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Unread February 18th, 2008, 11:18 AM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Philadelphia area
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Exclamation NIU Murders

A talk show host almost stammered when he remarked that the NIU shootings made him consider eugenics. Of course, I had to react!


"your mention of "eugenics" sat me up right up, real fast! Here are ten ideas and a suggestion.

"1) Hayek tells us that thugs find opportunities in idealist's dreams. For example, Frank Galton, a nice guy although sometimes bipolar, was horribly misused in an era of "whatever is social is right and there is no definition of right beyond that." The left - whose leaders included Hitler, HG Wells, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and other progressives - justified removal of the emotionally, intellectually, and racially variant. None of them recognized, however, that high IQ is itself a people make inventions, money, and professional societies but not children. Idealists who advocate eugenics are like other bright people - not only more likely to commit suicide but also make jobs for thugs.

"2) Motives, like wealth and like genetic influences, follow 80-20 rules. That is, twenty percent of the causes account for eighty percent of the results but suppressing the big reasons may not solve the problem. The reason is that human outcomes - if you include the environments that people make for themselves - may sometimes be as much as eighty percent derived from internal characteristics. And some of those internal traits may be influenced by prenatal events that make one developmental sequence more likely than a different one.

"3) Murder has things in common with suicide and other disorders. They are exaggerations of relatively normal motives (yes, most of us will kill another human given the right contexts) and the results of complicated networks of events. One result is that the first explanation is rarely correct and you need a special kind of mind if you are to find the contributors to any one nightmare.)

"4) Murder, like suicide, is often more explainable after it occurs. Prediction is far more difficult and you must confine more than 1000 people who have nearly identical features and histories in order to catch the one. Lawyers, costs, and good sense keep you from doing this.

"5) Being killed ends not only life, it also prevents future children but killers, in some cultures, actually father more offspring, not fewer. On the other hand, gossip and ridicule have a similar outcome; for the mating prospects of an awkward male, the giggles of a high school girl can be a lethal as a bullet.

"6) Beware the neurosurgeons! Frontal lobotomies were developed in the mid '30s and continued into the '80s ( ). Rage often disappeared. So did the ability to plan. At one point, the kind psychosurgeons wanted to make this gift available to the poor and found ways to do the operation through your eye socket after you were knocked out by electroshock. (Experimentation in the '60s sometimes used prisoners: I recall Jose Delgado's recording and film of a violent criminal who, post-surgery, played a guitar and sang tribute to Dr. Freud, "...oh how I wish you had been differently employed.")

"7) Medication - There is a fundamental contradiction when we look for a medicine that (a) does something useful but (b) makes no one sick! It is true that there are genetic and social similarities between us that provide stability, there are also differences that admit each of us to a different future. Any food or medicine, thus, will poison some of us but help others: a medicine that bothers no one usually does nothing for anyone. And medicines intended to weaken rage will, in some people, make it worse. (Even dodge ball will cripple some kids, the trick is predicting which ones.)

"8) Genetics: it will be surprising to find even one behavior trait that does not show heritability. (Even watching television has a genetic loading.) "OGOD" - one gene, one disorder - is an exception. The trick is in finding the network of genetic contributors and the environments that turn on some of them. So far, there have been lots of candidates for depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and Aspergers - none of them have passed rigorous inspection.

"9) The media - as if it were a modern Greek chorus - has a role in this! That is, heavy media exposure allows like-minded people to seek similar outcomes, including murder. A Japanese physicist, Yoshiki Kuramoto, defined the conditions under which pendulums will come into synchrony swing left or right at the same instant. In the language of Brooklyn, hook up similar things to each other - whether fireflies, transistors, or guys and dolls - and they will march to one same cadence. Similarity, thus, is the strongest contributor to love and marriage. Further, psychopathology is an important element of similarity! Implications: any madman can find a soul mate on today's Internet and each generation may be more bizarre then the prior one.

"10) There's another aspect to media influence: most of us want to see, warn about, and avoid similar gunmen. There is also more concern about changing one of them immediately, even if in ways that may be inconsistent with the other aspects of his personality. The outcome is that the social isolation that exaggerates deviancy increases: killers become better at hiding from therapists, psychiatrists, and lobotomists while confiding only to other killers!

"The NIU slayer is not about guns but about the nature of individuals and societies. That is: "Organisms are extremely internally heterogeneous. Their states and motions are consequences of many intersecting causal pathways, and it is unusual that normal variation in any one of these pathways has a strong effect on the outcome. To be ill is precisely to be dominated by a single causal chain. (emph. added, jb) To be obsessed by an idée fixe which motivates all one's actions, or to be convinced that all behavior on the part of others, without distinction, is hostile, is a form of mental illness...Indeed, we may define 'normality' as the condition in which no single pathway controls the organism." (Richard Lewontin, 2000, 93-94)

"Bottom line - one man pulled the trigger but any one of us might have done the same and any one of us - with the best of intentions - might have helped him do it. His medicines could contributed to his madness, his brilliance could have fired his resentment over failure, a quirky religion could have made another kind of suicide bomber, and counselors may have taken his money while accomplishing little. Although we ain't there yet, science, common sense, and a respect fo human nature will eventually make the NIU event less likely. Meanwhile, be careful of what you blame and cures you endorse!

"With greatest respect, thanks for your show..."

Barabási A-L (2002) Linked: The New Science of Networks. NY: Perseus.
Brody JF (2008, March) Rebellion: Physics to Personal Will. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.
Buss D (2005) The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill. NY: Penguin.
Colt GH (2006) November of the Soul: The Enigma of Suicide. NY: Scribner.
Hayek FA (1944/1944) The Road to Serfdom. Chicago: Univ of Chicago.
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