Here is another example of how the The Brain on the Stand article is floating skeptical commentary from observers. Simon Fodden at Slaw nicely sums up the essential tension: our knowledge of human nature is at odds with how people believe the law must function. This results in bad legal doctrine.
The current doctrine of ‘insanity’ in criminal cases is clearly out of step with how we construct the mind-body-morality-action nexus nowadays; but if you release the pawl the ratchet might run free and who knows where it would stop. The very concept of identity might be in doubt — “He’s not the same man he was five years ago. Prison/medicine/love/aging/life has changed him.”
Being a bit of a bullet-biter, I’m not one to bow to slippery slope arguments, but I think it is an interesting observation that the law is weighted to resist evidence about human nature.
Why? In this case, because it gives us answers we don’t want to hear. When we think about culpability, Daniel Dennet was right. “A world without punishment is not a world any of us would want to live in.”