Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting’s (FAIR) Steve Rendall has written an excellent critique [click here to read it] of former New York Times science columnist Nicholas Wade’s racist views, which Wade rationalized by applying a genetic determinist argument. Rendall asks why it took the Times so long to finally see through (did they?) Wade’s racist framework, which it published for three decades on its pages. Here, I write to supplement Rendall’s work and show how genetic determinism is used by capitalist “science” to repress people. -MITCHEL COHEN
Is Violence in Your Genes?
Psychology, Racism, & the Violence Initiative Project
“Unemployment runs in the genes just like bad teeth.”
- Richard Herrnstein, Princeton University, co-author of “The Bell Curve”1
In the 1980s, a small but influential group of prize-winning scientists were trying to prove that black children were, on average, less intelligent than white children. Intelligence, they said, ran “in the genes” of racial groups. Their evidence? They reviewed a series of infamous studies of twins who had been separated at birth and raised far from each other. The studies were designed to prove that behavior is genetically determined. They also compiled results from IQ tests across the country and subjected them to statistical analysis, which, they claimed, showed a differential between racial groups. This alleged differential, they went on, was due to genetic factors.2 These scientists – all of whom were white – concluded that black people were genetically inferior to whites when it came to intelligence.
And yet these scientists made a number of critical errors trying to squeeze their round “facts” into square holes. First, the variation of IQ scores within each racial group far outstripped the differential between racial groups. Second, what exactly did these tests measure? Were they culturally or racially biased? A large body of work during the 1970s and early 1980s had discredited the notion that standardized IQ tests measured anything “objective” at all.3 Lastly, Sir Cyril Burt’s “twins’ studies,” on which many racially charged IQ assertions had been based, turned out to have been fabricated, and the benighted scientist’s reputation now lies in tatters, his name disgraced.
Although such racially based intelligence theories never fully disappeared, they were roundly discredited scientifically.4 In fact, as professor Gerald Horne of the University of California at Santa Barbara writes,
“[R]esearch is never ‛neutral.’ Who asks the questions, what questions are asked and what ones ignored, who pays for the research, who interprets the results are all subjective decisions outside the realm of ‛pure science.’ The bias is built in.”5
With the publication of The Bell Curve in the early 1990s by Herrnstein and Murray, some of the same quack theorists re-emerged and, with new jargon, proceeded to offer the same white-supremacist views in the guise of new “scientific research.”6
Today, some scientists are again proposing biologically deterministic explanations for behavior, but instead of focusing on a genetic basis of “intelligence” they now substitute the more au courant “violence” – a hereditary characteristic of Black and Latino people, they say. The recent biology-and-crime movement was kicked off by the publication in 1985 of Crime and Human Nature by James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein.7 A major media campaign followed, leading in 1992 to a report by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council. Titled Understanding and Preventing Violence, the report called for more attention to “biological and genetic factors” in violent crime, new pharmaceuticals that reduce “violent” behavior, and studies of “whether male or black persons have a higher potential for violence.”8 Scientists now seek to control the alleged “genetic predisposition” of black children to commit criminal acts of violence, by medicating them before aggressive behavior and violence ensue.
And so, under the aegis of the federally funded Violence Initia-tive Project, Gail Wasserman, a professor of child psychiatry at Columbia University, and Daniel Pine, a medical doctor associated with the same institution, have picked up where the discredited racially based intelligence theories of Jensen, Herrnstein, Eysenck, Shockley and Murray left off.9 They led a team of researchers in performing numerous experiments, partly funded by federal tax dollars, on Black and Latino children as young as six years of age.10 Dr. Wasserman, in her funding proposal to establish a “behavioral disorders” center at Columbia University’s Department of Child Psychiatry, wrote that “it is proper to focus on blacks and other minorities as they are overrepresented in the courts and not well studied.”11 In one such “study” at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Wasserman and her cohorts took thirty-four healthy boys, aged 6 to 10, and administered the dangerous drug, fenfluramine.12 Fenfluramine is the primary ingredient in the diet drug “fen phen,” which was banned by the U.S. government.13 The boys were all from impoverished families; 44 percent were African American and 56 percent were Hispanic. they received intravenous doses of the drug fenfluramine hydroxide over a five-and-a-half-hour period, and blood was drawn hourly.
