Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Genius, psychoticism and psychopaths



David said...

have a question and it is in relation to something that has confounded me for some time (Declaration of interest: I am now a Christian and believe and feel intuitively that Christianity is the best available explanation for my personal experience of primary reality). However, I find there is a jarring problem for me attempting to reconcile the kinds of explanations of psychobiology that you use in this blog e.g. that psychopathy is largely inherited or innate; with the other spiritual explanations that you use in these blogs such as theosis, spiritual growth and the development towards a 'friendship' with the divine creator (Again, this idea really appeals to me and it just feels intuitively correct in a way that is profoundly gratifying). However, I have day to day difficulties connecting these two explanatory schemas and they seem to sit uncomfortably together As rival views to reality. I often ponder on the limits of the psychobiological explanations (again assuming Christianity is primary reality), and my reasonings tend to progress along something like the following lines:If psychopathy or other personality traits (especially innate ability to empathize or understand human condition, our emotions and by extension moralilty per se) are inherited by incremental degree or totality, then are not such aflicted souls (psychopaths or high psychotics) barred any realistic possibility of salvation from the get go? The psychopath enters the world, sins profoundly without real insight and causes grievous harm in the world then leaves the stage unable to learn from his experiences. And of course he is never wrong or aware he is, as by your account of the condition he cannot ever percieve otherwise. Seem a bit unfair of an earthly trial? Surely one would expect some basic entry level requirements for us to get out of life what it is hypothesised we have 'chosen' to come to earth for. I struggle to make sense of this or how it can be reconciled with a world view in which the primary purpose of mortal life is theosis (which it is for me, but how about the next man who does not have the same biological toolkit?)Similarly, I have often been struck by my work with Aspergers Syndrome patients how alien the world is to them and how totally incapable and at a loss they are to understand the emotional, moral and spiritual dimensions of life. For these reasons I wonder how are they to progress spiritually or grow theotically when they cannot understand 'love' or transcending emotions and principles at all. One recent patient telling me that if he committed suicide his parents would benefit anyway as they could simply sell his stuff and benefit materially. He was completely unable to grasp the pain that his parents would endure emotionally through grief if he did commit suicide. I found his case troubling and very sad to observe a fundamental disconnect from this most precious aspect of human experience which are, for some reason (why?) denied to him. He told me flatly and with complete sincerity "I am not meant for this world!" Why would a soul pass through a veil of forgetfulness on a meaningful mortal life only to face such a fated biological and profound sadness. This patient had 2 serious previous suicide attempts and when I attemped to console or comfort him he did not understand the concept and asked "what do yoyu care if I die you are not family?!" I would regard him as a spiritual brother but couldn't of course really explain that to him.

I would appreciate another perspective on this as I seek wisdom. Thanks.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David. So many questions! If one asks a scientific question then you can only get a scientific answer. If you want a religious answer, you need to ask a question in the domain of religion (not science).

So why do psychopaths exist from a religious perspective? I think that is a subset of much more general questions like - why is everybody different? Is there a reason - in terms of divine plan and individual choices, striving, trial and error - or just random chance.

For a Christian there must be elements of plan and choice.

But the exact nature of these and their specific combinations obviously cannot be known in each and every case - but we may perhaps know about our own case, by revelation.