Jonah Goldberg

But all of this misses the point. A more insidious danger than guns is the rush to medicalize behavior. Let's stipulate that handling a gun causes testosterone levels to rise. Let's also concede that elevated testosterone levels are associated with aggression. So what? Does this tell us anything important or new? Science is learning how to measure all sorts of really interesting things, from the effects of porn on the male brain to the effects of porn on the male brain. Whoops. I guess that answers what those effects are.

Anyway, every day we hear about new studies "revealing" what should have been obvious to sentient beings for generations. A few recent headlines: "Fat kids become fat adults, says new study," "Housewives not as desperate as singles over 40, a new study finds," "Drowsiness, inattention play big role in car accidents, study finds." Every few months, newspapers breathlessly report that - surprise! - men and women are different, children are impressionable, and poisons are bad for you. What next? "Research shows wolverines don't like to be teased"? or "Running with scissors inadvisable, Mayo Clinic reports"?

Folk wisdom has more scientific rigor than we give it credit for. Your grandmother didn't need a double-blind study to tell you that you should wash your hands after you go to the bathroom. And I don't need some paper to tell me that a man will get a small hormonal buzz from getting to play with a gun while the guy next to him is stuck with a lame board game.

The important question is, "So what?" Prohibitionists were correct that alcohol affects the brain a heck of a lot more than handling a gun does. Do we need a new study to tell us that? And when it does, should we bring back Prohibition? So testosterone might jump when men tinker with guns. That no more means responsible men, including cops, can't handle the rush than it means irresponsible men have an excuse when they kill people. The testosterone made me do it! The "NRA argument," as Sullivan puts it, is unchanged.

Long before science conclusively "proves" that human beings are sinful and prone to temptation, we already know exactly that. Identifying the hormones and genes that make this so should not change our views. Science may study humans as mere biological organisms. But civilization and our constitutional order demand that we look at people as something more: as citizens responsible for their own actions first, and as testosterone machines a distant second.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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