A German neurologist claims to have identified a specific brain configuration within which he says ‘evil lurks”. Measuring brain waves on violent criminals whilst watching ‘brutal scenes’ revealed a “dark patch” in their frontal brain. This area believed to be responsible for compassion and sorrow, showed no activity.
Dr Roth’s research has led him to believe “that some criminals have a ‘genetic predisposition’ to violence.”
This strikes me as rather deterministic which seems to be the trend of modern neurology and Dr Roth cites a 66% probability of an adolescent with this brain anomaly going on to become a felon.
But then Dr Roth makes this observation:
Dr Roth believes that criminal mental decline “begins in the kindergarten”, but a positive parental environment and strong societal support can easily stop the child going on to offend.
Equally, a negative domestic situation could easily lead to a child otherwise moderately pre-disposed to violence, to become a hardened criminal.
This almost seems to contradict the earlier determinism.
Last year I spoke with a clinical psychologist on the subject of psychopathy and the observation that stood out most starkly for me was from her experience of psychopaths, the vast majority had experienced a childhood of extreme brutality and neglect.
With the growing understanding of Neuroplasticity or ‘Brain Plasticity’ within which physical brain changes in neural pathways and synapses can occur as a result of environment and behaviour changes, can we write anyone off as simply ‘genetic predisposed’ to violence?
As an relevant example of Neuroplasticity I read recently of soldiers suffering PTSD as a result of combat had evidence of neurological brain changes.
As with everything pertaining to the nature / nurture debate I suspect that physical brain abnormalities of ‘dark patches where evil lurks’ are as much a product of the environment as anything else. And it would seem that Dr Roth also holds that view with his comments on ‘positive parental environment and strong societal support’.
I assume that Dr Roth here is advocating an environmental buffer against genetic predisposition.
I don’t believe that any single person is beyond the pale of God’s grace. To accept that they are, is in some way, for me, to denigrate God, or undermine his salvific power.
There may of course be those so given to their evil inclinations they would reject the grace and light of God. But I would not view this as deterministic, but of self-will.
The question I would dearly love to have answered: Are there Neuroplastic changes when a person accepts faith in God? As this process can involve complete reversal in thinking and behaviour (and possibly environment), especially for the adult convert, could this precipitate positive neurological changes?
UPDATE: Thinking on it would be interesting to compare the recidivism rates between criminal Christian converts and others. If the recidivism rate is reduced in violent criminal converts, then could this potentially be evidence of neuroplasticity in action?
I don’t know of any research of this type, but would be very interesting….