The clinicians hypothesized that they could counter the alleged racially inherited genetic predisposition to aggressive behavior and violence by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Some studies have correlated low serotonin levels with aggressive behavior. Despite the lack of clear evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship, the researchers hypothesized that genetically determined levels of serotonin are further reduced by socially adverse child-rearing practices in Black and Latino families. Through medication, they say, they could increase serotonin levels, counter the negative effects of “adverse child rearing,” and thus prevent the youths from committing acts of violence.14 This despite the fact that most of the children had not committed any acts of violence at all.
Ninety percent of adult subjects experience side effects from a single dose of fenfluramine, and here Wasserman and Pine were administering it to children. Effects of a single dose of fenfluramine on adults “frequently include diarrhea, nausea, a feeling of being ‛high’ and irritability.”15 U.S. Food and Drug Administration studies show that the drug can cause severe heart valve damage in adults,16 as well as a fatal condition known as pulmonary hypertension17 and, in animal studies, microscopic damage to brain cells lasting up to eighteen months. Yet Wasserman and Pine, in conjunction with the New York State Psychiatric Institute, proceeded to administer fenfluramine to children, in doses eight times higher than that which caused damage in monkeys’ brains, even after the drug had been banned in September 1997.
The children were selected because they 1) were Black or Latino, and 2) each had older siblings who had been delinquents known to the Family Court. The children’s names and addresses were – and continue to be – sorted and channeled by government officials on the public payroll at the Department of Probation and the New York City Board of Education, and passed along to the researchers. When local newspapers exposed this insidious involvement of public officials, a Board of Education spokesperson denied that students had been referred for the purpose of participating in research,18 but the documents prove the Board was lying. In fact, reported New York Newsday, the Board’s Committee on Special Education “worked closely with the researchers from the beginning.”19 Indeed, the original proposal submitted to the National Institute of Mental Health referred to the special education committee as “one particularly productive referral source,” and noted that researchers had made “successful liaisons with a number of schools and agencies throughout the New York metropolitan area.” A Department of Probation memo confirmed that agency’s active participation in Dr. Wasserman’s “effort to identify early predictors of anti-social behavior.”20
Similar experiments have been going on at Queens College and the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and at facilities throughout the United States, under the rubric of the National Violence Initiative Project, supervised and funded through the National Institute of Mental Health.21 By claiming genetic predisposition, psychiatrists are able to tap into the hundreds of millions of dollars available for genetic research. That’s the new claim for why people do anything: commit violent crimes, engage in homosexual or heterosexual behavior, come down with certain cancers, even commit murder – it’s in the genes. The money, in turn, has fueled all sorts of similar projects, including new methods for genetically frisking prisoners for “bad DNA”. Corrections officials are collecting samples of prisoners’ DNA, computerizing the sequences and storing them for future use.
Far less money is spent on researching the effects of toxic byproducts of industrial production and chemical agriculture on the incidence of cancer and various immune compromising diseases. Instead, funding – and thus the blame – is shifted to an individual or group’s biological makeup and their supposed “genetic predisposition” toward cancer, aggressiveness and other conditions.22
Today, psychosurgery, lobotomies, and electroshock “therapies” are making a comeback, as well as medicalization of what are fundamentally socially or environmentally caused ailments and behaviors. New and dangerous genetically engineered drugs are being tested on prisoners, soldiers and mental patients institutionalized in asylums or warehoused in impoverished inner city slums, Indian reservations, and Third World countries.23 To the giant pharmaceutical corporations, as well as to the government, these people are available as human guinea pigs. The Violence Initiative Project is the new face of what can best be described as Nazi “science” with an American accent.
