Thursday, November 16, 2006

Are we responsible ??..

We are rapidly gaining a much better understanding
of the brain and how it operates. We are beginning to
see how our thought processes and actions are shaped
by activity in the brain.

This new knowledge is exciting, but presents us with
many challenges. And tools and therapies for use in medicine
or research could equally well be applied socially for other
uses. How are we going to manage these ethical quandaries?

If a lot of our behaviour is outside our conscious
control (or feels as if it is), can we always be held
responsible for our actions?

Our legal system (and many other aspects of society) are
based on the idea that we are ‘free agents’, able to decide
for ourselves how we behave.

But how much freedom do we actually have to control our
behaviour? Some brain responses are not under conscious
control. Sometimes, even when we think we are making a
conscious decision, our brain has already made an
unconscious one. Or our conscious and unconscious
wrestle for control of our actions.

Our genetic inheritance will affect our brain and behaviour,
as will the environment we experience in the womb, and the
way we are brought up. By the time we are adults, our scope
to behave in any way we choose is significantly reduced.
On the other hand, genetic or neuroscientific determinism
– that we are ‘born’ or ‘hard-wired’ to behave in a particular
way – can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The prefrontal
cortex, the ‘thinking brain’, still has plenty of scope to shape
our actions.

Legally, courts are more lenient if a defendant can prove
‘diminished responsibility’. Sentencing will also depend
to some extent on an assessment of a defendant’s mental
health. So far, there has been little evidence that judges are
willing to consider biological susceptibilities as a justifiable
defence. As we discover more about the links between brain
and behaviour, it is likely that this will become a more
common issue.

Courtesy : Big Picture of thinking - issue 4 september 2004


prabu said...

wow... thats a wonderful article... the issue you have touched in this posting will be a hot debate after 10 years from now, thats when some of the brain functions connected to behaviours might have been explained

sowmya said...

hi bu...hmm this is specially posted for my man..(hehehe)