A marriage devoted to the mind-body problem
The article is an account of an extended interview with neuroscientists/philosophers Paul and Pat Churchland.
|Date"Date" is a type and predefined property provided by Semantic MediaWiki to represent date values.||Author||Lead-in|
|Minority Report||15 March 2007||J. E. R. Staddon||It is perhaps unfair to critique in a scientific journal an interview in a popular magazine... The idea is this: perhaps we should forcibly treat and restrain "abnormal" individuals before they can do harm if the propensity can be detected in some way...|
"I think the more we know about these things, the more we’ll be able to make reasonable decisions," Pat says. "Suppose someone is a genetic mutant who has a bad upbringing: we know that the probability of his being self-destructively violent goes way, way up above the normal. How do we treat such people? Do we wait until they actually do something horrendous or is some kind of prevention in order? Should all male children be screened for such mutations and the parents informed so that they will be especially responsible with regard to how these children are brought up?"
"Why not?" Paul says. “I guess they could be stigmatized."
"There's a guy at U.S.C. who wanted to know what the activity of the frontal cortex looked like in people on death row, and the amazing result was this huge effect that shows depressed activity in frontal structures. These people have compromised executive function. Now, we don't really know whether it's a cause or an effect – I mean maybe if you're on death row your frontal structure deteriorates. But of course public safety is a paramount concern. We don’t want these people running loose even if it’s not their own fault that they are the way they are."
"Well, given that they’re such a severe danger to the society, we could incarcerate them in some way," Paul says. "We could put a collar on their ankles and track their whereabouts. We could say, We have to put this subdural thing in your skull which will monitor if you’re having rage in your amygdala, and we can automatically shut you down with a nice shot of Valium. It’s like having somebody who’s got the black plague – we do have the right to quarantine people though it’s not their fault. Heinlein wrote a story –"
"We’re back to Heinlein! How funny."
"This just reminded me. He had wild, libertarian views. The story concerned how you treated people who were convicted by criminal trials. Either you could undergo a psychological readjustment that would fix you or, because you can’t force that on people, you could go and live in a community that was something like the size of Arizona, behind walls that were thirty feet high, filled with people like you who had refused the operation. The story was about somebody who chose to go in. What annoyed me about it – and it would annoy you, too, I think – was that Heinlein was plainly on the side of the guy who had refused to have his brain returned to normal. He tells this glorious story about how this guy managed to triumph over all sorts of adverse conditions in this perfectly awful state of nature."
Paul stops to think about this for a moment.
"You and I have a confidence that most people lack," he says to Pat. "We think we can continue to be liberals and still move this forward."
"I’m not so sure," Pat says.