CHALLENGING GENETIC REDUCTIONISM
Holistic thinking is, to say the least, not one of Western science’s strong points. In the U.S. there is a tendency to think in terms of cause and effect, every effect determined by its singular cause, every trait an expression of its singular gene. But scientists can rarely predict the full effects of altering a single gene on an individual organism, let alone the effects on larger ecosystems in which plants, animals and micro-organisms evolve in symbiotic relation to each other.24 Experiments in gene therapy have caused the deaths of relatively healthy patients. The Food and Drug Administration finally ordered a halt to human gene therapy experiments at the University of Pennsylvania – and a review of such experiments throughout the United States – after an inspection uncovered “numerous serious deficiencies” in patient safety during a clinical trial that cost an 18-year-old Arizona man his life.25
Critics of genetic reductionism, such as cell biologist Stuart Newman, have described multi-tiered and interactive mechanisms of development, cell morphogenesis and pattern formation, which rely on such non-reductionist factors as the position of a cell with respect to other cells.26 The whole shapes the parts as much as the parts generate the whole. According to Newman, the interactions between living cells and their environment give rise to a vast number of possible developmental pathways. Genes can be seen as repositories of development that has already happened, rather than factors determining what is going to happen. Summing up one of his many investigations, Newman writes:
“Both cells and ecosystems can thus be analyzed as highly complex networks of large numbers of components undergoing mutually dependent changes in their relative abundances. But while this way of thinking is common among ecologists, it is not well suited to making precise predictions, and has failed to take hold to any significant extent in cell biology. Instead, the most common intellectual framework of cell and molecular biologists is a reductionist approach. … [Understanding of the whole] is sacrificed in favor of exact knowledge of a more limited set of phenomena.”27
The scientists working on the Violence Initiative Project are among those trapped in this reductionist framework. They start where the book The Bell Curve leaves off – the search for the gene or biological configuration that “causes” criminal behavior and the assumption that intelligence, poverty, and criminal behavior is the result of “deficient” genes.28 The Violence Initiative is a well-funded attempt to assert a genetic predisposition to committing violent crime, and to paint this predisposition with a racial brush. Young white males are seen as “less violent”, and thus not genetically predisposed to aggressive behavior. Why? Because criminal records show that a much greater percentage of Black people and Latinos are involved in the criminal justice system.29 The Violence Initiative Project seeks to provide scientific cover for such circular reasoning, and for the police and government repression that has led to the criminalization of more than one-third of all Black males in the United States.
The race-based “biological theory of aggression” is neither new nor scientific. One champion of the Violence Initiative, Dr. Frederick Goodwin, defended the “theory” before the National Health Advisory Council in February 1992:
“If you look, for example, at male monkeys, especially in the wild, roughly half of them survive to adulthood. The other half die by violence … and, in fact, there are some interesting evolutionary implications of that because the same hyperaggressive monkeys who kill each other are also hypersexual, so they copulate more and therefore they reproduce more to offset the fact that half of them are dying. … [M]aybe it isn’t just the careless use of the word when people call certain areas of certain cities jungles, that we may have gone back to what might be more natural, without all of the social controls that we have imposed upon ourselves as a civilization over thousands of years in our own evolution.”30
Goodwin follows a long line of proponents of racial supremacy who have traded the Ku Klux Klan’s white sheets for white lab coats. They argue that social problems are caused by biologically defective members of oppressed classes; society can be improved by identifying and eliminating the propagation of these “defectives.” In the 1850s, Louisiana physician Samuel Cartwright described a mental disease of slaves called “drapetomania,” which ‘caused’ its victims to run away from their masters. (The physician could not conceive that slaves would run away as a conscious decision in rejection of the conditions they faced.) A century later, American physicians Vernon Mark, Frank Ervin and William Sweet proposed that urban rebellions were caused by brain damaged individuals who could be cured by psychosurgery (lobotomy). They received almost $1 million in federal funding.31
In the 1970s, O.J. Andy, director of Neurosurgery at the University of Mississippi, published reports on invasive surgeries he had performed on children who were said to be developmentally disabled; all were Black. Dr. Peter Breggin describes one of Andy’s subjects, a 9-year-old boy said to be “hyperactive, aggressive, combative, explosive, destructive and sadistic.”32 Over a three year period, Andy operated on the child on four different occasions and implanted electrodes in his brain. Andy concluded, in a 1970 article, that this “patient” was no longer combative or aggressive. In actuality, Andy had mashed the child’s brain, suppressing intellect and emotion, and disabled the child by turning him into a vegetable. Dr. Andy claimed, according to Breggin, that “the kind of brain damage that could necessitate such radical surgery might be manifested by participation in the Watts Uprising in 1965. Such people,” he diagnosed, “could have abnormal pathological brains.”33
The Coalition Against the Violence Initiative (CAVI) is leading the campaign against such misuses of science. CAVI claims that aggressive, violent or criminal behavior is no more determined by genes than is the desire to study the “inheritance” of violence or the “predisposition” to become a corporate lawyer (which often runs in the family). One could argue that police, generals, football players and many others have inherited a gene that predisposes them to committing acts of violence, not to mention corporate executives and politicians who murder with their pens. Yet no one is studying their “genetic predisposition” to aggressive behavior. Capitalism itself is inherently violent; the removal of the products of labor from the ownership and control of those who produce them – which is the underlying basis for this system – requires an enormous level of violence, and the system selects for those personalities capable of ministering to capital’s needs. The society we live in validates that violence, but it becomes part of the social substrate and most people don’t see it as abnormal or, for that matter, as violent. People shape social conditions, and these in turn strongly influence their activities and behavior.
