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Beyond VersusThe Struggle to Understand the Interaction of Nature and Nurture$
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James Tabery

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027373

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027373.001.0001

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Disarming the “Genetic Predisposition to Violence”: The Dangers of Mischaracterizing Interaction

Disarming the “Genetic Predisposition to Violence”: The Dangers of Mischaracterizing Interaction

Chapter:
(p.167) 7 Disarming the “Genetic Predisposition to Violence”: The Dangers of Mischaracterizing Interaction
Source:
Beyond Versus
Author(s):

James Tabery

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262027373.003.0007

In 2002, scientists were reported to have discovered a “genetic predisposition to violence” in the form of the MAOA gene (monoamine oxidase A). Bioethicists reflecting on the discovery recommended that parents should use preimplantation genetic diagnosis to genetically test their embryos for the dangerous gene and encouraged states to screen newborns for those children who harboured the criminal tendency. This chapter shows that scientists never in fact discovered a genetic predisposition to violence, for discussions of the 2002 study that conceive of the study in that way fundamentally mischaracterize the results about MAOA. This mischaracterization has corrupted the bioethical discussions, leading to dangerous confusion about who does and does not bear a “predisposition to violence”.

Keywords:   Bioethics, Criminality, Gene-Environment Interaction, Genetic Predisposition to Violence, Genetic Testing, MAOA, Monoamine Oxidase A, Newborn Screening, Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

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