The Lucretian swerve: The biological basis of humanbehavior and the criminal justice system Anthony R. Cashmore It is widely believed, at least in scientific circles, that living systems,including mankind, obey the natural physical laws. However, it isalso commonly accepted that man has the capacity to make “free”conscious decisions that do not simply reflect the chemical makeupof the individual at the time of decision—this chemical make upreflecting both the genetic and environmental history and a degreeofstochasticism. Whereas philosophers have discussedforcenturiesthe apparent lack of a causal component for free will, many biolo-gists still seem to be remarkably at ease with this notion of free will;and furthermore, our judicial system is based on such a belief. It isthe author’s contention that a belief in free will is nothing otherthan a continuing belief in vitalism—something biologists proudlybelieve they discarded well over 100 years ago. Many discussions about human behavior center around therelative importance of genes and environment, a topic oftendiscussed in terms of nature versus nurture. In concentrating onthis question of the relative importance of genes and environment,a crucial component of the debate is often missed: an individualcannot be held responsible for either his genes or his environment.From this simple analysis, surely it follows that individuals cannotlogically be held responsible for their behavior. Yet a basic tenet ofthe judicial system and the way that we govern society is that wehold individuals accountable (we consider them at fault) on theassumption that people can make choices that do not simply reflecta summation of their genetic and environmental history. As deDuve has written,“If...neuronal events in the brain determinebehavior, irrespective of whether they are conscious or uncon-scious, it is hard tofind room for free will. But if free will does notexist, there can be no responsibility, and the structure of humansocieties must be revised”(1). It is my belief that, as more attention is given to the mechanismsthat govern human behavior, it will increasingly be seen that theconcept of free will is an illusion, and the fallacy of a basic premiseof the judicial system will become more apparent. Certainly, thedetermination of the sequence of the human genome and theassignment of function to these genes is having adramatic effect onour understanding of the role of genetics in human behavior.Similarly, developments in imaging techniques, allowing changesin neuronal activity to be correlated with thought processes, isaffecting our thinking about relationships between the functioningof the mind and chemical activity in the brain. Here I propose thatthe time is opportune for society to reevaluate our thinking con-cerning the concept of free will, as well as the policies of thecriminal justice system. The Biological Basis of Behavior At birth,thebrainofachildcontainsabout 100billionneurons,eachone forming on average about 1,000 synapses. With time, themajority of these neurons are lost, and the properties of theremaining neurons and their connections reflect a combination ofboththegeneticsandtheexperiencesoftheindividualfromthetimeof conception. This information is translated into action via themotor neurons, joined to the muscles and the glands of the body,using a mechanism of both electrical and chemical transmission.Despite the essentially unlimited theoretical capacity of the brain tostore and use information—enough to confer individual person-alities to multiple billions of individuals—one still hears a sense ofcertainty that“surely I am more complicated than that!” Descartes and the Magic of the Soul At least as long ago as the early Greek civilization, people haveworried about the compatibility or otherwise of the laws of natureand the apparent capacity of mankind to make conscious decisionsthat are not simply a reflection of their makeup and the sur-rounding environment. As noted by Dennett (2), the Epicureans,in attempting to reconcile the phenomenon of cause and effectthat they saw to be characteristic of the physical world, with thecontrasting apparent freedom of individual behavior, posed thefollowing problem:“If all movement is always interconnected, thenew arising from the old in a determinate order—if the atomsnever swerve so as to originate some new movement that will snapthe bonds of fate, the everlasting sequence of cause and effect—what is the source of the free will possessed by living thingsthroughout the earth?”As described by Lucretius, their reconci-liation of this problem was to propose that atoms occasionallyexhibit“random swerves”(3). The causal component of theserandom swerves could have been the Greek gods, of whom therewas no shortage. Indeed, the self consistency of this line of thinkingcan be seen in early Greek literature, where the gods had a dailyimpact on the lives of individuals (4). In the 17th century, Descartes, in addressing what is oftenreferred to as the mind—body problem, proposed that the bodyobeyed the laws of the physical world, however the soul (and hencethe mind), acting through the pineal gland, was not restricted bythese limitations (5). The mechanism by which this was achievedwas, understandably, not understood, although Descartes offeredsome suggestions. In reference to this problem, Eccles, in animaginative proposal, has suggested that the interaction betweenmind and soul could proceed via the uncertainty of quantummechanics (6). He achieves the capacity to“swerve atoms”—arequirement for free will (as noted by Epicurus)—by taking the“magic of the soul,”afforded by the dualism of Descartes, andcombining it