The intersection of guns and mental illness
To the editor:
George Michael’s response to the Aurora, Colo., movie massacre (Aug. 4). I certainly agree that the rapid police response saved lives, especially by preventing a secondary catastrophe at the perpetrator’s apartment. I also agree that the president played both sides of the issue to avoid “poisonous ink” from the NRA.
Michael accuses modern morals that he blames on contemporary, socially altered teaching, for the shooter’s heinous, criminal, emotionally disturbed behavior. I disagree. The shooter deserves no excuse for his actions. However, he might have a genetic disorder responsible for his murderous outburst.
Psychosis is a matter of biology, not attitude. That should not negate a psychiatric life-without-parole sentence. The man charged seems, indeed, to be a bright young man, clearly capable of planning and executing a mass murder based on a fictional fantasy. There’s nothing original about that scenario. It could’ve been inspired by any gothic novel or graphic work of nonfiction including, you guessed it, the Bible.
Frequently, psychotics incorporate biblical themes into their delusional life. I recall one patient from my training whose onset of schizophrenia occurred shortly after induction into the United States Marine Corps. He considered himself Jesus and began using “G.” (for God) as his middle initial.
Fortunately, his superiors recognized this man’s paranoid ideas and ordered an evaluation before he had an opportunity to act out with live ammunition. The shooter in Aurora (we know nothing about his religious or moral background) might have had similar delusional thoughts and taken vengeance on a crowded church instead of a theater packed with thrill-seekers awaiting a new Batman movie. Don’t for one-minute doubt me on this point.
Colorado’s perpetrator is just another young man residing at the intersection of firearms and mental illness. It could happen anywhere.
M. Douglas Becker, M.D.
There’s no magic line in evolution
To the editor:
Once again Richard Giovanoni has misspoken concerning evolution (Aug. 2) where he inaccurately corrects an earlier writer’s letter (Russell Williams, July 16). Williams, however, is largely correct, while Giovanoni is not.
Giovanoni tries to differentiate between micro- and macroevolution, claiming that microevolution is a “defense mechanism within all cells.” This is incorrect.
In the case of a bacterium such as staph, a defense mechanism would protect the cells. But the microevolution of antibiotic resistance is the result of natural selection, where only those few cells carrying the protective mutation survive. The rest die because they are not protected.
Biologists view micro- and macroevolution as a single process. To biologists, “microevolution” refers to the small changes that happen continually within a population through natural selection. These changes — coupled with reproductive isolation — eventually add up, resulting in new species.
Conversely, creationists pretend that there is a magic line separating micro- and macroevolution. But there is no evidence for their belief, as usual.
Macroevolution refers to all evolutionary developments at and above the species level. This includes extinction. Macroevolution is well documented by the fossil record which clearly shows that there was a time before humans, a time before mammals, a time before reptiles, a time before vertebrates, a time before crustaceans, a time before mollusks, a time before multi-celled creatures and a time before life.
If evidence means anything to you, macroevolution is real.