In an exceprt from The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, printed in The Huffington Post, Sam Harris writes:
"The Supreme Court has called free will a "universal and persistent" foundation for our system of law, distinct from "a deterministic view of human conduct that is inconsistent with the underlying precepts of our criminal justice system" (United States v. Grayson, 1978). Any scientific developments that threatened our notion of free will would seem to put the ethics of punishing people for their bad behavior in question.
The great worry is that any honest discussion of the underlying causes of human behavior seems to erode the notion of moral responsibility. If we view people as neuronal weather patterns, how can we coherently speak about morality? And if we remain committed to seeing people as people, some who can be reasoned with and some who cannot, it seems that we must find some notion of personal responsibility that fits the facts.
Happily, we can."
Ah, so rarely do we get 'happy' news from neuroscientists! (Spoiler alert: it's all a lie.) Great essay, read more.