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Capital punishment defendants unlikely to benefit from “neurolaw”


Recently, we noted Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist David Eagleman’s new “neurolaw” book, Incognito. The basic idea, driven by evolutionary psychology, is that criminal law would improve if we dropped the illusion that people are responsible for their behaviour. Perhaps social justice minded supporters hope it will bring about prison reform, an end to capital punishment, or such.

They hope in vain. Here’s my MercatorNet article in which a defense lawyer who specializes in capital punishment explains why that probably won’t happen:

This is not a controversy between the String ‘Em Up Gang and the Prison Reform Society. All parties want a just and humane system; they differ fundamentally as to whether they think that personal responsibility is an illusion.

[ … ]

First, brain scanning often doesn’t help the people many hoped it would. In capital punishment cases, for example, defense lawyers have lost out when it was used: As Timothy Capp, an Illinois lawyer who takes such cases, recounts

Eagleman seems to be publishing his message in the right places, Britain’s fashionable left New Scientist here and fashionable right Telegraph here.

Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

Well, I would say something crude and unkind about Eagleman’s ridiculous theory that he espouses, but of course he is not responsible for his actions, so it wouldn't be fair to punish him . . . Eric Anderson

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