2006-09-14

Basing Laws on Science

This article in the FT considers research at the University College London which explores neurological development and the neurological basis for behaviour.
The study has implications for the use of anti- social behaviour orders for juveniles and in determining at what age we should be criminally responsible.
In a broader sense, this type of research should have implications into the stage at which a person should be considered self-sufficient and independent. To have an age arbitrarily set at 16,18, or 21 above which one's parents are no longer responsible nor legally authoritative is potentially dangerous. For example, the age of sexual consent in Canada is 14. Rights and privileges ought to be based on some sort of merit, neurological or otherwise.

Perhaps the argument works both ways. Above the age of 18, it is well known that mental acuity starts to decline. This may explain why older voters are more likely to vote for war criminals like Cheney and Bush. Perhaps such people should lose their voting rights.

The Economic blogsphere is currently enamoured with this New Yorker article about neurology and risk behaviour.

5 comments:

Candide said...

Once again, Pace my friend, you have asserted a statement that I have been unable to find sufficient supporting documentation for online:

"Above the age of 18, it is well known that mental acuity starts to decline."

This doesn't appear to be as well known as you think. Here is a link on aging and brain function. It is geared more towards the layman perhaps, but the similar documents that I found in medical journals seemed a little too technical for easy digestion and may require subscriptions.

Additionally, though I have no love for the war criminals that you refer to (quite the opposite in fact), this statement:

"Perhaps such people should lose their voting rights."

Seems like it could've come directly out of their mouths...

Pace said...

Clearly, there are lifestyles, exercise techniques and medicines which can slow the effect of aging. My statement about voting was facetious, but setting neurological standards SHOULD absolutely be used for renewal of drivers licenses. (see South Park episode, 'Grey Dawn')

Candide said...

Agreed. And pilot's licenses.

Diana Chavlah said...

You are just unbelievable in many ways!

Here are my comments (as a Besserweisse) as neurological scientists.

The development of the brain is really complex and individual. Sex has nothing to do with the brain and that’s one of the reasons why it’s ok to have sex by the age of 14 in Canada, kids just simply have sex. They follow their instinct (or hormones); their behavioral part of the brain has not been developed. They forbid people to drink alcohol in the states by the age of 21 because they mean that the body hasn’t developed yet. That is pure…bull sh**. The brain is developed during puberty (and for some people it hit before 16 and others never). Maturity has nothing to do with how developed the brain is. A brain can develop really well without the development of maturity.

Tim said...

Ideally the government that governs best is the one that governs least- especially in matters of individual freedom. Moreover, it would be ideal if laws governing individual freedom were based on the individual's physiology as opposed to his age, which is perhaps a more arbitrary measure and is not necessarily indicative of an individual's maturity (as noted in the previous comment)
However, setting a minimum age for certain actions is simply the easiest way for the government to regulate certain classes of activities such as smoking, drinking alcohol and sex.