How much does rational thinking influence your opinion on something? How about emotional thinking? Since this is a blog (mostly) about autism, you may think that is leading up to something in the vaccine/autism debate, but in this case I’m talking about a technology intended to help law enforcement catch criminals.
From the Wired.com article A New DNA Test Can ID a Suspect’s Race, but Police Won’t Touch It:
Frudakis’ test is called DNAWitness. It examines DNA from 176 locations along the genome. Particular sequences at these points are found primarily in people of African heritage, others mainly in people of Indo-European, Native American, or South Asian descent. No one sequence can perfectly identify a person’s origin. But by looking at scores of markers, Frudakis says he can predict ancestry with a tiny margin of error.
DNAWitness has been used nationally in nearly 200 criminal investigations. In several, the science played a crucial role in narrowing the suspect field, ultimately leading to an arrest. But its success hasn’t made the technology popular with law enforcement.
“Once we start talking about predicting racial background from genetics, it’s not much of a leap to talking about how people perform based on their DNA — why they committed that rape or stole that car or scored higher on that IQ test,” says Troy Duster, former president of the American Sociological Association.
“This is analyzing data derived from a crime scene,” Frudakis counters. “It’s just a way for police to narrow down their suspect lists.” But his position, rational as it may be, is no match for the emotions that surface with any pairing of race and crime.
Tony Clayton, a black man and a prosecutor who tried one of the Baton Rouge murder cases, concedes the benefits of the test: “Had it not been for Frudakis, we would still be looking for the white guy in the white pickup.” Nevertheless, Clayton says he dislikes anything that implies we don’t all “bleed the same blood.” He adds, “If I could push a button and make this technology disappear, I would.”
While this story is not about autism, I couldn’t help but think of the mercury/vaccine debate when rationality was pitted against emotionalism. Both sides of the debate show their fair share of both, often accusing the other side of being overly emotional as a derogatory method of countering an argument (which, in all likelihood, is seen as rational by the one making the argument).
Which gets me back to the question that came to mind as I read the story and am curious what others think: In a situation when rational thought tells you one thing, is it OK to let your emotions rule your decision?