The reductionist and biodeterminist approach exemplified by the Violence Initiative Project is rampant in the scientific establishment’s approach to social ills. In November 1998, researchers distributed a memo to staff at George Washington High School in Upper Manhattan announcing a survey to be done on freshmen “at risk” for “negative behaviors.” By now, we should all have an idea of what “at risk” means. Youngsters so designated are to be sent to the clinic run by Columbia Presbyterian and the Columbia School of Public Health, for “assessment.” CAVI sent a strongly worded letter to the principal outlining its concerns and calling for the cancellation of the survey. Members passed out leaflets to students and parents alerting them to the dangers and advising them not to sign consent forms. Members of Lawyers for the Public Interest also called the school, as did a number of individual teachers whom the Coalition had contacted. Eventually the principal canceled the survey.
Yet, despite occasional victories for those resisting genetic manipulation, the Violence Initiative Project, along with the biotech industry, is charging ahead full speed, dismissing all who dare to question both the Project’s and the industry’s apparent willingness to sacrifice our lives and environment in their rush for profits and social control of oppositional forces. In a brilliant article scathing the project, Gerald Horne wrote:
“Under the Initiative, researchers will use alleged genetic and biochemical markers to identify potentially violent minority children as young as five for biological and behavioral interventions – including drug therapy and possibly psychosurgery [electro-shock and lobotomies] – purportedly aimed at preventing later adult violence.
“The Initiative specifically rejects any examination of social, economic, or political questions, such as racism, poverty, or unemployment. Instead, this biomedical approach focuses heavily on the alleged role of the brain neurotransmitter, serotonin, in violence. Not coincidentally, this approach is favored by many in the medical industry.”34
Dr. Peter Breggin, a leading analyst in the field, has observed that this approach “corresponds with the current financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry, since several drugs affecting serotonin neurotransmission have been submitted for approval to the Food and Drug Administration. … The controversial antidepressant, Prozac, is the first of these serotonergic drugs, and it has become the largest moneymaker in the pharmaceutical industry.”35
Against this backdrop, NIH provided a hefty $100,000 grant for a conference entitled “Genetic Factors in Crime: Findings, Uses and Implications,” sponsored by the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland. The promotional brochure promised that “genetic research holds out the prospect of identifying individuals who may be predisposed to certain kinds of criminal conduct, of isolating environmental features which trigger those predispositions, and of treating some predispositions with drugs and unintrusive therapies.”36 Genetic research also gains impetus from the shortcomings of liberal “environmental” approaches to crime: deterrence, diversion and rehabilitation.37 The “liberal paradigm” exchanges a sort of environmental or social/cultural determinism for the prevailing genetic determinist model. A more holistic, radical paradigm would challenge the idea of “determinism” altogether, leading towards much more interactive, non-linear approaches as developed by social movements in conjunction with socially engaged scientists. The failure of the liberal paradigm, and the dismissal of alternative models, have now allowed the focus to shift to exclusively genetic and medical “solutions.”
