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Last on

Mon 23 May 2011 11:00 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 23 May 2011

Professor Steve Jones asks if people can be "born bad" - as was said of the infamous Jukes family in the US. Can criminal behaviour be inherited through the genes?

For more than a century, the Jukes clan has been presented as America's worst family. Right now on the web American evangelical preachers are using the story of the Jukes family as a dire warning against "unworthy" people procreating. There is a deeply held popular belief that bad blood will out, and that criminality can be passed down through the generations. But what does the science say?

Professor Steve Jones talks to leading scientists such as Steven Pinker, Kevin Beaver, Jim Fallon and Essi Viding about the latest research in this highly controversial field.

Genetic evidence is increasingly being presented as a mitigating factor during sentencing in murder cases in the US and elsewhere, and law professor Paul Lombardo assesses its efficacy. Helena Kennedy QC discusses the prospect of this kind of approach succeeding in UK courts.

Producer Beth O'Dea.

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