Application: Evolutionary Theory and Crime


Darwin’s theory of evolution explains the development of biological characteristics in various species of plants and animals as essential to their survival over time. This theory is also relevant to human social behavior, and, by extension, criminal behavior—and is argued by evolutionary psychologists who propose that it provides explanations for a range of anti-social behaviors, including rape and murder. They note that in some social environments, these aggressive behaviors may be viewed as being advantageous to survival, and are indicative of survival-of-the-fittest or natural selection theories. Some criminologists, however, deem this idea to be invalid, and they and other critics of applying evolutionary theory to criminal behavior assert that evolution does not adequately explain aggressive crimes. Instead, they suggest relying on a combination of factors to explain aggressive criminal behavior.
To prepare for this assignment:
Review the online article, “Crime and Conflict: Homicide in Evolutionary Psychological Perspective.” Think about how evolutionary theory might account for criminal behavior. Think about the degree to which evolutionary theory is a predictor of criminal behavior. Specifically, reflect on whether it is a significant factor or a minor factor in predicting criminal behavior. Select two crimes with which you are familiar to which evolutionary theory may be applied. For each of the crimes, reflect on how the aspects of the criminal behavior and the characteristics of the criminal(s) might be explained by evolutionary theory. Reflect on whether or not you think evolutionary theory accounts for criminal behavior, and consider your reasons why. The assignment (1–2 pages):
Briefly describe the crimes you selected. Explain how evolutionary theory accounts for each crime, using specific examples. Explain whether or not you think evolutionary theory accounts for criminal behavior and why, using specific examples.

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