evil may be something no more sinister than a matter of loose connections. The devil may be the term for an accumulation of cerebral wounds.”

“Criminals may know-intellectually-the difference between right and wrong, but if that knowledge is not accompanied by the necessary feelings and experience, they do not, and in a sense cannot, care.”

“The outstanding characteristic of psychopaths is a total lack of guilt or remorse. They can do the most terrible things without feeling a pang of remorse. They have no constraints-nothing that the rest of us would call conscience.“

“We have the means to study tell-tale neurophysical patterns which can help to identify people predisposed by genes, or brain damage, to become chronic offenders-those with an abnormally unresponsive autonomic system, slow brain wave activity, neuro-psych hological deficits, biochemical abnormalities and a number of behavioral signs of impulsivity and poor school performance. Should we be using this knowledge to help them?”

“Violence casts too dark a shadow for us to ignore the actual remedies which, at least for some violent offenders, now exist.”

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