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posted by martyb on Wednesday January 22 2020, @03:28PM   Printer-friendly
from the 60%-likely-is-40%-unlikely dept.

MedicalXPress:

How similar do you think you are to your second cousin? Or your estranged great aunt?

Would you like to have people assess your behaviour from what your great aunt has done? How would you feel if courts used data gained from them to decide how you are likely to behave in the future?

Scientists are making connections between a person's DNA and their tendencies for certain kinds of behaviour. At the same time, commercial DNA databases are becoming more common and police are gaining access to them.

When these trends combine, genetic data inferred about offenders from their relatives might one day be used by courts to determine sentences. In the future, the data from your great aunt could be used by a court to determine how severely you are punished for a crime.

[...] A Florida judge recently approved a warrant to search a genetic genealogy , GED Match. This American company has approximately 1.3 million users who have uploaded their personal genetic data, with the assumption of privacy, in the hope of discovering their family tree.

The court directly overruled these users' request for privacy and now the company is obliged to hand over the data.

[...] This might be used by the prosecution to make the case for a longer sentence. In some jurisdictions and circumstances, the prosecution may have a means of obtaining a sample of DNA directly from the offender. But where this is not legally possible without the offender's consent, the inference from relatives might fill a gap in the prosecution's case about how dangerous the offender is.

Your ability to be granted bail may hinge on your genes.


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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by mhajicek on Wednesday January 22 2020, @04:41PM (14 children)

    by mhajicek (51) on Wednesday January 22 2020, @04:41PM (#946875)

    If it turns out there are genetic predispositions for crime, then can't the accused argue that it's not his fault, he was just born that way?

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    The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
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  • (Score: 2) by BsAtHome on Wednesday January 22 2020, @04:48PM

    by BsAtHome (889) on Wednesday January 22 2020, @04:48PM (#946878)

    Yes, and then argue that the parents must be punished for conceiving the accused. Because, if it is genetic, then it is the parent's fault.

    Why stop with the parents? Just blame the whole family and retrospectively punish the family lines as far as history goes. That'll teach 'm!

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by ikanreed on Wednesday January 22 2020, @04:56PM (10 children)

    by ikanreed (3164) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 22 2020, @04:56PM (#946883) Journal

    What is fault?

    In our legal system, fault is committing an action knowing the consequences might be harmful(mens rea). When someone makes an argument for insanity as reason they're not liable in court, the case is based on literally being incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions. No "predisposition to crime" (which by the way is a ludicrously over-reductionist connection between biology and behavior) will render you unable to do that.

    What it might cause(and our long-standing social psychology and psychiatry research already knows this as anti-social personality disorder) is poor impulse control or lowered empathy. In the end, it points the same place all research on criminality already does, which is that it's something that requires treatment and reeducation more than punishment.

    • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Wednesday January 22 2020, @06:08PM (2 children)

      by hemocyanin (186) on Wednesday January 22 2020, @06:08PM (#946917) Journal

      There are gazillions of crimes in America for which intent is irrelevant. https://www.deseret.com/1997/1/10/19288638/unser-says-he-was-lost-when-he-went-into-wilderness-area [deseret.com]

      • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Wednesday January 22 2020, @07:07PM (1 child)

        by ikanreed (3164) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 22 2020, @07:07PM (#946956) Journal

        You're confusing "intent to break the law" with "doing something you know risks breaking the law, recklessly". The latter has always been prosecutable. Mens rea isn't restricted to "purposeful" merely "willful". See: killing someone while drunk driving(which by the way, was part of the reason Usner was alleged to have been acting recklessly; your article didn't mention that)

        It's just like the example I gave, pulling trigger on a revolver with just one round, and arguing you didn't intend to commit murder. Your intentions matter inasmuch as they can construct a case where you intended to do the right thing and avoid breaking the law to the best of your abilities. It's really the same deal as entrapment, if all that happened is you got talked into doing something illegal, you were willing to do something illegal. Whereas if you were coerced into doing something illegal by lawful order(i.e. you know a cop is telling you to do it), then you're entrapped.

