Science to Solve Moral Problems: fMRI and Michael Vick
Read this article in the Stanford Center for Law and the Bioethics Blog
The article is all about the use of the so-called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as called for by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to determine if Michael Vick, former professional football player, who will complete a prison sentence this year for conspiracy related to his treatment of pit-bull dogs in his dog gaming activities, persists as a psychopath or sociopath before being allowed to return to professional football.
As it turns out, Michael would be considered to be a candidate to return to professional football if he could demonstrate remorse for what he had done. According to the Stanford article “ Officials from PETA sent a letter to the NFL commissioner today saying that Vick should be checked to see if he is a psychopath or sociopath before he can return to the NFL. And the method that they specifically suggested? Brain scans. PETA wants Vick to undergo a full psychiatric evaluation and a brain scan to determine whether he has anti-social personality disorder or psychopathy.” The problem is that fMRI cannot detect, as yet, psychopathology.
The issue for our blog thread here is whether what appears to be a moral decision: should a technique of science be used by society or a particular segment of society to establish whether or not a person has violated a moral boundary and has been rehabilitated? After all, maltreatment of dogs and conspiracy are moral statements set into law. Can conflicts regarding ethics and morality be settled by some scientific device or should they be resolved by law and philosophic principles? Any thoughts on this fascinating subject? ..Maurice.