March 19. 2006April 23, 2006Meeting Report

April 7, 2006

Panel Discussion

The Roots of Violence

The meeting was led by a panel of two HAGSA members, Beverly Church and Wayne Luney, and was intended to explore the roots of human violence.

Wayne led off, drawing heavily on the ideas expounded in the book, "The Sociopath Next Door," by Martha Stout. Dr. Stout claims that about 4% of the American population consists of sociopaths, people without a conscience who cannot feel any guilt about their hurtful actions. Sociopaths are more likely to end up in prison than are normal people but are not necessarily criminals. Some may be very manipulative without actually breaking any laws. Neither are all criminals sociopaths.

However, Dr. Stout maintains that there is a clearly genetic component to sociopathy for good Darwinian reasons. They may be more effective soldiers than normal persons, because they won’t have any guilt about their actions. In normal civil society they can be a serious problem. The legal system can help protect the rest of us from them but if one (Hitler, for example) gains the reins of government he can turn the normal human response to obey authority towards highly destructive ends and do orders of magnitude more damage than can an individual criminal.

Beverly continued in the same theme and in general terms brought in her experience in working for the Juvenile Division of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, formerly the California Youth Authority. She also brought in the insights of persons like Robert Hare and others who have studied the problem.

The program ended with a question and answer period in which the two panelists fielded a lot of good questions from the audience.

Report prepared by Wayne Luney, Recorder


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