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Getting people to agree on objective moral principles is difficult, to say the least. Moral codes seem to span the gamut of culture, time, environment, experience, geography, gender, race, etc. Could it be that our inability to agree on a consistent moral code is the result of biology?

For example, determinists believe there isn't any such thing as free will because the world is determined by causality. Although determinists vary in their opinions of scope, the basic idea is that, if every effect has a cause, there is only one possible result that can occur. The implications on the idea of morality are significant. If true, as hard determinists believe, morality is a useless framework. After all, if there isn't any free will, and our choices are not our own, we can't be held responsible for our decisions.

Determinists also claim they have scientific proof of their belief. Benjamin Libet did an experiment where he concluded that the unconscious part of the brain had already made our choices for us milliseconds before we are consciously aware. In other words, we don't consciously make our choices - they are predetermined. (There continues to be much controversy in the neuroscience of free will.)

Here's an old but fascinating story about a normal man who developed a brain tumor that might have caused him to become a pedophile. We've discussed in our intellectual discussion group how scientists have manipulated moral judgments by stimulating certain areas of the brain with magnets (called transcranial magnetic stimulation). This case may add fuel to the fire that our moral code - the "code of values to guide man's choices and actions" - may not be as much of a choice as we think it is. If our moral judgment is affected by the biological health of our brains, which often is beyond our control, how can we be responsible for our choices and actions?

What do you think is the correlation between the health and/or genetics of our brains and our choices? Are we fully responsible for our choices, or are there factors that reduce our responsibilities? Should we be reconsidering how many people we put in prison and, instead, trying to deal with the problems as health issues? Should anti-social actions be medically treated?

The sudden and uncontrollable paedophilia exhibited by a 40-year-old man was caused by an egg-sized brain tumour, his doctors have told a scientific conference. And once the tumour had been removed, his sex-obsession disappeared.

The cancer was located in the right lobe of the orbifrontal cortex, which is known to be tied to judgment, impulse control and social behaviour. But neurologists Russell Swerdlow and Jeffrey Burns, of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, believe it is the first reported case linking damage to the region with paedophilia.

"We're dealing with the neurology of morality here," says Swerdlow. Since the area does not affect physical health, "it's one of those areas where you could have a lot of damage and a doctor would never suspect something's wrong," he says.

"He wasn't faking," says Burns. "But if someone argues that every paedophile needs a MRI, the difference in this case was that the patient had a normal history before he acquired the problem. Most paedophiles develop problems early on in life."

...But seven months after the tumour was removed, and after successfully completing the Sexaholics Anonymous program, the man returned home. In October 2001 he complained of headaches and secretly collected pornography once more. But after a MRI scan revealed tumour regrowth and it was removed, the behaviour again disappeared...

Behavioural neurologist David Rosenfield, of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, says: "They have an interesting patient. I would wonder whether the tumour caused hormonal changes." Rosenfield thinks further research should investigate whether other problems with the orbifrontal cortex can be linked to paedophilia.

Brain tumour causes uncontrollable paedophilia


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on May 12, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=552

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