An important milestone in the area of criminology was the first study of criminality that was based on science, even though the science was faulty; Cesare Lombroso’s theory of Biological Determinism. This theory, based on the text, stated that people can be “born criminals,” and the pseudo-science that was evidence for this theory was based on the study of cadavers of executed criminals. This theory is not only dangerous because of its irrationality, but also because of its so-called“scientific” backing, as most studies based on biological determinism were not executed according to the scientific method.
I would not be shocked if this theory was used as an excuse for racism or sexism, and to be candid, I would be more surprised if it wasn’t used as evidence for bigotry. However, the importance of the development of science in the area of criminology is not lost on me. Although the scientific method was not applied correctly in this case and neither was the association of the sample data of executed criminal cadavers back to the population of “all criminals”— it was a significant step in sociology, moving into an area of theory backed by evidence.
It is because of this first step that we can discredit the theory of biological determinism and its various adaptations, such as the inheritance school and somatypes, through the proper use of the scientific method. This situation mirrors the masculinity theory, in that both were based on frankly absurd principles, showed the bigotry and sexism of the 1850s to early 1900s, and are now today rejected in favor of more logical theories such as biosocial theory.
What we can glean from both these theories, the masculinity theory and biological determinism are that reliance on one cause or reason for criminality is not an accurate predictor of criminality. Physiology is not the one reason people commit violent crimes, nor is the presence of “masculine” traits in women the one reason women commit crimes. The biosocial theory provides a much broader explanation of the causation of crime, attributing it to a combination of psychological, physiological, and social factors. This not only is an explanation for those we could easily predict becoming criminals, but it also accounts for the lack of criminality in those who share similar risks as criminals, such as an unstable home environment. The biosocial theory is a much more rational justification for the cause of crime, and this is because it does not rely on one single reason for the causation of criminality.