Kilroy Was Here
May 24, 2002
Better Living Through Neuroscience
With the proliferatuion of mood or behavior changing drugs being prescribed (e.g. Prozac or Ritalin), the economist argues that neuroscience is a greater ethical risk than genetics. Unfortunately, according to the Economist, the religious right's focus on genetics and abortion completely overshadows any debate on the ethics of neuroscience.
Interestingly enough, the ethical worry of the Economist's regarding neuroscience and the ethical worry of the right regarding genetics and abortion focus on opposite ends of the question of the essence of humanity.
The Economist takes a traditional materialistic approach to the question of humanity, identifying selfhood with the workings of the brain. From the article cited above:
"A person's genetic make-up certainly has something important to do with his subsequent behaviour. But genes exert their effects through the brain."
The religious right, on the other hand, tends to have a more dualistic notion of selfhood, identifying the essence of humanity with something separate from the physical, usually identifying it with a "soul" (or codewords, "potentiality").
You can quickly evaluate how much these two views of humanity are in conflict by looking at this neuroscience vs. genetics/abortion debate. Though there may be similar conclusions regarding sociedty's approaches to these new technologies, their reasoning will be profoundly different.
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