with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Whereas this so-called Cartesian duality, at least superficially,providesanicemechanismwherebyonecouldentertaintheconceptof free will, belief in this mechanism among scientific circles hasostensibly disappeared (7). However, if we no longer entertain theluxury of a belief in the“magic of the soul,”then there is little else tooffer in support of the concept of free will. Whereas much is writtenclaiming to provide an explanation for free will, such writings areinvariably lacking any hint of molecular details concerning mechanisms (8). Also, it is often suggested that individuals are free tochoose and modify their environment and that, in this respect, theycontrol their destiny. This argument misses the simple but crucialpoint that any action, as“free”as it may appear, simply reflects thegenetics of the organism and the environmental history, right up tosome fraction of a microsecond before any action. Genes, Environment, and Stochasticism: A Trinity of ForcesGoverning Biological Systems If our genes and environment govern our actions, does this meanthat our behavior is deterministic? Not necessarily. Rather, thereis a trinity of forces—genes, environment, and stochasticism(GES)—that governs all of biology including behavior, with thestochastic component referring to the inherent uncertainty of thephysical properties of matter. Schrodinger popularized the notionthat the randomness that physicists were familiar with at the levelof individual atoms, was apparently lacking in biological systems(9). Whereas biological systems may have evolved mechanisms tominimize some features of randomness, it is my contention that incontrast to this philosophy, other aspects of the complexity ofliving systems actually reflect selection in favor of random events.Examples in support of this notion are the process of mutation(which Schrodinger was aware of), and genetic recombination andassortment; other examples are genetic rearrangement associatedwith the development of the immune system, and the process of X-chromosome inactivation. Recently there have been numerousreports demonstrating a stochastic response at the level of tran-scription (10). Variations among individuals of isogenic lines,often ascribed to developmental noise, also likely reflect this sto-chasticism; similarly, the phenomena of penetrance and expres-sivity are also likely due to stochastic processes that are normallyminimized in the wild type and are uncovered in mutants. Ofparticular relevance to this article, the formation of neuronalconnections reflects a degree of stochasticism, with no two indi-viduals, even those that are genetically identical and under con-stant environment, displaying the identical neuronal network (11).Hence, the popular debate concerning the relative importance ofgenes and environment on behavior, is commonly inadequate fortwo reasons: both because it ignores the question of responsibility(or lack of) and because of the additional stochastic componentthat influences biology (12). A common practice in behavioralstudies involving genetically identical twins is to ascribe any dif-ferences (a lack of concordance) to environmental factors—clearly, if one accepts a role for stochasticism, this conclusion is notnecessarily correct, as aptly noted by Goodman (13). Rather, dif-ferences in genetically identical twins may reflect not only envi-ronmental factors but also biological stochasticism.The introduction of stochasticism would appear to eliminatedeterminism.Howevertherearethreeadditionalpointsthatneedtobe addressed here. Thefirst point is that, at least in some instances,what atfirst glance may appear to be stochastic might simply reflectmicroenvironmental differences and may not be the direct con-sequence of some inherent stochastic property of atomic particles.The second point is that some physicists, for example’tHooft(14),do not necessarily accept the apparent unpredictability associatedwith the quantum mechanical view of matter (It was concern aboutthis unpredictability that prompted Einstein to offer the viewpointthat“God does not play dice”). Finally, even if the properties ofmatter are confirmed to be inherently stochastic, although this mayremove the bugbear of determinism, it would do little to support thenotion of free will: I cannot be held responsible for my genes and myenvironment; similarly, I can hardly be held responsible for anystochastic process that may influence my behavior!Having now introduced the three forces that govern behavior, itis appropriate, at this rather late stage, to define what is meant by“free will.”Searle has described free will as the belief“that wecould often have done otherwise than we in fact did”(15). A dif-ficulty with this definition is that it does not distinguish free willfrom the variability associated with stochasticism. For this reason,I believe that free will is better defined as a belief that there is acomponent to biological behavior that is something more than theunavoidable consequences of the genetic and environmental his-tory of the individual and the possible stochastic laws of nature.Here, in some ways, it might be more appropriate to replace“genetic and environmental history”with“chemistry”—however,in this instance these terms are likely to be similar and the former isthe one commonly used in such discussions. Biologists and Free Will Earlier I noted that, throughout history, philosophers haverepeatedly questioned the validity of free will. However, in spiteof this and the sparsity of evidence or credible models in supportof free will, it has been my experience that relatively few biolo-gists seriously question the concept of free will. This holds inspite of the fact that we live in an era when few biologists wouldquestion the idea that biological systems are totally based on thelaws of physics and chemistry. For example, in a beautifully lucidaccount of the origin and complexity of life, de Duve (1) rathercritically analyzes the attempts by others to rationalize a belief infree will, but ends with the rather noncommittal thought:“Westill know too little about the human mind to affirm categoricallythat it is a mere animation of neuronal activity lacking the powerto affect this activity.”Similarly, Edelman argues that,“...ahuman being has a degree of free will. That freedom is notradical, however, and it is curtailed by a number of internal andexternal events and constraints.”