“I think Adrian does not mind being provocative,” commented psychology professor and Positive Psychology founder Martin Seligman Gr’67, when senior editor Samuel Hughes interviewed him for our cover story, “The Anatomist of Crime,” on PIK Professor Adrian Raine and his recent book, The Anatomy of Violence.
It was perhaps a bit of an understatement.
Raine studies the neurobiological basis of crime and violence, and he’s generally regarded—including by Seligman, who nonetheless wishes he’d spend more time studying virtue—as the preeminent figure in the field. Attitudes have been shifting in recent years as brain imaging has advanced and more supporting evidence has accumulated, but for much of Raine’s career such research has been viewed with intense suspicion across the political spectrum.
Put most simply, conservatives fear that it could lead to claims that criminals aren’t responsible for their actions— my broken brain made me do it!—while liberals fret that individuals who haven’t committed any crime (at least not yet) may be stigmatized or even imprisoned because their brains don’t “look right.” (The latter possibility might give Raine pause, too; his brain has features in common with that of a serial killer.)
And then there is the fact that earlier ideas about biological determinants of criminal behavior, like those promulgated by “father of criminology” Cesare Lombroso in the 19th century, helped spawn 20th century horrors such as the Holocaust—which was, of course, a big reason that this kind of research was in such ill repute for the second half of the century.
Given such associations, one might assume that a scientist working this ground today would try to avoid any linkage with that tainted past. Not Raine. Though quick to note the limitations of Lombroso’s own thinking and acknowledge the horrifying uses to which it has been put, he insists that Lombroso “was on to something”—and he pays tribute of a sort to his inspiration in the book’s final chapter (an excerpt begins on page 36).
The chapter offers an extended thought experiment on how brain science could affect public policy in the future, which advances from classifying prisoners on the likelihood of their future offenses to regulating who can and can’t have children. Raine calls his crime prevention program the Legal Offensive on Murder: Brain Research Operation for the Screening of Offenders, or LOMBROSO.
For a half-century Penn’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) has been provoking strong reactions to its exhibits from gallery visitors—and, every so often, from the wider world beyond campus (for one example, see page 65). In “50 Years of Now,” Gazette arts & culture blogger and frequent contributor Molly Petrilla C’06 reviews some highlights from the ICA’s past, the museum’s plans for marking the anniversary, and new ICA Director Amy Sadao’s vision for its future.
Like the ICA, Penn’s Philomathean Society is celebrating a significant birthday this year—its 200th, in fact. Also like the ICA, which is better known in the art capitals of the world than on Locust Walk, Philo is a bit of a mystery to many on campus. Caren Lissner C’93, who joined Philo in her senior year at Penn, explains all in “Philo Phorever.”
Purely in terms of the unimaginably delicate scientific work that goes on there, the new Singh Center for Nanotechnology ought by rights to be “a windowless, really solid box,” University Architect David Hollenberg GAr’75 told associate editor Trey Popp while the latter was reporting “A Big Space for Small Science.” Fortunately, while still providing the ideal conditions for working with materials at the atomic level, the building that opened on Walnut Street in October is pretty much the opposite of that, as Greg Benson’s stunning photographs demonstrate.
—John Prendergast C’80