New DNA testing bring free will into play

Apr 20, 2008

A new generation of DNA testing gives a peek at biological and psychological traits allowing lawyers to question free will in U.S. criminal cases, experts say.

Some defense teams are using DNA profiles to argue their clients had a genetic predisposition for certain ailments or behavior, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

More than 60 percent of antisocial and criminal behavior is linked to genetics and several high courts agreed, reversing murder convictions in some cases, the Post said. In one South Carolina reversal, the justices' decision implied biology and not free will prompted criminal behavior.

"To argue that behavior can be predicted, you are arguing (someone) does not have free will," said Markus Heilig, a neurochemist with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "So how can you hold someone accountable?"

But Nita Farahany, an expert on genetics and the law at Vanderbilt University countered, "Just because you can explain a behavior's cause doesn't mean it is excusable."

Copyright 2008 by United Press International

Explore further: Ig Nobel winner: Using pork to stop nosebleeds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Entrepreneurs aren't overconfident gamblers

29 minutes ago

Leaving one's job to become an entrepreneur is inarguably risky. But it may not be the fear of risk that makes entrepreneurs more determined to succeed. A new study finds entrepreneurs are also concerned about what they might ...

New complex oxides could advance memory devices

45 minutes ago

The quest for the ultimate memory device for computing may have just taken an encouraging step forward. Researchers at The City College of New York led by chemist Stephen O'Brien have discovered new complex ...

Recommended for you

Ig Nobel winner: Using pork to stop nosebleeds

Sep 19, 2014

There's some truth to the effectiveness of folk remedies and old wives' tales when it comes to serious medical issues, according to findings by a team from Detroit Medical Center.

History books spark latest Texas classroom battle

Sep 16, 2014

As Texas mulls new history textbooks for its 5-plus million public school students, some academics are decrying lessons they say exaggerate the influence of Christian values on America's Founding Fathers.

Flatow, 'Science Friday' settle claims over grant

Sep 16, 2014

Federal prosecutors say radio host Ira Flatow and his "Science Friday" show that airs on many National Public Radio stations have settled civil claims that they misused money from a nearly $1 million federal ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

bmcghie
1.3 / 5 (4) Apr 20, 2008
Ooh, this makes me angry. What about all the other people that managed to NOT succumb to the temptation to commit murder? More importantly, the whole principle is bullshit. I mean, you ARE your genes. Done, finished. You have to play with the cards you are dealt. Play by society's rules, or GTFO, it's that simple. I mean, we're ALL predisposed to reproducing sexually, no? Does that mean all the men should be allowed off the hook if they start rutting with everything on two legs, regardless of consent? According to this new standard, apparently yes. Glad we established that it is now okay to have a country full of rapists. And lawyers complain about everyone hating them... yeesh. /rant
superhuman
1 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2008
Even if free will does not exist (and I'm not sure it does), society still has to eliminate individuals threatening social order. If criminals cant choose to obey the law, too bad for them.
nilbud
1 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2008
Genetically I'm a bit stabby on Wednesdays, due to my environment I can be a bit shooty on Thursdays, because I'm a victim of society Tuesdays are kind of drunk and punchy Friday is sabbath and I just don't like Mondays.