(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN
ANCHOR ZACH TOOMBS


The investigation into the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has taken a turn that has some scientists worried. 

 

“A key question for investigators is ‘What was wrong with Adam Lanza? Is there some clue in his DNA to explain his murderous rampage?’” (Video via Fox News)

 

“Researchers at the University of Connecticut say they will study the DNA of the school shooter Adam Lanza to find any biological link to extreme violence.” (Video via KSTP)

 

The state’s chief medical examiner asked the geneticists to help with the investigation. The Los Angeles Times reports investigators are desperate for clues, and the gunman didn’t leave them many.

 

“Hope of peering into Lanza's state of mind ... has been dashed by the assailant's apparent destruction of his computer's hard drive. The first step of his rampage--killing his mother, Nancy Lanza … puts details of his path to massacre forever out of reach.”

 

But the plan to look for answers in Lanza’s DNA is being condemned by many scientists. For one thing, geneticists say, it oversimplifies the role genes play in behavior. A professor at Vanderbilt tells NPR:

 

“Can a person’s genes explain why they commit mass murder?”

“No, absolutely not. Genetic variants do not explain criminal behavior.”

 

It’s not clear what the geneticists will look for in Lanza’s DNA. But one gene that’s getting a lot of discussion is MAOA — a gene involved in enzymes in the brain.

 

MAOA has been called “the warrior gene” due to tests which showed people with the gene were more likely to have aggressive impulses and were generally more antisocial. (Via Brown University)

 

But even that gene isn’t a cut and dried predictor of violence. The gene is only tied to aggression if the individual was also abused as a child, and even then, most people with the gene never commit a violent crime. A PBS special reports, this is the usual story for genes and violence.

 

“The frustrating truth is, although scientists can detect some patterns between brain wiring, genetics and violence, they only become clear when studying large groups of people.”

 

Scientists say, at present, there’s no way to predict whether an individual will become violent. 

 

But that hasn’t stopped the courts from using genetic evidence. Lawyers have argued violent defendants should be shown leniency because their genes made it harder for them to avoid violence. (Via Journal of Forensic Sciences)

 

And, critics say, there’s an even more troubling implication of the research. The New York Times writes links between violence and genes could stigmatize whole groups of innocent people, and allow officials...

 

“...to intervene before a person commits a horrific crime. But that goal would be difficult to achieve, and the pursuit of it risks jeopardizing personal liberties. Some scientists shudder at the thought of labeling people potential violent criminals.”

 

The Times reports this is the first time researchers will examine the DNA of a mass killer to look for clues.

 

Plan to Examine Adam Lanza's DNA Worries Scientists

by Steven Sparkman
0
Transcript
Dec 26, 2012

Plan to Examine Adam Lanza's DNA Worries Scientists

 

(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN
ANCHOR ZACH TOOMBS


The investigation into the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has taken a turn that has some scientists worried. 

 

“A key question for investigators is ‘What was wrong with Adam Lanza? Is there some clue in his DNA to explain his murderous rampage?’” (Video via Fox News)

 

“Researchers at the University of Connecticut say they will study the DNA of the school shooter Adam Lanza to find any biological link to extreme violence.” (Video via KSTP)

 

The state’s chief medical examiner asked the geneticists to help with the investigation. The Los Angeles Times reports investigators are desperate for clues, and the gunman didn’t leave them many.

 

“Hope of peering into Lanza's state of mind ... has been dashed by the assailant's apparent destruction of his computer's hard drive. The first step of his rampage--killing his mother, Nancy Lanza … puts details of his path to massacre forever out of reach.”

 

But the plan to look for answers in Lanza’s DNA is being condemned by many scientists. For one thing, geneticists say, it oversimplifies the role genes play in behavior. A professor at Vanderbilt tells NPR:

 

“Can a person’s genes explain why they commit mass murder?”

“No, absolutely not. Genetic variants do not explain criminal behavior.”

 

It’s not clear what the geneticists will look for in Lanza’s DNA. But one gene that’s getting a lot of discussion is MAOA — a gene involved in enzymes in the brain.

 

MAOA has been called “the warrior gene” due to tests which showed people with the gene were more likely to have aggressive impulses and were generally more antisocial. (Via Brown University)

 

But even that gene isn’t a cut and dried predictor of violence. The gene is only tied to aggression if the individual was also abused as a child, and even then, most people with the gene never commit a violent crime. A PBS special reports, this is the usual story for genes and violence.

 

“The frustrating truth is, although scientists can detect some patterns between brain wiring, genetics and violence, they only become clear when studying large groups of people.”

 

Scientists say, at present, there’s no way to predict whether an individual will become violent. 

 

But that hasn’t stopped the courts from using genetic evidence. Lawyers have argued violent defendants should be shown leniency because their genes made it harder for them to avoid violence. (Via Journal of Forensic Sciences)

 

And, critics say, there’s an even more troubling implication of the research. The New York Times writes links between violence and genes could stigmatize whole groups of innocent people, and allow officials...

 

“...to intervene before a person commits a horrific crime. But that goal would be difficult to achieve, and the pursuit of it risks jeopardizing personal liberties. Some scientists shudder at the thought of labeling people potential violent criminals.”

 

The Times reports this is the first time researchers will examine the DNA of a mass killer to look for clues.

 

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