The inspiration for California’s Center for the Study and Reduction of Violence [see 1972 Jolly West] came from three doctors in 1967.
Amidst urban rioting and civil protest, Dr. Vernon Marks, Dr. Frank Ervin and Dr. William Sweet of Harvard put forward the thesis that individuals who engage in civil disobedience possess defective or damaged brain cells.
In a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association, they stated:
“That poverty, unemployment, slum housing, and inadequate education underlie the nation’s urban riots is well known, but the obviousness of these causes may have blinded us to the more subtle role of other possible factors, including brain dysfunction in the rioters who engaged in arson, sniping and physical assault.
“There is evidence from several sources that brain dysfunction related to a focal lesion plays a significant role in the violent and assaultive behavior of thoroughly studied patients. Individuals with electroencephalographic abnormalities in the temporal region have been found to have a much greater frequency of behavioral abnormalities (such as poor impulse control, assaultiveness, and psychosis) than is present in people with a normal brain wave pattern.”
Dr. Ervin and Dr. Mark then published their book Violence and the Brain, which included the claim that there were as many as 10 million individuals in the United States “who suffer from obvious brain disease”. They argued that the data of their book provided a strong reason for starting a program of mass screening of Americans.
“Our greatest danger no longer comes from famine or communicable disease. Our greatest danger lies in ourselves and in our fellow humans…we need to develop an ‘early warning test’ of limbic brain function to detect those humans who have a low threshold for impulsive violence…Violence is a public health problem, and the major thrust of any program dealing with violence must be toward its prevention,” they wrote.
The Law Enforcement...