Monday, May 23, 2011

Your criminal genes and your passport

The present methods for checking people on airfields on departure and on arrival are sometimes quite time-consuming. Look at the long rows during rush hours. You have to be there up to three hours before your plane leaves. And for some countries you have to fill in a long list of questions before your arrival, too, in order to prevent that criminals are admitted, which takes again much time (and annoyance) and requires an extensive data base for the border control authorities as well. It would be much easier when there would be a reliable method to select possible dangerous people in advance and preferably so that they simply do not take a flight, since they know that they have no chance to enter. At present such a method does not exist but there is hope for Big Brother that it can be developed in future. Everybody knows that generally crimes are not done by Tom, Dick and Harry (it’s true, most perpetrators are men) but by people with a certain personality type. How nice would it be if a fail-proof way could be found for establishing the personality type of the possible (or even better the effective) criminal if not terrorist.
It has become known that decisions are not simply taken by free thinking and acting men but that it is our brains that take the decisions for us. If we may believe a still growing group of neuroscientists, our decisions are taken by our hormones, and our conscious I is simply a kind of brain interpreter that functions like a political commentator (see my blogs dated August 23, 2010, and later). But what steers my hormones? Decisions can be influenced by taking drugs (either for your pleasure or for medical reasons) but recently it has been discovered that there is also an inherent bodily mechanism that influences them: your genes. Genes do not only determine the colour of your skin, the shape of your nose and your other physical characteristics, they do not only determine your predispositions to certain illnesses, but, as research has shown, they affect also the availability of certain hormones that play a part in decision making. So we learned, for instance, that dopamine influences your risk taking behaviour in gambling. In Parkinson patients it can lead to hypersexuality. And now it has come out that your genetic structure determines also how much dopamine (and other drugs) is available. In this way, your genes have an important influence on your – possible – behaviour. Okay, the research in this field has just started and it is still a long way to go until we are that far that we can say that a person with these or those genetic structure has a strong disposition to criminal behaviour or even to bomb throwing. But is this really science fiction? Hasn’t come much what was considered science fiction in the past the facts of today? George Orwell’s Big Brother will sooner be possible than many people thought when he wrote his novel. And so it may be with our genetic criminal passport as well. Then you’ll find in your passport not only a chip with a finger print (as the European Union wants to have it) but also one with your DNA in order to simplify the task of the border patrol to decide whether the holder can be admitted or not. Or we write simply in his (or maybe her) passport “possible criminal”, as a warning that this person can better be refused the access of the country. Then a possible criminal will simply avoid entering in the legal way, and it will save the decent traveller much time at the border, too.
See “Do genes make up my mind?”, http://brainethics.org/?p=738

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