Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Causes of violence

"Violent developments: disruptive kids grow into their behavior" at Science News is about the complex causation of violent behavior, including gene/environment interaction. No mention of free will, as one would expect from a science magazine. This quote was interesting, connecting forgiveness with understanding causality: "Henry's feelings of rage abated as he grasped that his father struggled with his own deep-seated problems."

And "Home remedy" in the New York Times magazine is about helping violent kids using something called multi-systemic therapy (MST), an evidence-based intervention which operates on the assumption that "all of the causes of anti-social behavior should be attacked at once" and that "behavior is shaped by multiple aspects of the environment." So the emphasis is on changing the environment the kids are exposed to, especially in improving parental and peer influences.

If we put resources into such interventions the way we do into Iraq...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with what you write about retributive justice - it's not justice at all, well, not humane justice. But I don't understand how naturalism points to an alternative. I agree that a better alterntive is humane segregation but how does this fit with naturalism?

Jul 5, 2006, 6:02:00 AM  
Blogger Les said...

This post is made partially in reply to "anonymous'" post:

Given the axiom that every act has a price, or "cost-benefit analysis" if you will, then when society seeks retribution there are the unavoidable expenditures for this act that it must consider.

For instance, first, there is the obvious cost of the whole capital punishment process, which is enormous. Then there is the cost of harming the condemed's family/friends/employer/community, who likely did nothing wrong to "deserve" punishment themselves. Creating traumatized, impoverished orphans and widows shouldn't be the ambition of the state; the cost of this fallout is simply too great simply to quench our lust for revenge.

Ironically, of course, there is no legal consequence to the state, should it execute the wrong man, which is itself an incredible inconsistency. But what about the wake of psychic destruction it has left behind after an execution? I assure you, we all will pay for that for a long time.

So, shouldn't the state seek retribution against itself for premeditated murder? Shouldn't it be responsible for making amends to the collateral victims of a wrongful execution? To date, this is an exceedingly rare event and always inadequate.

Next, let's consider the tacit message sent to impressionable youth from all this goings on; they will inevitably see the hypocrisy inherent in killing someone in order to show that killing is wrong. Also, there is this mixed message that revenge is wrong--except in ambiguous and privileged circumstances. So revenge killing itself isn't wrong, it's a matter only of perspective.

But when a person feels homicidal, it's a small leap to claim a "justifiable" rationalization in the heat of the moment. This is especially true in the minds of disenfranchised, antisocial characters.

A corollary to this last point is that it's OK to kill so long as you are in the Cat Bird's Seat (i.e.: well-positioned to call the shots, such as prosecutors, police officers, soldiers, politicians or mob bosses); in other words, might alone makes right.

Finally, as for humane segregation fitting into Naturalism: if we, as a society, learn to strike a better balance in how we deal with law breakers, one based upon the truths about our naturalistic universe, then we can reduce the high costs and deeply negative consequences our current system has on our cultural health.

If you are so inclined, feel free to cross-post this message anywhere you might see fit.

Jul 10, 2006, 12:54:00 PM  

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