The New Zealand terrorist attack that happened earlier this month has left a bitter taste in everyone’s life. The official number of deaths has risen to 50 people and 36 remain hospitalized, including 9 people in critical condition. The shooter was identified as 28-year-old Australian citizen Brenton Harrison Tarrant, and has been charged with mass murder.
Many would argue that the reasons behind the shooter’s violent and Islamophobic behaviour is most certainly related to psychological problems and mental instability. However, relatively new neuro-psychological and genetics studies suggests differently. As a matter of fact, research has proved that the “impulse of killing” or violent behaviour in general may not be the consequence of a psychological problem but a consequence of a hereditary gene called “Warrior Gene” instead.
The whistle was blown more than a decade ago in 1993 where studies noticed that monozygotic also known as identical twins, (twins whom were derived from the same egg therefore share the same genes) tend to have the same temperament even when they are separated from birth. For example, if one of the twins developed an aggressive behaviour in their adulthood, the other would be aggressive as well irrespectively from the fact that they were separated at birth or grew up together. This however was not found in dizygotic twins or fraternal (twins that come from two separate eggs, therefore they don’t share the same genes). All this proved that violent actions were more genetically related than psychologically related.
The studies related to the warrior genes were discovered later on in 2004.
The Warrior Gene also known as MAOA-L is a variant of the gene MAOA in the chromosome X, which is an enzyme that interacts with neurotransmitters (Brain “messengers” that make communication between neurons possible) dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. The variant of the gene (MAOA-L) creates MAOA “knockouts” which often results in a low level of the enzyme in our body. The new genetic studies conducted in Finland suggests that there is a correlation between luck of MAOA and criminals convicted for violent crimes in Finland. Nevertheless, the jurisdiction seems to ignore such studies as it would create a great dilemma and an endless debate on how to convict killers. If a killer didn’t murder because of free will but as a result of a potential medical condition (abnormal gene), it could possibly lower the penalty or maybe exempt them from any charges at all; which subsequently means that the victim’s family would not be able to receive the justice they are yearning for.
At the same time considering such studies could possibly mean finding a solution to massive killing and lower crime rates in the country. This is due to the fact that even if not curable the violent behaviour could improve by the assumption of medicines that could increase the levels of MAOA in those individuals with low level of the enzyme.
The debate is still open and most scientists are still sceptical on the studies as they are convinced that behavioural issues within an individual is strictly related in the circumstances and the environment who they surrounded by.