Adam Lanza’s DNA will be studied in an attempt to tease out what, if anything, could have been known ahead of time to perhaps prevent the horrific tragedy earlier this month in Newtown, Connecticut — but as the field of genetics becomes ever more relevant, scientists are split on the initiative to genetically profile the presumed gunman at Sandy Hook.
The Lanza DNA study may seem intuitive — after all, we know that there were a thousand small and large components that ultimately sealed the fate of 28 people that day in mid-December, of ranging importance and influence on a decision to murder a large number of people including small children in cold blood.
Determining which factors led to the incomprehensible evil that took place is at the heart of the Lanza DNA study — but as we reported earlier, the scope of genetics increases and focuses in leaps and bounds each year. And it seems, essentially, we may not be ready to properly process the information gleaned by a study of Adam Lanza’s DNA.
From a non-scientific, “not a doctor” perspective, it seems these gun massacres often begin and end with a lone, disaffected and angry young man who has (at least by post-tragedy accounts) been putting acquaintances off for some time with strange and off-putting poor socialization. Few friends or lovers of these men ever step forward to describe them, which may indicate few if any people who fall into these categories exist.
The social aspects are well studied, but genetics is a new arena to proactively tap who may or may not be the next to crack and unleash rage, anger, violence and terror upon a group of people — but some geneticists warn, essentially, that the old adage about correlation and causation should be kept in mind.
The Atlantic cites “genetic discrimination” as a possible outcome — and while it may seem very Minority Report, consider the implications if, for instance, you carried the breast cancer gene and an employer could consider you against another candidate without the marker but with a weaker career history.
University of California San Francisco geneticist Robert Nussbaum says:
“It’s a shot in the dark that’s unlikely to show anything. If they find something associated with autism, I’m afraid that it might have the effect of stigmatizing autistic people. I can see a whole morass coming out of this.”
A morass indeed — while we may find something, we also may not yet know whether the something sits benign in a greater number of people, or how environment, experience and exposure to other factors can catalyze the something.
Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Harold Bursztajn seems to concur, telling ABC honestly that he wouldn’t be sure what geneticists at the University of Connecticut coul “even be looking for at this point,” noting that this area of genetics is still very, very new and not very practically applicable.
In a very circumspect and indirect way, Bursztajn notes that the genetic component (if any) associated with Lanza’s horrible actions may only be a salve for an aching wound and not meaningful protection against the problem happening again:
“It’s too risky from the stand point of unduly stigmatizing people, but also from distracting us from real red flags to prevent violence from occurring … The last thing we need when people are in the midst of grief is offering people quick fixes which may help our anxiety, but can be counterproductive to our long term safety and ethics.”
Another geneticist describes the push to study Lanza’s DNA as not necessarily a project that can bear useful fruit in this way: ” … identical twins are different and they have identical DNA.”
Ultimately, the natural question outside the community of scientists pioneering this amazing new frontier seems obvious: and then what? If the Lanza DNA study reveals any marker that may portend such a break in sanity, how exactly do we plan to address the number of people walking around carrying such a gene in a fair and legal way?