NBC12 INVESTIGATES: Warrior Gene Test

Published: Nov. 2, 2011 at 2:09 AM EDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2011 at 3:10 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – About 30% of all men carry what's known as "the warrior gene" - a tiny bit of DNA that pre-disposes them to violent behavior. A simple DNA test can identify which men carry the gene, and we put three people to the test to see if their outward personalities match their genetic make-up.

A simple DNA test to answer the question - is cold-blooded aggression due to nature, nurture, or both? One in three men carry the warrior gene, but it's believed that more than half of men in prison have it.

If you play professional football or you're a combat soldier, what some view as a genetic defect, might actually be a benefit. But most experts agree people with this gene feel less empathy for others and are more willing to harm others on a whim.

We had DNA tests conducted on three fairly well known people in the community: former Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney & current State Delegate Joe Morrissey, Rev. Andrew Mosley, the well respected and longtime pastor of Quioccasin Baptist Church, and me. The test is quite simple. You scrape a few cells from the inside of your cheek, mail it to the lab and within 4 weeks - you get the results.

Rev. Andrew Mosley presides over a church that dates back to the 1870's. His congregation knows him as a kind and gentle soul who's preaches compassion --- a man who adamantly believes in turning the other cheek.

"I feel things can be worked out if we put our minds and hearts together and dialogue --- rather than deal with confrontation," said Rev. Mosley.

"So, do you think that's a mistake - or somebody being dishonest?" That's me, on the job --- being confrontational, happens from time to time in my line of work, but quick tempered and prone to violence?  I don't think so - and I'd be surprised if anyone who knows me would describe me that way.

"I am who I am --- you know?" said Del. Morrissey.

On the surface - it would appear Joe Morrissey is the hot head of our test group. He is the hardworking and hugely popular state delegate from the 74th district, but his fits of temper are legendary. In 1992 - as Richmond's top prosecutor, he got in a fist fight with opposing counsel in a criminal trial. In '99 he was sued for throwing a contractor through a glass storm door. These days he promotes himself to his constituents as "Fightin' Joe Morrissey," but an older, wiser Joe says that violent guy is under control.

"With respect to hot headed-ness, you can channel that better, and I've probably done better in that category in the last half dozen years or so, than I did when I was younger," he said.

Here are the results: Pastor Mosley? No - he doesn't have it.

How about me? Could I be pre-disposed to violence --- the test says "no."

Now - Joe Morrissey. We know he has a temper, but is it in his genes? The answer is "yes".  And even before the test results came back - Joe saw it coming...

"I wouldn't be surprised with your warrior gene classification," Morrissey said.

And in Joe's case there's evidence of a family history. This is one of Joe's ancestors - John "Old Smoke" Morrissey...heavyweight boxing champ of the world in 1853. Known as a bare-knuckled bar room brawler - he also served two terms in Congress, and later opened a casino in Saratoga, N.Y.

Joe says he's in control of his aggression - but acknowledges it's always there.

JOE: "I would say I'm probably a better person because I've changed some of my focuses, and the way I deal with aggression." 
CURT: "But you're still the same guy?"  
JOE: "Yeah, I mean Fighting Joe works for me."

I've already received e-mail, asking why no women were in the test group. Here's the reason: women can be carriers of the warrior gene, however, research reveals - those who do, show no more violent tendencies than the rest of the female population.

If you're interested in one of these tests click on the link below.


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