        • (Score: 4, Interesting) by hemocyanin on Wednesday January 22 2020, @09:54PM

          by hemocyanin (186) on Wednesday January 22 2020, @09:54PM (#947035) Journal

          doing something you know risks breaking the law, recklessly

          There are so many laws even the ABA can't count them due to the way we have statutes and agency rules interpreting them. Your view of the legal system in the US is not consonant with reality. Breaking the law -- not just infractions, but actual felonies -- is probably a daily occurrence for most people as a result of the vast number of laws for which intent is not an issue: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704471504574438900830760842 [wsj.com]

          See also: https://fedsoc.org/commentary/publications/morally-innocent-legally-guilty-the-case-for-mens-rea-reform [fedsoc.org]

          I just realized that I've committed the Federal Crime of writing a check for less than a dollar, as has the State in which I live also violated that Federal law -- I once got a check for 7cents from the state: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/336 [cornell.edu]

          Whoever makes, issues, circulates, or pays out any note, check, memorandum, token, or other obligation for a less sum than $1, intended to circulate as money or to be received or used in lieu of lawful money of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 22 2020, @10:18PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 22 2020, @10:18PM (#947045)

      You can't "treat" or "reeducate" the sociopath, especially if they have good acting abilities. The most humane thing to do with them is isolate them. Of course what we don't know is if sociopathy is genetic, something that can be found in other life forms, or if it is nurtured by one's environment.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 22 2020, @11:55PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 22 2020, @11:55PM (#947103)

        what we don't know is if sociopathy is genetic [...] or if it is nurtured by one's environment.

        There are both genetic predisposition and environmental triggers for Personality Disorders. [nih.gov]

        something that can be found in other life form

        No [psychologytoday.com] - until you meet the sadistic, manipulative little bastard that is my cat.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 22 2020, @11:26PM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 22 2020, @11:26PM (#947088)

      What it might cause(and our long-standing social psychology and psychiatry research already knows this as anti-social personality disorder) is poor impulse control or lowered empathy.

      Prenatal exposure to elevated testosterone levels correlate strongly with lowered empathy. Poor impulse control correlates with low IQ but also OFC [nih.gov] impairment. ASPD [tandfonline.com] is nowhere near granular enough to be an effective diagnostic criteria.

      In the end, it points the same place all research on criminality already does, which is that it's something that requires treatment and reeducation more than punishment.

      I'm disagreeing here; ASPD and NPD are notoriously untreatable and attempts at therapy typically make the subject worse. If classical conditioning works for a subject diagnosed with ASPD due to low IQ and machiavellian traits, it doesn't work [sciencedirect.com] for the rest. Malevolence through the dehumanization and objectification of others, combined with playing the victim themselves is the sociopaths modus operandi. I afford them zero sympathy, if any subgroup deserve to be dehumanized they alone earn that right. Unfortunately, I doubt a DNA test alone will ever be sufficient to reliably identify them.

      • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Thursday January 23 2020, @12:25AM (3 children)

        by ikanreed (3164) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 23 2020, @12:25AM (#947120) Journal

        The only exceptions I make for people never deserving dehumanization is those choosing to engage in what Kant termed "radical evil", which is the conscious and purposeful decision to engage in moral calculus that places yourself above others. Merely failing to be moral is nothing compared to understanding morality and choosing to not heed it.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23 2020, @02:03AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23 2020, @02:03AM (#947169)

          Kant is close to cancelled [openculture.com] and the postmodern interpretation eschews the moral imperative in favor of the immorality of morality:P Did you know the original terminology for what we call sociopathy was "moral imbecile"? [wiley.com] Does lacking a conscience [webmd.com] and being incapable of understanding a moral calculus make predatory behavior excusable?

          I say not and do not consider the imposition of morality on the amoral to be immoral. Also, that last sentence should never be read aloud.

          • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Thursday January 23 2020, @02:22PM

            by ikanreed (3164) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 23 2020, @02:22PM (#947393) Journal

            Of course it's not excusable. It always represents something gone wrong when one person harms another. I just think it's quite rare that the problem is insufficient punishment and deterrence

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23 2020, @05:31AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23 2020, @05:31AM (#947252)

          One thing you should keep in mind is that I think that those who engage in substantially amoral behavior probably do have literally different brains in that they may perceive the wrongness of their action, but in a different way than you or I such that it obviously doesn't have the same repugnaciousness.

          People like to imagine that environmental situation drives people to crime, but it's well argued against by a simple observation. The vast majority of those in poverty do not resort to crime. I have lived through times being dirt poor in poverty where each meal was a struggle. I never once even considered going to get a gun (and yeah, I did have sufficient 'connections' to get a gun for about $20 if I wanted) to start trying to rob people to get some money. That's just plainly absurd. You can also see the same thing in places with deeply impoverished nations, but ones with little genetic proclivity for crime. China is a land of massive poverty, and also will soon have the largest number of billionaires in the world. Yet crime remains completely negligible. Again so many social science theories are easily refuted by observation. The one I reference there is that wealth inequality causes crime.

          The point I make with all of this is that it's comforting to imagine we might only punish those who were, more or less, like us yet chose to 'turn to the darkside.' Yet there's every possibility that such a person simply does not exist. So ultimately I have no problem dehumanizing those who make society unsafe. The exceptions I make are for 'crimes of the moment.' I've no doubt there's more room for rehabilitation from a man who killed another in a heated argument than there is for a man who picked up a gun and went around robbing strangers.

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 22 2020, @04:58PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 22 2020, @04:58PM (#946884)

    When a dog attacks a person few would think the dog is truly, cognitively, at fault. They're animals and animals brain's don't necessarily have the same ability to control themselves or process information in the way that we do. Yet far from being an argument for the dog's innocence, that is exactly the reason that they tend to be put down after such a situation. Because that animal has shown itself to be unable to behave within a civilized society and so there's a real risk of it acting out again.

    For a person we of course grant greater rights to, but it's really the exact same thing. Some guy claiming that he can't control himself is not a defense. Especially if it's true, he needs to be locked away for a long time. Some might propose shipping him off to a mental asylum to be pumped full of anti-psychotic and other "medications" but all these things really do is dull somebody to the point of them becoming a human zombie. I find jail, ironically, more humane.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24 2020, @07:47PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24 2020, @07:47PM (#948086)

    can't the accused argue that it's not his fault, he was just born that way?

    Don't go too far down that path because if the accused keep arguing that they can't control themselves then the State will conveniently try to control them even more... Or discarded even more easily.

    As for genetic dispositions see the cases of domesticated foxes/rats/etc:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/25/health/25rats.html [nytimes.com]

    On an animal-breeding farm in Siberia are cages housing two colonies of rats. In one colony, the rats have been bred for tameness in the hope of mimicking the mysterious process by which Neolithic farmers first domesticated an animal still kept today. When a visitor enters the room where the tame rats are kept, they poke their snouts through the bars to be petted.

    The other colony of rats has been bred from exactly the same stock, but for aggressiveness instead. These animals are ferocious. When a visitor appears, the rats hurl themselves screaming toward their bars.

    There was far more to Belyaev’s experiment than the production of tame foxes. He developed a parallel colony of vicious foxes, and he started domesticating other animals, like river otters and mink.

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/mans-new-best-friend-a-forgotten-russian-experiment-in-fox-domestication/ [scientificamerican.com]

    Interestingly there seems to be a link to appearance too:

    Domesticated animals of widely different species seem to share some common traits: changes in body size, in fur coloration, in the timing of the reproductive cycle. Their hair or fur becomes wavy or curly; they have floppy ears and shortened or curly tails.

    So it's likely it would be possible to breed even tamer humans. Our self-domestication and "breeding program" has certainly been a lot more haphazard ;). But should tameness really be a priority goal?