Radicals, however, have succeeded in leaving a mark. In the 1970s we managed to beat back attempts by William Shockley and others to lay a pseudo-scientific basis for the racial inheritance of intelligence, and the disastrous policy implications being pursued at the time, by refuting each and every “scientific” assertion they made, as well as by exposing their funding sources. So too with opposition to the Violence Initiative Project, at least initially. Gerald Horne writes:
“The ensuing protest caused NIH to freeze conference funding – temporarily. The objections were led by enraged African Americans concerned that, in these dangerous times, such a project could easily be transformed into directed genocide. Their concern was not assuaged when it was revealed that Reagan appointee Marianne Mele Hall proclaimed that black and brown people are culturally or even genetically inferior. They have been conditioned, she said, “by 10,000 years of selective breeding for personal combat and the anti-work ethic of jungle freedoms,” and were therefore unfit for civic life. Great Society programs just ‛spoiled’ them, she argued, “encouraging a sense of entitlements that led to laziness, drug use, and crime, particularly crime against whites.”38
This brings us back to Goodwin. When we last left him, he was being chastised for making similar reference to jungles and comparing Black people with monkeys. “By associating African Americans with monkeys and ‛hypersexuality,’” Horne writes, Goodwin “tapped into a wellspring of racist sentiment.”39 Dr. Louis Sullivan, U.S. President George Bush’s Health and Human Services Secretary, joined many others in criticizing Goodwin’s remarks. But Goodwin’s disfavor lasted barely a week. Sullivan soon rewarded Goodwin by appointing him head of the influential National Institute of Mental Health, a post not requiring Senate approval. His first project as head of this Institute was to approve the initial funding for the National Violence Initiative.40
THE RESULTS ARE IN
The long awaited results of the “studies” on young children are now in, and they are exactly the reverse of what had been expected. The children thought to be genetically and hormonally “predisposed” to aggression and violence due to low serotonin levels and bad parenting, turned out to have normal or elevated serotonin levels.
Case closed? Guess again. Since Wasserman, Pine, et al. had determined in advance what their conclusions were to be, and since their golden egg-laying goose needed to be coaxed yet again for further funding, they “explained” these results by inventing, out of thin air, the conclusion that serotonin has the opposite effect in children as in adults.41 Perhaps, they speculated, high serotonin in childhood leads to low serotonin in adults. Thus, they took a group of Black and Latino youth with no history of trouble, in whom no expected abnormalities were found, whose serotonin levels were basically normal or slightly higher than expected and waved their magic wand, to draw more funds for their questionable research.
Similar projects are underway throughout the New York area and, indeed, throughout the U.S., as is resistance to them. The Coalition Against the Violence Initiative has targeted the New York Psychiatric Institute on a number of occasions. In 1999, a small group from the Coalition picketed a conference on “Mood & Anxiety Disorders in Children” where Daniel Pine was a featured speaker. Illustrating the incestuous arrangements that are increasingly common, the “scientific” program was supported in part by a grant from Solvay Pharmaceuticals. Two women were arrested and dragged out of the proceedings after attempting to hang a banner from the balcony opposing the racist psychiatric abuse of children. They were strip-searched by guards while awaiting arraignment, and faced criminal charges.
The Coalition fears that those most affected by Wasserman, Pine, et al. – the parents and children – remain largely uninformed about the nature and outlook of the studies being conducted on them. Activists remain as skeptical as ever about the labeling of a large number of children, disproportionately minority and poor children, as having mental illness, and about the role of genetic explanations in legitimizing racial supremacist ideas and behavior – in the name of “science.” Those honestly concerned about children’s mental health should take action to heal their environment, in the familial as well as the broader sense, rather than looking for genetic, hormonal and other causes of children’s distress within the youths’ biological makeup.
The interface between funding and research has always been an awkward match in the U.S. The Violence Initiative Project is another way of deploying new levels of repression, using the rhetoric of “science” as a smokescreen for white supremacist ideology and control.
This essay was published in 2001 in “Redesigning Life? The Worldwide Challenge to Genetic Engineering,” ed. by Brian Tokar, and in Z Magazine.
- Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Bell Curve: The Reshaping of American Life by Differences in Intelligence, New York: Free Press, 1994.
- Russell Jacoby and Naomi Glauberman, ed., The Bell Curve Debate, New York: Random House, 1995.
- See Blair Horner, NYPIRG. Many individual black children score higher on IQ tests than many individual white kids. In fact, there was and is no valid way of predicting how an individual child of any ethnic or racial background would perform on standardized IQ tests, all other factors aside.
- Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man, W.W. Norton, New York: 1981, pp. 234-320.
- Gerald Horne, “Race Backwards: Genes, Violence, Race and Genocide,” CovertAction Quarterly, Winter 1992-93, p.34.
- Herrnstein and Murray, op cit. For a trenchant critique of Herrnstein and Murray within the genetics field, see Lori B. Andrews and Dorothy Nelkin, “The Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Human Genome Research,” letter to Science, January 5 1996, on behalf of the National Institutes of Health-Department of Energy Joint Working Group. The authors conclude: “Genetic arguments cannot and should not be used to determine or inform social policy in the areas cited by Herrnstein and Murray. Since the lessons of genetics are not deterministic, they do not provide useful information on deciding whether or not to pursue various programs to enhance the capabilities of different members of society. Those decisions are moral, social, and political ones.”
- James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein, Crime and Human Nature, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986.
- Albert Reiss and Jeffrey Roth, eds. Understanding and Preventing Violence, Washington, DC: US National Research Council, 1993.
- In 1999, the Novartis corporation – one of the top three genetic engineering firms – dusted off and feted eugenicist Arthur Jensen at its functions.
- See, for example, Daniel S. Pine, Coplan, Wasserman, Miller, Fried, Davies, Cooper, Greenhill, Shaffer, Parsons, “Neuroendocrine Response to Fenfluramine Challenge in Boys: Associations With Aggressive Behavior and Adverse Rearing,” in Archive of General Psychiatry, v 54, September 1997, pp839-846; Coccaro, Kavoussi, Cooper and Hauger, “Central Serotonin Activity and Aggression: Inverse Relationship with Proolactin Response to d-Fenfluramine, But Not CSDD 5-HIAA Concentration, in Human Subjects,” Am J Psychiatry, 154:10, October 1997; Antonia New, “Serotonin Related Genes and Impulsive Aggression in PD”, Grant #1R03MH57871-01, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, to National Institute of Mental Health, 1998; David Shaffer, “Center to Study Youth Depression, Anxiety and Suicide,” Project #5 p30 MH43878-08, NY State Psychiatric Institute, 1997.
- Gail Wasserman, Grant Application to the Lowenstein Foundation to Establish a Center for the Study and Prevention of Disruptive Behavior Disorders in Children at Columbia University Department of Child Psychiatry. She proposes a biological hypothesis in which subtle neurologic abnormalities and/or serotonin hypofunction impairs the ability to inhibit emotions or control behavior. (p. 131) The Lowenstein Foundation granted Wasserman $1.2 million to study the prediction and prevention of juvenile delinquency.
- Pine et al., “Neuroendocrine response,” pp839-40. Also, see Daniel S. Pine et al., “Platelet Serotonin 2A (5 HT 2A) Receptor Characteristics and Parenting Factors for Boys at Risk for Delinquency: A Preliminary Report,” Am J of Psych, 1996; 153: 538-39, which describes a second experiment conducted on the same 34 boys. (Note that the earlier study was published last, which is of importance in understanding the manipulation by the scientists of their research.)
- “Questions and Answers Concerning the Department of Health and Fenfluramine,” U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Nov. 13, 1997, at http://www.fda.gov/cder/news/fenqal11397.htm.
- Wasserman, Grant Application.
- Matthew F. Muldoon et al., “D. L Fenfluramine Challenge Test: Experience in Nonpatient Sample,” Biological Psych, 39:761, 765 (1996).
- Gina Kolata, “Two Popular Diet Pills Are Withdrawn from Market,” The New York Times, Sept. 16, 1997.
