Friday, October 16, 2009

Neuroscience and the law.

Just came across some rather interesting legal discussion about neuroscience and laws and responsibility and free will and brain disorders:

I think the 'problem' discussed - the collision between law and science, neuroscience in particular - is entirely specific to punitive justice and to religion disguising itself as atheism and reason.
Just look at the article. Typical punitive approach: pondering religious and philosophical questions like what punishment Herbert Weinstein deserves for killing his wife in the heat of argument while having a freaking cyst in the brain that he wasn't aware of - and even whenever him without the cyst should be kept responsible for actions of him with cyst. I'll say it right now I've no freaking clue what punishment he "deserves" and see no reason why such questions should even be considered. Idea of "deserving" itself is a root cause of most homicide - whereby murderer suddenly decides that victim "deserves" to die. There's nothing rational or logical about it.

On other hand, if you consider the laws as means to protection of people, all the questions which come up are factual rather than metaphysical, and the law perfectly integrates with modern science and technology. You need to consider what action would be best for everyone. The questions are whenever he's dangerous after treatment of cyst (which he also would be if cyst was irrelevant to the murder), that's neuroscience question. Whenever he has to be locked up anyway for sake of deterrence (probably not because its inconceivable that cyst in brain would be abused as common excuse), that's also a rational question, effectiveness of deterrence could be studied with statistical methods.

I were actually searching for articles about brain parasites (This article isn't really relevant to parasites). I find brain parasites which alter behaviour of the host - and especially the evolution - very fascinating (in the 'eww' way). I even blogged about 'em before.

Taking claims at face value, killing someone because of cyst in your brain, that sounds as horrible as becoming a zombie (and very plausible if cyst is substantially big and located in critical regions responsible for self control). Surely that's a lot of punishment in itself. Imagine your dog got infected with rabies, acute phase, too late for vaccination. You'll have to kill the dog due to lack of treatment, but you'd still be sorry and you'd rather treat the dog if possible.
Human nervous system differs a lot from dog's, so humans don't go on biting others when infected with rabies, because rabies is not evolved enough with humans. Yet, its not impossible in principle for a virus or other parasite to have that kind of result on humans.

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