Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Turning Psychopaths into Nice Guys

By Michael Cook

If moral bioenhancement of psychopaths becomes obligatory, who will benchmark standards?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Our culture is fascinated by psychopaths. Go shopping on Amazon and you will find books like The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success; or Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us; or Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work; or The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry.

Two bioethicists at The University of Rijeka in Croatia, Elvio Baccarini and Luca Malatesti, recently argued in the Journal of Medical Ethics that moral bioenhancement for psychopaths ought to be obligatory.

What is psychopathy? The authors define it as “a personality disorder that involves traits such as pathological lying, manipulativeness, superficial charm, no or little concern for the interests of others, a grandiose sense of self and, usually, a long history of offences and encounters with justice”.

Not the sort of person, in other words, you would normally want as a boss or a babysitter, but also not the sort of person who can be easily identified, even though the pop psychology journals claim that about 1% of the population are psychopaths.

And what is moral bioenhancement? This is the use of biotechnologies, drugs mostly, that improve personality traits and behaviour to make us nicer and less aggressive. Ethicists Ingmar Persson and Australia’s own Julian Savulescu...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.