"Still masters of our destiny despite the appliance of neuroscience" by Frank Ferudi
Thanks to my colleague Geoff Woolcock for sharing this gem with me.
The piece begins with the observation that "not since the Renaissance has the conviction that human beings lack the capacity for self-determination enjoyed such a powerful resonance as today." Frank Ferudi places much of the blame for this on the growing neurodeterminist agenda, with the concept that our beliefs and actions are not the outcome of conscious decision-making and reflection but of our neuroanatomy. Consequently it suggests that "an individual’s intelligence, attitude and disposition as not so much an outcome of self-reflection, education or intellectual development but the result of a variety of innate characteristics."
Ferudi cautions agains an assumption that there is anything neutral or objective about such science: "neuro-determinists politicise science precisely because they are in fact moral crusaders promoting an agenda", in particular they seek to position science as the arbiter of what is morally right and wrong, discrediting people’s capacity to reflect and gain control over their destiny through the exercise of moral independence.
I understood Ferudi's arguments and am fascinated by it - but I'm left conflicted. I recall many years ago in a Futures Studies project I interviewed a very well known scientist (who in the interest of avoiding libel will remain nameless). He took the position that the scientist's role was simply to push the boundaries of knowledge - regardless of consequence. When I asked about the moral responsibility of science, he shrugged dismissively, telling me that that was the prerogative of the social scientists.
I am unsure which is worse: an amoral stance or science as God.