Hi Rex,

From: Rex Allen 
Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 11:38 AM
To: everything-list@googlegroups.com 
Subject: Re: The Brain on Trial

On Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 8:40 PM, Stephen Paul King <stephe...@charter.net> 

  Why does it seem that there is no motivation to consider the victims of 
criminal behavior?

In trying to be proactive in eliminating the causes of criminal behavior, we 
are considering the victims - by trying to avoid having anyone victimized in 
the first place.

Similarly, in trying to deter criminal behavior, we are considering the victims.

And in trying to rehabilitate those who have engaged in criminal behavior we're 
trying to avoid future victims, and also trying to find ways for the criminals 
to repay any debt to society - in part by becoming productive, tax paying 

Any discussion of criminal behavior is, in a real sense, "about" the victims of 
that behavior as well.

Further, victims have a means of redress for actual damages in the civil court 
system.  Which has a lower requirement of proof.  In criminal court, the burden 
is on the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  In civil court, the 
burden of proof is initially on the plaintiff, but can be moved to the 
defendant under some circumstances, and the required standard of proof is only 
"more likely than not". 

Recall that in the O.J. Simpson case, OJ was acquitted in the criminal case, 
but then lost the civil case against Nicole's family and ended paying damages 
to them anyway.

If you happen to be unlucky enough to be victimized by a criminal with no 
assets...this inevitably raises the question of why they have so little.  It's 
unfortunate for you that the crime occurred, but unfortunate also for the 
criminal that life has led him to a such circumstances.

Similarly, criminal behavior caused by mental illness - such occurrences are 
like tornadoes, or earthquakes, or rabid animals. Mental illness is just an 
unfortunate consequence of how the world works. It's unfortunate for those 
afflicted, and it's unfortunate for the rest of us too. 

I don't think that anyone chooses to be mentally unbalanced...but that's where 
some people end up. As with all illness and misfortune, probably best to 
remember: "But for the grace of God, there go I."

    All of which is great theory.

  The article that was originally posted seemed to imply a start of a chain of 
reasoning that leads inevitably toward arguing for a government control 
mechanism where *any* behavior can be declared to be criminal and thus in need 
of adjustment. 

I think you're imagining things.  Get a hold of yourself man!  You're getting 
all panicky and hysterical.

    I have read too many history books perhaps..

  The ban on smoking that is occurring in the US is a good example of this, 

It's a negotiation between non-smokers and smokers.  As fewer people smoker, 
the balance has shifted in favor of non-smokers.  We're all trapped here on the 
planet together, and there are going to have to be rules in order for us to 
keep everything on track.  Fewer rules is better, but no rules is not a 
realistic option.

    I am a smoker so I have first hand experience of what regulations do.

  A secular version of a theocracy, for example. The movie Equilibrium 
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0238380/ ) comes to mind.

I think you shouldn't rely on movies like this to inform your views 

    I see movies as the modern form of fables and myth. They give us ways to 
consider possible scenarios, much like the famous “thought experiemnts” of 
physics. I do not mean for them to “inform” but merely as a metaphor to 
illustrate a point without having to type out a narrative every time I might 
wish to convey an idea in an email forum such as this. I am a movie nut too...

       The main problem that I see in such schemes is that they inevitably lead 
to situations where a small elite decide what is and what is acceptable 
behavior, i.e. tyranny.

"Inevitably" is way too strong a word.  I'm extremely skeptical that a smoking 
ban will lead to totalitarian government.

Not all slopes are slippery.  In fact, *most* slopes are not slippery.  It's 
entirely possible to stand securely even on a fairly steep incline.

Either you're engaged in fear-mongering, or you don't have a good grip on 

    I agree with your point about slippery slopes, but my claim is that I am 
actually in a real world situation where a few “elites” are dictating “what is 
and is not acceptable behavior” where I happen to live! Where do we draw the 
line is my question! So your claim of fear-mongering is ad hominem.

  Only when the individual is self-incentivized to "to the right thing" do I 
see a general diminution of criminal behaviors. 

"Self-incentivized"?  What does that even mean?  

No humans are born knowing the "right thing" to do.  They have to be taught.  
The incentives have to provided by their environment.  By family, and by 

So what's this non-sense about self-incentivization?  You're not even thinking 

    To provide (oneself) with a good reason for wanting to do something that an 
individual generated by logical reasoning about facts. I think for myself and 
make decisions from that thinking. Not too complicated. Of course I am fallible 
and prone to error but that does not demand that I turn over all of my decision 
making over to other people.

  But such requires that the true causes of criminal behavior be identified and 
minimized at an individual level, not by some state institution. 

If statistics over a population show some recurring pattern or trend, then 
those statistics are most likely reflecting something real and structural.

If not *all* people show the behavior, then it's likely not "human nature" that 
is to blame, but rather the way society is structured that produces the 
behavior that is seen in individuals.

    Where are too many examples of how one can use statistics to push crap for 
me to just roll over when presented with this or that “study”, survey, etc. 
Facts are one thing, opinions about facts are somethign else entirely. The 
problem that I am trying to point out is that data requires a theory to make 
sense of it and it is the theory that I am raising an objection to. OK?

  If criminal behavior is the result of natural predilections within humans 
then are we going to have to genetically engineer out criminality?

Again, there's no reason to carry things to extremes, except for rhetorical 
propaganda purposes, which is what I think most of your post amounts to.

You don't want to take reasonable steps, so you extrapolate out to some extreme 
and then invoke the inevitability of a slippery slope.

    It is always at extremes that stuff breaks and mass graves fill up, so why 
not go there? Nature is not linear or Gaussian and are people purely rational. 
I am trying to get at the assumptions that are implied by the theory that is 
being presented in the original post.

      Perhaps there is no complete solution to criminality, maybe there are 
just various methods that work in some cases and fail in others.

Perfect is the enemy of good enough.  That there is no perfect solution 
available is not a good reason for refusing to make incremental improvements.


    Agreed, we must never allow the perfect to veto the possible, but we do 
have strong reasons to be cautious. There are too many examples in history 
where what appeared at the time to be perfectly reasonable ideas lead to 
massive misery and pain for many. Shall we try a bit harder to not repeat those 



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