- Cliff Zucker, Disability Advocates, Inc., and Ruth Lowenkron, Disability Law Center, NY Lawyers for the Public Interest, Inc., December 23, 1997 letter to Clifford C. Sharke, Chief, Assurance Branch, Division of Human Subject Protections, Office of Protection from Research Risks, Rockville MD.
- “Half Truths and Consequences: Did Doctors Mislead the Parents of Kids they Experimented On?,” Village Voice, May 5, 1998; Douglas Montero, “Kid drug test foes picket new hosp site,” New York Post, May 9, 1998; “Thugs in Bassinets: Teen age violence, studies suggest, begins in the first three years of life,” The New York Times, May 17, 1998; Douglas Montero, “Drug test kids may have been forced: Kin hoped other sibs might benefit,” New York Post, June 12, 1998; Douglas Montero and Susan Edelman, “Ed. Board referred kids for drug study, New York Post, July 28, 1998; Kathleen Kerr, “Students Ended Up In Study: Psych referrals became part of drug research,” Newsday, July 28, 1998.
- “Kathleen Kerr, “Students Ended Up in Study,” Newsday, July 28, 1988, p. A3.
- Robert Stone, Branch Chief, Department of Probation, to: Manhattan Family Intake and Investigation Probation Officer, August 30, 1991. The memo was leaked by Probation Officer Renee Jackson, who has been subjected to harassment, changing job assignments, and constant pressure ever since.
- cf. New, Antonia, “Serotonin Related Genes and Impulsive Aggression in PD”, Grant #1R03MH57871-01, Mount Sinai School of Medicine of CUNY, Feb. 15, 1998 – Jan. 31, 2000, among others.
- See, for example, the much publicized “discovery” of the “gene that causes breast cancer,” and the ensuing panic the announcement has created these last few years, as a case in point. Meanwhile, the high incidence of environmentally generated breast cancer and its relationship to pesticides and other toxic chemicals in the environment, is given short shrift. In such a framework, the widespread social and environmental causes are ignored and the victim becomes targeted as the culprit. “It’s their own fault.” Or, if not their “fault,” the more liberal version goes, it’s still “in their genes, poor soul.”
- Norplant, for example, was given to Haitians before it was approved for the US market; similarly, recombinant Hepatitis vaccine was administered to the Lakota Sioux on the Pine Ridge reservation, Sabin oral polio vaccine in Africa, and genetically engineered anthrax vaccine to US soldiers beginning with the Gulf War in 1991.
- Most genetic “explanations” for behavior leaves out synergistic effects – interactions between living organisms creating complex environments – which create a feedback loop, reshaping the very organisms said to have “caused” the environment and transforming the entire relationship. In non-reductionist frameworks (which is how life actually works), the position of a cell in relation to other cells, for instance, affects its internal chemistry which in turn impacts on salt levels and other nutrients, which in turn affects the development of the body’s organs. [See Stuart Newman, “Generic physical mechanisms of morphogenesis and pattern formation as determinants in the evolution of multicellular organization,” Journal of Bioscience, 17:3, Sept. 1992, pp.193-215.] This highly complex interaction controverts the genetic determinist model of development that came to the fore in the 1960s, and which still dominates most collegiate texts and the public mindset. In that model, DNA determines genes, genes determine chromosomes, which determine cells, which determine tissues, which determine organs, which determine organisms, which (for some) determine behavior, and on out into the multi-layered cosmos. The genetic information of a segment of DNA – a gene – is transcribed into messenger RNA that in turn is translated into a protein, one to one to one.
But in the 1970s, “researchers made the surprising discovery that, in the cells of higher organisms, messenger RNA is altered by enzymes before its information is translated into protein (Chambon, 1981). In the language of genetics, pieces of RNA are excised from the molecule and the remaining pieces are fused to make the functional RNA that then serves as the template for protein synthesis. There is no one to one correspondence between DNA sequence and proteins.” [Craig Holderedge, “Genetics and the Manipulation of Life: The Forgotten Factor of Consequences,” Lindisdale Press.] Thus, Newman writes, “many molecular biologists, when asked to consider the impact of introducing new components into complex ecological systems, have remained within their reductionist framework and have dismissed the potential for ecological harm from the release of what they consider to be well-characterized entities.” [Stuart Newman, “Dynamic Balance in Living Systems,” GeneWATCH, (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Nov./Dec. 1985, pp.12-13. reprinted in Mitchel Cohen, “Biotechnology & the New World Order,” Red Balloon Publications, 1998.]
- Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Gene Therapy Ordered Halted at University,” The New York Times, Jan. 22, 2000. Stolberg writes: “The decision to place the entire program – eight experiments, including five active clinical trials in diseases ranging from cystic fibrosis to breast cancer – on ‛clinical hold’ is highly unusual. The hold is indefinite, agency officials said, and will not be lifted until the agency is convinced that the university’s Institute for Human Gene Therapy can follow federal rules designed to protect study volunteers from harm. The agency’s action comes two days after its investigators completed a detailed inspection of patient records and laboratory data from the experiment that killed the Tucson man, Jesse Gelsinger. … Mr. Gelsinger died of multiple organ failure caused by a severe immune reaction to an infusion of corrective genes and is the first person to have died as a direct result of gene therapy.”
- Stuart Newman, “Generic physical mechanisms,” op cit.
- Stuart Newman, “Dynamic Balance in Living Systems,” op cit.
- When pressed to concede that environmental factors do play some part, most geneticists argue that environment mostly serves to bring out inherited traits that are already present.
- cf. Richard Herrnstein, quoted in The New York Times, Jan. 31, 1992, p. A1, in which he supports the invented link between genetics and criminality: “These are stunning statistics,” he said, accepting (in Dr. Gerald Horne’s words), “the unproven innuendo of genetic causality.” (Covert Action, op cit.).
- Warren Leary, “Struggle Continues Over Remarks by Mental Health Official,” The New York Times, March 8, 1992, p. 34.
- Mark, Ervin & Sweet, “Violence and the Brain,” discuss the case of a young white male, Thomas K., who had undergone brain surgery to cure his epilepsy and propensity for violent behavior. They claimed that he was saved by psychosurgery (lobotomy). His mother claimed, on the other hand, that the doctors had turned him into a vegetable. See Barry Mehler, “In Genes We Trust: Where Science Bows to Racism,” Reform Judaism, Winter, 1994.
- Peter Breggin, “Campaign Against Racist Federal Programs by the Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology,” Journal of African American Men, Winter 1995/6.
- B.J. Mason, “Brain Surgery to Control Behavior: Controversial Options Are Coming Back as Violence Curbs,” Ebony, February 1973, p.68.
- Gerald Horne, “Race Backwards: Genes, Violence, Race, and Genocide,” CovertAction #29, Winter 1992-93, p.30.
- Peter Breggin, “The Violence Initiative – a Racist Biomedical Program for Social Control,” The Rights Tenet, Center for the Study of Psychiatry, Summer 1992.
- Christopher Anderson, “NIH Under Fire,” Nature, July 30, 1992, p.357.
- Vince Bielski, “Hunting the Crime Gene,” San Francisco Weekly, June 15, 1992.
- Micaela di Leonardo, “White Lies: Rape, Race and the Myth of the Black Underclass,” Village Voice, September 22, 1992, cited in Horne, “Race Backwards.”
- Horne, op cit.
- ibid.; also, Mitchel Cohen, “The U.S. Government’s Secret Experimentation with Biological & Chemical Warfare,” Red Balloon: 1995. Since leaving the federal government, Sullivan has gone on to his latest crusade: testifying alongside former President Jimmy Carter and Arthur Jensen on behalf of Monsanto, Novartis, and the wonders of genetically engineered agriculture. Jensen has again been speaking about the so-called genetic racial basis of “intelligence”. David King of People Against Eugenics, says: “It is vital that we resist the creeping return of eugenics. … We are facing two threats: the increasing acceptance of old fashioned eugenics, like Jensen’s, and the proliferation of genetic technology, unrestrained by either law or ethics. It is time to take a stand.” For more information: People Against Eugenics, PO Box 6313, London N16 0DY.
- Pine et al., “Neuroendocrine response.”