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Topsy Turvey Sentences

If you look at life from an evolutionary perspective, we may just have a few things upside down.

Evolution uses the process of natural selection to change the type of genes that are present in a population. What this really means is, those individuals who are the most successful breeders (ie have the highest number of children who survive to have their own children) will increase their genes within the population, while the less successful will lose out.

Using this definition, the most successful people in society are not the richest, but those with the most kids. Being wealthy allows you to afford more kids, but conversely so can being poor. But what happens to people who screw up? Shouldn’t society’s laws reflect the biological imperative of breeding?

Consider two murders. One is committed by a madman whose sanity has gone. The other is committed by a man who was quite sane, but who planned it. The first guy pleads not-guilty due to insanity and is sent to a mental home; the second is given a death sentence and lands on death row.

Ten years later, the psychiatrists say the madman is cured and he’s released to the community where he marries and has three children; the other murderer gets to the end of the line for appeals and is duly executed with no children.

In a Biological sense, what these decions mean is that we encourage the spread of the genes of madmen within our societies, but remove those of calm organisers. OK, I know it’s not as simple as that, you have to remember this is a blog and not a research article and so by necessity I have to be short. Let’s return to the story.

Five years later, the madman has a relapse, and kills again. This time the insanity defence doesn’t work and he’s given life imprisonment. To escape the death sentence he also confesses to a number of other murders, including the one the other guy was executed for.

Let’s look at the balance sheet. At the beginning of the story the population had one madman, and one murderer. At the end of the story, we have a madman and his three offspring, all of whom may be carrying a gene for insanity, or at least a gene for enjoying killing people or not minding if he did kill people, plus the memory of an innocent man who was executed before having reproduced.

In evolutionary terms, the madman was the successful one. The innocent was the failure. Isn’t it about time this silly way of sentencing people was changed? Or do we want to continue increasing the number of madman genes in the population?

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