Articles on Biology and Blame

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Cognitive enhancers could join coffee, pain killers and antibiotics as an accepted – and expected – mode of self-improvement. Flickr/cosmo flash

Put down the smart drugs – cognitive enhancement is ethically risky business

Cognitive performance enhancers promise to deliver a better version of ourselves: smarter, more alert and more mentally agile. But what if such enhancement was no longer a personal choice but a socially…
Phrenologists believed the shape of the brain offered a clear-cut explanation for behaviour. Hey Paul Studios/Flickr

Natural born killers: brain shape, behaviour and the history of phrenology

Long before neuroscience, phrenology claimed to have the power to determine who was afflicted with badness and who was suffering from madness. In the second-last article in our series Biology and Blame…
Although addiction is often characterised as a disease and not a crime, it is criminal to possess and use certain drugs. e_monk/Flickr

Why shouldn’t addiction be a defence to low-level crime?

In today’s article in our series Biology and Blame, Jeanette Kennett considers an inconsistency in the law’s approach to compulsion – addicts are responsible but others compelled to harmful behaviours…
People are becoming more likely to believe that high-tech visualising techniques might allow us to see psychopathy in the actual physiology of the brain. JE Theriot/Flickr (resized)

Looking for psychopaths in all the wrong places: fMRI in court

In the latest instalment of our series Biology and Blame Micol Seigel poses some important questions about the assumptions behind the legal use of fMRI. Of the current uses of psychiatry in legal settings…
Psychiatrists wanted people found ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ to be dispatched to places like the Asylum for Criminal Lunatics Broadmoor. Illustrated London News, 1867/ Public domain, Wikimedia Commons

Psychiatry’s fight for a place in defining criminal responsibility

Are people with “diseases of the mind” responsible for their criminal acts? In the latest article in our series Biology and Blame, Ivan Crozier looks back at how psychiatrists tried to carve out a role…
Philosophers argue that people are not over and above the systems involved in information processing –we are our brains, plus some other, equally physical stuff. Tom Blackwell/Flickr (reszied)

Irresponsible brains? The role of consciousness in guilt

In the second instalment of Biology and Blame, Neil Levy considers how neuroscience can affect legal judgements. Can human beings still be held responsible in the age of neuroscience? Some people say no…
Genetics is just the latest specialist knowledge threatening to take the question of criminal responsibility away from law and hand it over to science. Graham/Flickr

Genes made me do it: genetics, responsibility and criminal law

Welcome to Biology and Blame, a series of articles examining historical and current influences on the notion of criminal responsibility. Today, Arlie Loughnan considers the challenge to the legal system…

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