"Neuro-law"

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by Ricter, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. Ricter

    Ricter

    Interesting article (and opportunity to put away the e-peens), particularly the opening thought experiment:

    http://www.texasmonthly.com/cms/printthis.php?file=feature5.php&issue=2011-06-01

    "As most of you no doubt know, on the morning of August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman dragged a footlocker full of firearms to the top of the University of Texas Tower and began firing on the town below. Over the next hour and a half he killed thirteen people and wounded thirty others, before being killed himself by a police officer.

    Those are the facts. Now let’s play You, the Jury.

    Had Whitman lived and gone to trial, what would it have taken to mitigate his responsibility for such a crime? An abusive father? Not enough, though he had that. There are many abusive fathers who don’t produce homicidal sons. Suppose you learned, as is in fact the case, that before the attacks Whitman had become convinced that there was something wrong with his head, and that he’d gone to see several doctors. They’d found nothing amiss and sent him on his way. But the coroner who performed his autopsy discovered a tumor that had damaged several regions of his brain, including a collection of neurons called the amygdala, which is now believed to play a central role in memory and emotional response and which, when damaged, can lead to a host of socially unacceptable behaviors, including hypersexuality, fearlessness, and paranoia. Now what?

    Many of you will point out that brain tumors are like abusive fathers: Plenty of people have them without turning into killers. Others will say Whitman was no more responsible for his actions than an undiagnosed epileptic who had a seizure and crashed his car into a school bus. Most of us, I suspect, will fall somewhere in the middle. So let’s shift into the realm of thought experiment: Suppose Whitman had survived the incident and that the tumor was discovered and removed, leaving a perfectly gentle and self-possessed young man, horrified by his actions. Now who’s on trial? A good man turned bad through no fault of his own or a bad man turned good through modern surgery? Is he even the same man, before and after his operation? It’s time for your verdict: Innocent? Or guilty? And if so, of what?

    Welcome to the brave new world of neuro-law..."

    My first thought is, from a scientific worldview, he's not guilty, the "self" is in the brain. From a religious worldview, he is guilty, the soul is the self and his soul is the same.
     
  2. You left out the most important piece of information: Did he know that what he was doing was wrong?

    If he did, he's clearly guilty of murder. If he didn't, it's a tougher call.

    BTW, there's no such thing as an "innocent" verdict in a criminal trial. Either someone is "guilty," or "not guilty." Not guilty is NOT the same as innocent. Someone can commit a crime and be "not guilty by reason of insanity/incapacitation." The usual standard for an insanity/incapacitation defense is that: (a) the defendant was not aware that what he/she did was wrong; and (b) the defendant's ability to aid in his/her own defense.

     
  3. Lucrum

    Lucrum

    If I'm not mistaken an "expert" claimed his tumor did NOT cause his shooting rampage.
     
  4. Eight

    Eight

    I would say that the most important thing he should know is that society will use him as a bad example at his execution... it's the best way to convey to other brain damaged/abused people what society will tolerate and what it will not