The thrust of my review was that The Myth of the Born Criminal is less an earnest scientific critique than a rhetorical campaign. Remarkably, the authors take the same tack in their letter, testifying once again to the very “exaggeration and self-contradiction” I previously charged them with.
In its entirety, their book devotes but two sentences to my work: “Another set of Canadian researchers found that psychopathy actually decreased the likelihood of killing one’s kin. According to the authors, this too was an evolutionary strategy, called ‘nepotistic inhibition.’” Aside from a small technical error—my colleagues and I studied a range of violent offences, not all of which were fatal—I’m at odds to see what grievance I could possibly have with this unexceptionable passage. It is the nature of expert reviews that the reviewer is cited in the work being reviewed, as Drs. Jalava, Griffiths, and Maraun know. To take seriously their claim of a conflict of interest implies that my review would have been appreciably different had they never written those twenty-nine words. This is nonsense. In their book, at least, the authors graciously spared me the ad hominem.
As I argued in my review, The Myth of the Born Criminal has a tenuous grip on biology. If, as they say in their letter, the authors do accept that (1) the brain is the cause of human behaviour and (2) “biology” does not equal “inborn”, their book insinuates precisely the opposite. For instance, they err on both counts on page 152 when they asked whether patterns of brain activity can “make a more compelling case for the neurological causes of psychopathy”, because it fails to determine whether these “patterns are inborn or if they are caused by the environment or the choice to engage in repeated antisocial behaviours”. If we all agree the brain causes behaviour, then why the need for a “more compelling case” that psychopathy has a neurological cause? Why the dickering over “inborn” and “environmental” origins—let alone the ludicrous third option of “choices”—if each nevertheless depends on the workings of the brain? Why, that is, the endless harping on about “the biological theory” throughout their book? The authors are either profoundly ignorant of their subject matter or deliberately trying to mislead the reader with an alarmist, if unoriginal, red herring. I can’t decide which is more troubling.