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Re: Born without a conscience

Posted by anovagrrl on November 04, 2003 at 07:16:41

In Reply to: Re: Born without a conscience posted by Alan on November 04, 2003 at 01:39:03:

Read the research on psychopathy by Dr. Robert Hare. He wrote a seminal book on the topic called "Without Conscience." There appears to be strong evidence that some children are born lacking the capacity to develop a conscience.

One of the most famous examples of this is the case of Jimmy Carter's nephew, William Carter Spann, born to his sister Gloria Carter Spann. WCS referred to himself as the "bad peanut" of the Carter clan. His family never disowned him and never apologized for him.

I once watched a television interview with Gloria where she talked about raising William. She described him as incorrigible from early childhood. This was a well-to-do and well educated Christian family, and Gloria reported they did everything they could to help him develop the inner controls that constitute conscience formation. In terms of impulse control, she said William was forever like a 3-year-old...he might intellectually know something was wrong and have negative consequences, but he could not defer the impulse for immediate gratification and fear of punishment did not seem to deter him.

William Carter Spann died at the age of 51. He collapsed on a street in San Francisco in a drunken stupor. He had been in and out of jails & prisons all of his life, beginning in adolescence.

Such cases raise issues about the nature of free will. If some people are born with an impaired capacity to develop a conscience, how "free" are they to choose right from wrong? Such cases also suggest that we are not all created equal in the sight of God and that some of us come into the world with serious moral and spiritual deficits.

We can choose to reject the evidence that such people exist, or we can ask whether our personal moral theology is adequate to deal with the challenge these hapless souls present.