(16).Wilson has argued that,“because the individual mind cannotbe fully known and predicted, the self can go on passionatelybelieving in its own free will.... Without it, the mind, imprisonedby fatalism, would slow and deteriorate”(17). Crick proposed amodel for free will whereby he addressed the reality concerningour consciousness of free will (18). Concerning the reality of freewill in reference to the way we use this concept in society, hecontemplated,“....could it not be that our Will only appears to befree?”(18). In an interview shortly before he died, Crickexpanded on his disbelief in free will. When asked if“thosedecisions you’ve just told me about, concerning your scientificchoices...were made by underlying mechanical deterministicprocesses, and the feeling of will is an illusion,”Crick replied,“That’s right. I think it must be deterministic”(19).Darwin was aware of the implications of his theories concerningevolution in reference to free will as indicated in these notes:“Thisview should teach one profound humility, one deserves no creditfor anything. Nor ought one to blame others”(20).A willingness, or lack of willingness, to accept the notion of freewill is likely to be influenced by several factors, including thefollowing:first, a constant personal awareness of making decisionsthat have the appearance of being driven by free will; and second,an awareness of the apparent usefulness of the concept, and hencea reluctance to disturb the status quo. In reference to this secondpossibility, note again the writing of Darwin:“This view will not doharm, because no one can be reallyfullyconvinced of its truth,except man who has thought very much, and he will know hishappiness lays in doing good and being perfect, and therefore willnot be tempted, from knowing every thing he does is independentof himself to do harm.”Robert Wright’s (20) description of thiswriting of Darwin’s is,“In other words: So long as this knowledgeis confined to a few English gentlemen, and doesn’t infect themasses, everything will be all right.” Some will argue that free will could be explained by emergentproperties that may be associated with neural networks. This isalmost certainly correct in reference to the phenomenon of con-sciousness. However, as admirably appreciated by Epicurus andLucretius, in the absence of any hint of a mechanism that affectsthe activities of atoms in a manner that is not a direct and unavoidable consequence of the forces of GES, this line ofthinking is not informative in reference to the question of free will.I suspect that we inherit a belief that free will is perfectlylogical, and therefore not worthy of questioning. Note that theway we think is influenced by the inheritance of both culturalideas (memes) as well as genetic material (21), and in somecases, ways of thinking may survive, somewhat in contrast to thelogic, or lack of that is associated with that process. The way wein society think about free will (and religion) is likely to be anexample of such a process—the line of thinking may have sur-vival value, despite the fact that it is nonsensical and unsup-ported by any evidence. Consciousness—Cause or Effect? I have argued that one of the reasons that it is common to believein free will is the constant awareness of the capacity to makeconscious decisions that appear to causally affect one’s behavior.This relationship is depicted in Fig. 1A,where consciousness,reflecting in part a force WILL, impacts in a causal way theunconscious neural activity of the brain and thus affects behavior.The dilemma here, stressed throughout this article and illumi-nated in Fig. 1, is that WILL has causal properties (WILL affectsbehavior) and yet WILL arises in a noncausal way; society“demands”that WILL be“free”—we want to be able to holdpeople accountable for their actions. Some might argue that thereshould be an arrow indicating informationflow from“uncon-scious neural activity”to WILL (Fig. 1B). This would provide acausal component for WILL; however, WILL would then lose its“freedom”—it would then simply be a product of GES.One resolution for this dilemmais that consciousness, rather thanbeing a means by which we influence behavior, is simply a mecha-nism by which wefollowunconscious neural activity and behavior.This model is depicted in Fig. 1C,where the causal component ofconsciousnessistheunconsciousneuralactivityofthebrain,andthisin turn reflects GES; consciousness has no independent impact onbehavior. If there is aflow of information from consciousness tounconscious neural activity of the brain (Fig. 1C,arrow 2), then thecausal component of this information does not differ in any wayfrom the input information (Fig. 1C,arrow 1). In keeping with this line of thinking, are studies that indicatethat consciousness is something that follows, and does not pre-cede, unconscious neural activity in the brain. In experimentsperformed by Libet et al., subjects were asked to move afinger (at“will”) and