There have been many studies done on the brains of psychopaths and criminals, which have found that their brains are structurally different from the brains of "normal" people. Similarly, I would imagine that the brains of very "good" people (think Mother Theresa) might also be structurally different from the brains of "normal" people.

With all the advancements in genetic engineering, it seems plausible that in the future we would be able to ensure that all humans are born with "good" brains instead of "bad" brains. This seems like an awesome outcome to me. We would all be do-gooders and we will all love each other... Awww... But I was wondering if there are any counter-arguments to this. Thanks!

  • 1
    Could you please define what "good" peoples are? Do you think a general consense and definition exists? - In addition, please give some reference to empirical studies in the large which support your statement about the brain of psychopaths and criminals; I am sceptic about this point. - Your hint to genetic engineering reminds me of Huxley's novel "Brave New World" from 1932.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 10:33

2 Answers 2


1) Psychopathy is often productive. The lack of concern with what other people think can free one to do great things. As much as 3% of the male population of the planet is found to be psychopathic, and many of those people improve all of our lives by taking risks and creating conflicts whose resolution leads to new and important discoveries.

Great people from Napoleon to Edison to Richard Feynman may very well have been basically sociopathic, but were led by other social forces into productive endeavors, rather than criminal ones. If the same could not be done with others of the same temperament, the problem is not in them, it is in us.

2) Genes interact in ways no one can predict. If criminality is a matter of sheer variation, we could remove many positive traits by selecting to reduce the number of criminals.

3) The definition of 'good' is notoriously evil. What one century has found good, later ones have rejected. So if we choose, at a given point in time, some ideal we all want to move toward, it will most likely have destructive side-effects for everyone.

4) Ideas of 'good' compete to both limit and advance agendas of power. Given our prison populations are 90% male, you should easily see that our current notions of 'good', or at least 'well behaved' are deeply sexist. By making them more permanent, you are taking sides, not making decisions.


The main argument as I see it:

Whether or not people are empathetic, our actions are still determined by physical reality: i.e. struggle for resources. And whether or not we feel empathy will not change the fact that we need to commit what you'd call 'bad' actions to get what we want.

Genetically, and scientifically, nearly everyone has the capacity for empathy, but they also have the capacity for evil. So then morality doesn't arise when you are even more empathetic, morality arises when the physical environment effectively regulates your behavior.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .