Monthly Archives: May 2014

Why Did You Do That, Free Will?

EVERY NOW AND AGAIN people talk about decisions, choices, or free will. There are determinists~those who believe what will occur has pre~determined bases, thus, we lack free will of action, and cannot alter our fates. Then there are those who believe that people make rational and independent choices, of their own free will, and remain arbiters of their future.

This author does not propose a resolution to that timeless mystery, only relate a few facts regarding Human chemistry. Human thought, after all, is an invaluable combination of water, carbon, and hydrogen, and a host of amino acids. These also give us a body as well as our animation.

LET’S REVIEW A MOLECULE and its important interplay with our free will: seratonin. Seratonin has a molecular signature of: C10, H12, N2, O, which reads, ten carbon atoms, twelve of hydrogen, two of nitrogen, and a single oxygen atom. This molecule is derived by the amino~acid Tryptophan, found in foods such as bananas, papayas, and meat from turkeys. In humans, 90% of their seratonin is found in epithelial layers of the gut, and the other 10% in cerebro~spinal fluid, and in the brain where it is an important neurotransmitter.

Molecule

”Posture is more erect post~triumph” ~Darwin

”Heads are lowered after defeat” ~Irenaüs Eibl~Eibesfeldt

A HIGHER SERATONIN LEVEL correlates to social rank. Seratonin is found in greatest concentrations in dominant primate males. This is not to say that socially dominant primate males are genetically endowed to use/absorb/maintain/have naturally larger stores of seratonin. Actually, it means dominance
(greater amounts of seratonin) has a social basis.

Reference the quotes above, as relate to body language (a social phenomenon). Darwin’s ape, having defeated Eibl~Eibesfeldts ape in a territorial brawl, has elevated seratonin: a molecule that encourages a sense of well~being, regulates mood intensity, and ”guards against depression and anxiety” (Wright 1994: 243). As a result of such chemical~social interplay, Darwin’s ape sits proud (and it’s not being recommended that one go beat someone up). Interestingly, research has shown to associate low~levels of 5~hydroxindoleactic acid, a seratonin metabolite, ”in aggressive or violent individuals” (Linnoila et al., 1983).

So how does free will play to these ideas? If seratonin is not by itself deterministic, can one assume individuals have independently unique seratonin levels? Further, since seratonin regulates range of behavior, could a level of seratonin below ones unique baseline produce behavior that cannot be judged as free will? Well, drugs such as Prozac (seratoninergic anti~depressants) attempt to empower people with more will power! Selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) and Mono~amine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI’s) discourage breakdown of seratonin in the brain, thereby keeping seratonin on the synaptic cleft (edge of a neuron), to encourage mood stability, providing resilience against anxiety and depression and maintaining prosocial levels of seratonin.

Additional biosocial factors influenced by seratonin are the receptorcites: 5HT 1A that influences pleasure via dopamine release (chemical also triggered by cocaine, amphetamine, and MDMA), positive/negative effects of schizophrenia, and learning. 5HT 2A also associated with schizophrenia, depression, mood, and anxiety. Seratonin, in a very simplistic way, according to Wright, is a glass of wine (244). [Ethyl alcohol actually releases seratonin, and research by Masters and McGuire (1994) shows people with low seratonin levels commit greater amounts of impulsive crimes (Wright, 244), and alcohol is involved in 64% of violent crime (Barkan 2000)].

Perhaps we will finally realize that social inequality, education and socioeconomic status, are great powers that induce individual response. Is it a stretch to believe Eibl~Eibsfeltds ape turned into a bum and did not potentialize due to chemistry? Social structure? In humans, whether God has given us freedom to choose, or that we are bound to a range of behavior due to chemistry is to be seen, guarded in faith that we do the right things, develop the most beneficial habits, and have sufficient seratonin to encourage the ripple effect of prosociality.

Notes:
1] Flannery, Vazsonyi and Waldman, eds. THE CAMBRIDGE HANDBOOK OF VIOLENT BEHAVIOR AND AGGRESSION. Cambirdge U.P., N.Y. (2007)

2] Wright, Robert. THE MORAL ANIMAL: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. Vintage N.Y. (1994).

CRIMINOGENISIS: Outlining Three General Theories

CRIMINOGENICS is a subset of theories from the field of criminology. Researchers and academicians use micro or macro approaches to study possible origins and causes of crime. There are three (3) general approaches: Biological (genetic propensity, disability, disease, race); Psychological (pathology, disease, syndrome, insanity, intelligence, morality); and Sociological: (geography, locale of residence, poverty, deficits in education, racism, lack of opportunity, etc).

The first of these two (2) theoretical approaches are micro~level, that is, they look to the individual for clues to criminality. Sociology takes a broader view, and with the assumption that circumstantial pressures are often stronger forces, in toto, than individual will. ( Recall Phillip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Project). Situational forces such as economic, familial, infermity, day/night, rural/urban residence, organizational polices at work, have substantial influence upon psychology and biology of individual behavior.

Ones approach to origin of crime leads to direct handling of crime thusly. In America, our individualism and entrepreneurship places the individual at the fore of responsibility. Technology is pushing psychological and genetic theory forward, but people still find study of groups (racial) quite evocative, partly based on historical blunders, such as, Tuskeegee Institute’s Syphillis Study (virus introduced to unsuspecting black men), Radium/Platonium/Uranium exposure to U.S. military during 19th Century, etc. So there are strong sociological forces inhibiting advancement in these areas, which are micro~level psychological issues: emotions and concern for abuses.

While time passes, we hope our wisdom accumulates and is spread throughout so the greatest good can be done. Taking the broadest views on approaching how best to handle our socially akward is not a slap in the face of personal responsibility, it’s in fact, grasping the most virtuous of calls, that is, to fix societies greater problems: alleviating victimization of poverty, crime, and lack of opportunity.
Join us today. Adopt the ripple effect principle. Act without accident.

Notes:

1) Barkan, Steven. CRIMINOLOGY: A SOCIOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING, 2nd. ed. Prentice Hall. N.J. (2001)

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