IntroductionWe, in the 1990s, are slowly and inevitably being faced with thesociological and biological implications of impending genetic power.
This poweris analytical, in such cases as the Human Genome Project, which will hopefullysucceed in mapping out the genetic code for the entire human genetic composition. Moreover, this power is preventative and participatory in that it can be, and isbeing, used to control the behavior of humans and other animals. This new power,in the eyes of many, is as risky and potentially hazardous as atomic energy: itmust be treated carefully, used under close supervision, performed underprofessional consent and observation, otherwise, people will begin to see thisnew genetic power as a dangerous drawback, rather than an advancement of humanculture. One of the most highly contested and objectionable topics of geneticpower is the analysis of crime, violence, and impulsivity. Doubtless, most willagree that children are not born with a natural affinity for violence and crime;yet, new genetic studies are beginning down a long road of finding thehereditary basis for impulsivity. While these studies continue to search for thegenetic source of aggression, child testing programs, drug manufacturers, civilrights activists, lawyers, and anxious citizens await the resulting testimony ofthe scientists.Order now
The social implications of the genetic search for aggressivetendency is seen by some as a great step forward, by others as a dangerous powerwith the ability to give birth to another Holocaust, and by still others asracist. At one time, it was believed that ones character could be determinedfrom the bumps in ones skull. Much later, in the 1960s, as science marched onin its regular pace, it was theorized that carriers of an extra Y (male)chromosome were predisposed to criminality. Today, we are faced with the powerto determine and alter ones character through genetics. We must collectivelydecide whether the ultimate price, not of money but of natural evolution, isworth the ultimate result.
Behavioral Genetics and AggressionOne day in 1978 a woman entered the University Hospital of Nijmegen, theNetherlands, with complaints regarding the men in her family. Many of the menseemed to have some sort of mental debility, including her brothers and her son. In time, a pattern of strange behavior of the men emerged: one had raped hissister, and, upon being institutionalized, stabbed a warden in the chest with apitchfork; another tried to run over his boss in an automobile after he hadcriticized the mans work; a third had a regular habit of making his sistersundress at knife point, and two more were convicted arsonists. Additionally, theknown IQs of the men were typically around 85. The history of this sort ofbehavior was found to be typical, as nine other males in the family, tracingback to 1870, had the same type of disorder. It became evident that there wassomething wrong in the lineage of the family.
Hans Brunner, a geneticist at theUniversity Hospital, has been studying the family since 1988. It was discovered that the men had a defect on the X chromosome thathelps regulate aggressive behavior. Brunner was cued to the fact that the defectwas on the X chromosome because the trait was passed on from mother to son, andnone of the women, with two X chromosomes, were afflicted. The gene normallycodes for the production of the enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA), which breaksdown three important neurotransmitters that trigger or inhibit the transmissionof nerve impulses. One of these neurotransmitters is norepinephrine, whichraises blood pressure and increases alertness as part of the bodys “fight orflight” mechanism. Brunner believes that the lack of this neurotransmittercould cause an excess of chemical messages to the brain, in times of stress,causing the victims fury.
The mens urine found extremely low levels of thebreakdown products of the three neurotransmitters, which are the breakdownproducts after MAOA has done its work. Another of the chemicals is serotonin, which inhibits the effects ofspontaneous neuronal firing, and consequently exerts a calming effect. The lackof this inhibitor is held responsible for the “Jekyll and Hyde” personalities ofthe afflicted men, and may be responsible for their low IQs. Over the course of four years, Brunner was the first to ever link andpinpoint a single gene to aggression. Also, he analyzed the X chromosomes of 28members of the family, compiling sufficient evidence to prove his discovery.However, Brunner never studied the influence of a shared .