Criminal Genes

Jailbird Jeff
Jailbird Jeff.

A nation rejoices: Lord Jeffrey Archer has been detained at Her Majesty's (and everyone else's) pleasure, having been found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice.

The general feeling in Britain seems to be that it couldn't have happened to a nicer person. Seldom in a single day have I heard the word comeuppance used by so many people. The general dislike for Archer seems to be founded on a number of factors, not least the verifiable facts that he is:

  • a lying bastard
  • a Tory
  • the author of crappy novels
  • a multi-millionaire
  • a client of prostitutes
  • the beneficiary of alleged insider-dealing
  • an alleged Kurd-burglar (allegations since withdrawn)
  • a person who spells Geoffrey with a J
  • a complete and utter twat

The British press is having a long-awaited, long-prepared-for field day, with more than one of its number pointing out the similarities between the shortfalls of Archer and those of his cheating, philandering father. To its eternal shame, BBC2's flagship news magazine, Newsnight, began a piece on Archer on the day of the court ruling by observing that he inherited the genes of his cheating father; the clear implication being that his criminal behaviour might somehow be attributed to his genes...

Bollocks! My dad and I both like John Wayne movies. Does this mean that there is some genetic basis to my liking for the The Searchers and True Grit? Isn't it so much more reasonable to attribute it to the fact that I was brought up in an environment where I could learn to appreciate John Wayne's movies (because they were on our television all the time)? Similarly, if you are brought up by criminals, isn't it more likely that you will learn to treat the law with contempt?

I'm not saying that there isn't a genetic element to criminal activity (although, if there is such an element, I suspect it is likely to be very minor), but the sort of flippant, throw-away remarks made by the likes of Newsnight are irresponsible and dangerous. We are all products of our genes and our upbringing; you cannot separate the two. In the words of one of my favourite novelists, the late, great Canadian, Robertson Davies:

Nature and nurture are inextricable; only scientists and psychologists could think otherwise, and we know all about them, don't we?

See also:
Gruts: Jailbird Jeff's Stir Tally
BBC News: Archer jailed for perjury
BBC News: Police confirm Archer aid probe

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.

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