Hijacked by Sociologists

This November’s issue of the Journal of Criminal Justice Education contains an article by Dr. John P. Wright of the University of Cincinnati (and colleagues) decrying the lack of exposure provided to advanced criminal justice students about the biological and genetic findings associated with aggression and violence (Lombroso’s Legacy: The Miseducation of Criminologists). Referred to as the miseducation of criminologists, he places the bulk of the blame for this omission on sociologists who have dominated the field for several decades.

Wright provides three empirically supported reasons for this problem. First, he argues that since the majority of criminal justice and criminology professors are liberal or hold radical views on crime causation which are ideologically opposed to individualist explanations of crime, sociological explanations are more relevant and biological theories are discounted. As a result, he states that the domination of these sociopolitical viewpoints has resulted in a general lack of objectivity among researchers.

Second, he notes that biological theories have been unfairly connected to eugenics and fascism which permit criminologists to ostracize these ideas. Dr. Wright adds that the same uncomfortable standard is ignored regarding the dark history of sociological theories in that they were held strongly by such infamous leaders as Mao and Stalin—leaders who were responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.

Finally, he believes that biological theories are not debated as they should due to the idea that criminologists and sociologists tend to ignore concepts that are considered “dangerous.” Research that attempts to better understand individual and group differences is commonly labeled as racist and/or supporting future attempts by government authorities suppress citizens. Therefore, biological theories should be ignored.

He also includes an entertaining quote from V.L. van de Berghe regarding how sociologists have refused to allow biology and neuroscience to enter their thinking and believes that it is applicable to criminologists as well:

Sociological resistance to biological thinking is in large part trained incompetence…Many sociologists are not merely oblivious to biology; they are militantly and proudly ignorant… Blessed be the biologically ignorant for they shall see the Kingdom of Sociology.

I took a class with Dr. Wright previously, had a few discussions with him, and found him to be one of those fascinating knowledgeable and rebellious types. My guess is that he developed a very strong resolve during his journey in higher education in that he obtained his PhD after coming from a military background—-which is the road less traveled in academia. He is not afraid to stand against the majority, but the odds are certainly against him in his fight to free criminology and criminal justice from the death grip of the sociologist hijackers.


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Okay, so Wright believes that all criminals have some kind of criminal gene or just some do? I will have to look this up because other than mental illness, I don't think I have ever heard of a biological explanation for crime that has been proven.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Interesting related article that exemplifies what you discussed in this posting: http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/jones.html