Biological Theories of Crime

VII. Conclusion

Biological theories have evolved significantly with advances in our theoretical understanding of human behavior and in our technological capabilities of measuring human biological characteristics and processes. Whereas earliest attempts to understand the relationships between biology and behavior focused on the outwardly observable, modern efforts are looking inward, to the chemical and structural foundations of our bodies. Contemporary biological theories also recognize the interactive relationship between internal biological events and external sociological events. Moreover, increasing awareness of the complex interrelationships among our environment, our biology, and our behavior is contributing to the development of a rich and promising epistemology of criminal behavior.

Our scientific advancements, however, still have not reached the level where we can definitively determine that antisocial, deviant, or criminal acts have biological roots or correlations. Increasing awareness of how our genes pass along (or do not pass along) our behavioral characteristics, of how our brain structures and functions are interrelated, of how our body chemistry affects and is affected by our behavior and reacts to environmental stimuli, and of how our development in a social environment impacts all of these biological processes will bring us closer to being able to predict behavior and therefore being able to better control it.

Care must be taken to separate the act from the actor and to avoid the atrocities of the past. As our ability to determine biological correlates of behavior expands, so too does the danger of using such information in unethical and inhumane ways that would stigmatize or punish people on the basis of what prohibited behaviors their biological profiles suggest they might do. It is hoped that progress in these areas of inquiry will parallel corresponding advances in our capabilities to prevent initial undesirable behaviors and to treat individuals who do behave undesirably because of biological or biosocial influences.

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