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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The new neuroscience of genocide and mass murder

By Paul Rosenberg
Originally posted June 13, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

“Almost 20 years later I’m revisiting this issue in Paris,” Fried told Salon, saying several things motivated him, beginning with advances in neuroscience. “In neuroscience we’re moving more and more towards affective and social neuroscience; we are trying to address more complex social and psychological situations,” Fried said. “There has been some accumulation of knowledge in areas such as dehumanized perception, areas like theories of mind, the ability of other human beings to have a theory of mind of what is in another person’s mind—obviously this is completely obliterated in a situation of Syndrome E—and our understanding of neural mechanisms of empathy, a development which occurred over the last 10 years.” He added, “I think people are looking more at neuroscience correlations of interactions between people, so for instance the mirror neurons, the whole idea of mirror neurons, and what happens when you look at somebody else, what happens to your own brain.” He cited institutional developments as well—new organizations and journals supporting social cognitive research—all of which helped make the time ripe for a new look at Syndrome E.

But Fried also pointed to the ability to engage more robustly with criticisms across disciplinary fields. “I saw a renewed interest and ability to raise this question, because after I raised it initially there was really, some people were offended that I was giving a biological explanation to something that for them was just a bunch of scum shooting at innocent people, which it is, to some extent,” he admitted. Now, however, Fried sees a greater willingness to argue things through. “People are more attuned to the question of what is the relationship of neuroscience to the legal system, to the issue of responsibility—what is the definition of the responsible self—our sense of identity, our sense of responsibility. There are a lot of these types of questions which are raised with the development of neuroscience.”

The entire article is here.