Thursday, September 10, 2009

Neurolaw: The most sophisticated method of punishment ever?

At Medical Humanities blog, Daniel Goldberg offers resources for critiquing "neurolaw" (= you didn't do it, your ailing brain did. But then "you" don't exist anyway. That's just a harmful illusion.):
At the UCL Law & Neuroscience Colloquium, I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Pardo, a law professor at the University of Alabama who apparently shares some of my skepticism at the reductionist tendency to equate brain with mind. Pardo, along with one of preeminent American philosophers of law, Dennis Patterson, recently wrote an excellent rebuke to neuroreductionism that addresses and critiques many of the foundations of the conventional approaches to law & neuroscience. We covered the article at MH Blog here, and you can find further discussion of it here, at Adam Kolber's fine Neuroethics & Law Blog.
'Bout time someone did. This is probably the most sophisticated approach to punishment/capital punishment in all human history. Persuade the person that his mind is only an illusion, and that he has no control over what he does. He is "sick." Not wrong, not badly behaved, not mistaken, just plain "sick," like he had the flu or something.

No use raging against the machine; he is only a cog in the machine, and a badly functioning one at that.

He can be "cured" (maybe), but cannot decide to reform or make his peace with the world. He must be "fixed."

I am glad that most current prisoners are poorly educated. They will be unlikely to believe neuroreductionism.

You must be educated way beyond your intelligence to believe this stuff.

See also:

Neurolaw: Stephanie West Allen on its potential dangers

Neurolaw: Your brain is your best defense ... literally


Psi effect: The Teton Mountain Stomp! Stamp! has not worked, I guess ...

A friend writes to remind me of some old papers regarding the psi effect - entanglement of mental states which results in action at a distance.

Materialist atheists have gone to considerable trouble to stamp out the very idea because their doctrine requires them to hold that the mind is an illusion. This 1987 paper is interesting too:
"With a scoring rate of 52.4% hits, the result is statistically significant with odds against chance of 10 million to one."
The main thing to see is that materialist atheists can't accept it because it is fatal to their system, not because it is fatal to science or nature or anything else.

Mario Beauregard and I made the point in The Spiritual Brain that psi is pretty well established as a persistent, low level effect. It doesn't justify TV psychics' ratings, of course, but - like blackbody radiation - it is there and is not going away.

Explaining it away is a waste of time. Explaining it accurately might lead to new insights.

See also: Neuroscience and physicalism: A key letter

(Note: Teton Mountain Stomp! Stamp? A folk dance. You can guess what it is like.)