I found this chilling:
This paper questions criminal law’s strong presumption of free will. Part I assesses the ways in which environment, nurture, and society influence human action. Part II briefly surveys studies from the fields of genetics and neuroscience which call into question strong assumptions of free will and suggest explanations for propensities toward criminal activity. Part III discusses other “causes” of criminal activity including addiction, economic deprivation, gender, and culture. In light of Parts I through III, Part IV assesses criminal responsibility and the legitimacy of punishment. Part V considers the the possibility of determining propensity from criminal activity based on assessing causal factors and their effects on certain people. In this context, the concept of dangerous individuals and possible justifications for preventative detention of such individuals in order to protect society is assessed. The concluding section suggests that the law should take a broader view of factors that could have determinant effects on agents’ actions.
The part that bugs me is “possible justifications for preventative detention”.
That’s what always happens when free will is denied. Somehow or other, the idea gets started that we can detect in advance who will commit a crime. Then you needn’t do anything to get arrested and put away. Someone just needs to have a theory about you.
But no one can truly predict the future in any kind of detail.
What about the Fort Hood massacre, you ask? Well, according to a number of reports, that guy had been advertising his grievances for some months. You sure wouldn’t need a brain scan or materialist theories about free will to figure out that he wasn’t happy in the Army and should just have been discharged – which is what he wanted. You’d just need to listen to what he actually said.
Also just up at my neuroscience blog, The Mindful Hack:
Neuroskepticism: A breath of fresh air, and maybe more legal safety too
Materialism and popular culture: The human brain as a machine?
Spiritual Brain: Polish translation rights bought
Curiosity and the dead cat