Saturday, October 27, 2007

Neurolaw? Your brain is your best defense ... literally!

In “Why blame me? It was all my brain’s fault”, Raymond Tallis warns against “the dubious rise of neurolaw”. Essentially, this is an effort to calim that the defendant's "brain" did it (and therefore he himself didn't). He writes,
Those who blame the brain should be challenged as to why they stop at the brain when they seek the causes of bad behaviour. Since the brain is a physical object, it is wired into nature at large. “My brain made me do it” must mean (ultimately) that “The Big Bang” made me do it. Neuro-determinism quickly slides into determinism tout court.

And there is a contradiction built into the plea of neuromitigation. The claim “my brain made me do it” suggests that I am not my brain; even that my brain is some kind of alien force. One of the founding notions of neurolaw, however, is that the person is the brain. If I were my brain, then “My brain made me do it” would boil down to “I made me do it” and that would hardly get me off the hook. And yet, if I am not identical with my brain, why should a brain make me do anything? Why should this impersonal bit of matter single me out?

Of course, the underlying idea, as Mario Bearegard and I explain in Chapter 5 of The Spiritual Brain is that consciousness and free will really don't exist.

And sure enough, the comments to the article make that agenda perfectly clear:
... a central tenet of neuroscience (as distinct from both neurolaw and neuromythology) is that behavior is the result of neural activity -- there is nothing extra. While this conclusion may be debated, if it is true then the question is not to distinguish between acts caused by brain activity and those caused by persons, but to distinguish between pathological from normal neural activity,
writes Paul C. from Atlanta.
We, as a society, will need to come to terms with the fact that true free-will and genuine responsibility in the sense people want it to be true are not scientifically (or philosophially) viable. Instead, our apportioning of blame, or not, to individuals for their actions is based on a blend of culture and evolutionary traits.
chimes in Elan from Boca Raton.

Neither commenter explains how that has been demonstrated, and for a very good reason: It hasn't been demonstrated. Rather, it is a central tenet of materialism! If you are a materialist, you will believe that that is true and you will look for confirmation. You will ignore or treat as a problem any evidence that it is not true.

Read the Introduction to The Spiritual Brain here for a look at the actual state of the evidence, which is quite different from what the materialist implies. Note, for example, that a recent edition of Scientific American we read:
How Does Consciousness Happen

Two leading neuroscientists, Christof Koch and Susan Greenfield, disagree about the activity that takes place in the brain during subjective experience

By Christof Koch and Susan Greenfield

Well, if there is still debate even about what activity takes place (and this doesn't even address the "hard problems" of consciousness), you can be pretty sure that materialists have not made their case.

In the end, neurolaw is just another materialist fad like Freudianism or Marxism or Darwinism. My brain made me do it instead of my mother made me do it or my class position made me do it or my animal ancestors made me do it.

The best argument for the self ever devised is the strange fact that, whenever there's trouble, the only one who DIDN'T do it is me.

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