electrophysiological measurements were determined,both for thefinger and the brain (22). Activity of the brain pre-cededfinger movement by≈500 ms. When the participants wereasked to record the time of their conscious decision to move theirfinger, this also precededfinger movement (in keeping with theapparentcausal relationship between will and behavior). How-ever, this conscious awareness followed in time, by a full 300 ms,the initial onset of neural activity. Although such experiments arecertainly not proof that consciousness is nothing more than amechanism of following the activity of the brain, the observationsare in keeping with this line of thought (23, 24). Furthermore, amore sophisticated version of these experiments has recently beenperformed whereby neural activity was measured, not by elec-trophysiological means but by functional magnetic resonanceimaging (fMRI). In these experiments, brain activity was detectedin the prefrontal and parietal cortex up to 10 s before subjectswere conscious of any decision-making process (25).Another phenomenon that is consistent with the idea thatconsciousness plays only a peripheral role in behavior is that ofblindsight. Individuals who have suffered damage to the striatecortex of the brain often show varying degrees of blindness; theyare not aware of being able to see. However, when such patientsare asked to make decisions that are dependent on their visualability, they clearly demonstrate some capacity to see, eventhough they are not conscious of it (26). In reference to Fig. 1C,for such blindsight individuals, the pathway from GES to behavioris at least partly functional, even though a lesion in the brain hasdisrupted the link between the neural basis of vision and consciousawareness. Other behavioral phenomena that indicate a non-essential role for the conscious mind are sleepwalking and someforms of concussion.I am constantly struck by the anomaly associated with the com-monly accepted model of consciousness (depicted in Fig. 1A)—namely, WILL lacks any causal component. This problem of cau-sality was appreciated by the Greeks more than 2,000 years ago; andyet, as far as I can tell (and after“constant”conversations on thistopic for more than two decades), this anomaly is appreciated byonly a relatively small fraction of my professional colleagues. I havesuggested earlier that one of the reasons for the popular acceptanceof the notion of free will is the constant awareness of consciousthought processes that seem to affect our behavior. Biologists mayhave an additional reason for entertaining the possibility that thereis a biological basis to free will. In the space of a few decades,biologists have been remarkably successful in providing a molecularand cellular framework for most of the fundamental problems intheirfield. Examples include the description of DNA as the geneticmaterial, the diversity of the immune system, a molecular geneticbasis for development, and a molecular model for circadianbehavioral rhythms. It occurs to me that the confidence associatedwith these successes may contribute to the notion that eventually amolecular basis for free will be forthcoming. However, as noted,there are“causal”difficulties with this line of thinking, as appre-ciated by the early Greeks and as discussed by some philosophersand biologists.Concerned that, in reading this article, some may continue tobelieve that the viewpoints questioning the validity of free will thatI have expressed here are those of an uninformed minority, Iwould like now to quote some thoughts by some of the preeminentthinkers of recent centuries. The famous Scottish philosopherDavid Hume, in his discussion ofLiberty and Necessity, stated that“whatever capricious and irregular actions we may perform, as thedesire of showing our liberty is the sole motive force of ouractions, we can never free ourselves from the bonds of necessity.”(27). Thomas Huxley stated,“The feeling we call volition is not the cause of the voluntary act, but simply the symbol in con-sciousness of the stage of the brain which is the immediate causeof the act. Like the steam whistle which signals but doesn’t causethe starting of the locomotive”(28).In a similar vein Albert Einstein said,“If the moon, in the actof completing its eternal way around the earth, were gifted withself-consciousness, it would be fully convinced that it was trav-eling its way of its own accord...So would a Being, endowedwith higher insight and more perfect intelligence, watching manand his doings, smile about man’s illusion that he was actingaccording to his own free will”(29).When we add these quotations to those referred to earlier byDarwin and Crick, it is clear that the willingness of many present-day biologists to rather uncritically accept the notion of free willis not obviously in keeping with the lines of thought expressed bysome of the greatest minds of the last three centuries. Ques-tioning the causal anomalies of the popular notions of humanbehavior is, thankfully, not restricted to the early Greeks! The Selective Advantage of Consciousness In discussing free will, Susan Blackmore has noted that“manyscientists believe that the real causal factors are all those interactingneurons that do many things including creating a sense of self, and asense of free will—both of which are illusions”(19). She goes on tosay,“I think nature has played this enormous joke on us.”Inaddressing the same issue, Rita Carter has asked,“If free will is anillusion and each of our actions is determined by unconsciouscognitive processes in response to external stimuli, why should ourbrains delude us into thinking otherwise?”