One of the most pressing and controversial questions in ponerology is this:
Are there any biological markers by which we can identify people likely to harm others?
For example, as Dylan Stableford of Yahoo News puts it:
Can you spot evil in an X-ray?
Stableford’s article, entitled “‘Dark Patch’ Visible in Brain Scans of Killers and Rapists, Neurologist Claims,” tells of University of Bremen neurologist Dr. Gerhard Roth’s claim that, indeed, we can.
In fact, Roth claims to have identified “the region of the brain where evil is formed and where it lurks.”
Roth, who studied violent convicted offenders on behalf of the German government, consistently found a dark mass – which he calls an “evil patch” – near the front of the brain on the X-rays of those with violent criminal records.
Some find it difficult to believe that harmful behavior can often be traced to brain deficiencies. To them, Roth points out – as I have also pointed out in my writing – that conditions like psychopathy, marked by callousness and aggression, can be mimicked by clearly organic neurological conditions such as precisely located brain tumors. To further reinforce the point, Roth describes how in some of these cases, once the tumor is removed, the person’s behavior returns to normal.
If we can accept that a tumor or other injury in a certain location in the brain can have such an effect – and I believe that most of us can – then why should it be hard to believe that a similar effect can be observed in someone with a deficiency in that same brain area due to some other cause, whether genetic or developmental?
To date, I haven’t heard anyone bold enough to claim that we can predict with 100% certainty that someone will act out in violent or harmful ways just from their brain scan. But, in this article, Roth is quoted as saying that he can predict with 66% probability that a young person with “developmental disorders in the lower forehead brain” will become a felon.
The article also references Dr. Kent Kiehl, a psychologist at University of Mexico, who is somewhat known within ponerology circles for his work studying brain scans of psychopaths. And it links to Jennifer Kahn’s extremely thought-provoking article, “Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath?” which caused a stir when published in the New York Times last year.
As of this writing, Stableford’s piece has inspired over 3300 comments in just four days since its publication – once again reinforcing how drawn people are to dialogue about ponerologic topics and their profound implications.
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