Neuroscience and DNA analyses have been making progress in leaps and bounds. Some scientists have dedicated their lives to trying to figure out what makes a person violent and what separates a serial killer from the rest of us.
Scientists have found that the brain works very differently in a serial killer. Their orbital frontal cortex (part of the brain above the eyes) is less active. The orbital frontal cortex is responsible for moral decision making, which makes sense since a serial killer wouldn’t be described as ‘moral’ by most people.
Another significant difference between a serial killer and the average person is that they usually have what’s been described as the ‘warrior gene’. The warrior gene is responsible for regulating the serotonin levels in the brain, which dramatically affects a person’s moods. There is one type of warrior gene that makes a person more predisposed to violence.
However, you can have both the brain function and genetic makeup of a serial killer and still lead a normal life. Many researchers believe that you need a third component to really make you a full-blown serial killer – you need to have been abused as a child or suffered some sort of violence. Mix all three of these ingredients together, and you’re far more likely to have a serial killer.
These discoveries have even been used in court. Take for example Bradley Waldroup’s case in 2006. Bradley got into a fight with his wife and her friend. He ended up killing his wife’s friend by shooting her eight times, and attempted to murder his wife with a machete. On top of that, his four kids watched the whole thing.
The jury had no problem convicting Bradley of murder, attempted murder and aggravated kidnapping. The prosecution was seeking the death penalty but the defense attorneys were able to get Bradley’s DNA results admitted, which showed he had the warrior gene and that meant he was more prone to violent behavior than the average person.
He dodged the death penalty as a result.
Considering how far science has come in brain and DNA research, it isn’t a stretch to believe that at some point, we may be able to alter the behavior of violent criminals by tampering with their DNA or brain…or both.
If this eventually becomes a reality, would you support using this technology to change the behavior of violent criminals? Would you take a brain scan and volunteer to have your brain or DNA tampered with if they found that you had the same brain/DNA abnormalities that are common in serial killers and violent criminals?
This also raises serious questions about human rights. Perhaps a criminal could be given a choice (once convicted) of having to undergo a procedure or face spending life in prison. Then again, maybe this is an area we should just leave alone. Maybe it’s too risky, too invasive and violates our code of ethics.