Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Coincidence or Causal Connection?

The other day I mentioned a guy I knew in high school who ended his life as a disgraced ex-police officer who fatally shot himself after robbing a bank and being cornered by police. The next day, I read about a CHP officer being shot to death in a nearby community by someone in a car he had pulled over for a traffic violation. The next day I discovered that the suspect, who police say is definitely the man who murdered the CHP officer, is the son of that guy I used to know in high school. An interesting coincidence. But how coincidental is it that this young man, if he did what he’s accused of, is the son of a guy whose life came to such a tragic end, or is there a strong causal connection between his father’s behavior and his own? If so, might this connection have a genetic as well as psychological component? That is, might the son have learned bad lessons from his father’s conduct and subsequent departure from his life, and might he also have inherited bad genes from his father that contributed to his and his father’s destructive behavior? Every time I encounter stories like this, I am more skeptical than ever that we humans truly have “free will.”

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