(30). A variation on thisquestion is: what is the evolutionary selective advantage of con-sciousness? One answer to this question is that consciousness pro-vides us with anapparentsense of responsibility:“Along with theillusion of control, our sense of agency brings the burdens of indi-vidual responsibility. Though this may sometimes weigh heavily onus personally, for society as a whole it is hugely beneficial. Ourentire morality and judicial system is dependent on everyoneaccepting that they are agents of their own misdeeds,and those whodon’t acknowledge this are—by legal definition—insane. We maynot consciously control our own actions, but the cognitive mecha-nisms that create the illusion that we do keep society functioning”(30). A similar argument has been made by Wegner:“The ability toknow what one will do...would seem to be an important humanasset.... This preview function could be fundamentally importantfor the facilitation of social interaction”(23).Ifind that the above are attractive explanations for the existence(the selective advantage) of consciousness. Furthermore, I believethat for these to be true, and somewhat in contrast to the aboveconclusions derived from Libet’s“finger moving experiment,”theremust be a mechanism by which consciousness does influencebehavior. There must be aflow of information from consciousnessto neural activity (Fig. 1C,arrow 2). However, in keeping with therequirement for causality and the necessity to comply with the lawsof nature, thisflow of information provides nothing other than aproduct of the input information (Fig. 1C,arrow 1). Although, likeany biosynthetic process, the product may be quite distinct from theinput material, it is still a direct consequence of these materials.I suggest that consciousness acts on behavior in a similar manner,such as to commonly reinforce the negative effects that are asso-ciated with antisocial behavior. Similarly, for some of us, con-sciousness heightens our desire to listen to music, for example, or towatch or participate in sporting activities. Whereas the impressionsare that we are making“free”conscious decisions, the reality is thatconsciousness is simply a state of awareness that reflects the inputsignals, and these are an unavoidable consequence of GES. Themechanistic details of these conscious processes are unknown, andremain the major unsolved problem in biology (31). In summary, then, I believe that free will is clearly an illusion.However, this is not to say that consciousness does not have afunction. I believe it does, and from this I assume that it mustgive rise to an evolutionary selective advantage. Consciousnessconfers the illusion of responsibility. No wonder the belief in freewill is so prevalent in society—the very survival of those“selfishfree-will genes”is predicated on their capacity to con one intobelieving in free will!A belief in free will is akin to religious beliefs. Indeed, I wouldarguethatfreewillmakes“logical sense,”as long as one has theluxury of the“causal magic”of religion. Neither religious beliefs, nora belief in free will, comply with the laws of the physical world.However, despite this similarity, although in scientificcirclesaskeptical viewpoint is very commonregarding religious forces andtheir day-to-day impact on biological systems, it is my observationthat similar skepticism isnot widelyheldregarding abelief in free will.If the existence of free will is so widely accepted and has strongsurvival value, then why would we want to change it? Because, as aconsequence of the advance in our understanding of the molec-ular basis of human behavior, it will become increasingly difficultto entertain this fallacy that currently has such a strong influencein the way we govern society. As Crick has written in reference tothe relationship between human values and scientific knowledge,“To construct a New System of the World we need both inspira-tion and imagination, but imagination building onflawed foun-dations will, in the long run, fail to satisfy. Dream as we may,reality knocks relentlessly at the door. Even if perceived reality islargely a construct of our brains, it has to chime with the real worldor eventually we grow dissatisfied with it”(18). The Criminal Justice System Our understanding of the functioning of the brain and themolecular details that result in individual acts of behavior hasimplications for the criminal justice system. Furthermore,although it may be relatively easy to critically comment on thepopular thinking about free will, it is not quite so easy to introducealternatives to the notion of free will and responsibility thatpresently form an integral component of the judicial system. InAnglo-American law, for a person to be found guilty of a crime, hemust be aware of his wrongdoing at the time of the crime—he mustdisplaymens rea: that is, the mind must be guilty. In certain cir-cumstances, a defendant can be found not guilty by reason ofinsanity. Rules governing this defense vary according to countryand state, but many are based on the M’Naghten rules, which for aclaim of insanity, required that:“the party accused was laboringunder such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not toknow the nature and the quality of the act he was doing; or, if he didknow it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong”(32).In fact, the successful application of the insanity defense is quiterare, both in the United States and elsewhere. An example wheresuch a defense was not successful concerned the case of JeffreyDahmer, who was found guilty and sentenced to 957 years inprison (where he was subsequently murdered) for the death ofseventeen young men from 1978 to 1991. Dahmer was a necro-philiac, performing gross sexual acts on the dead bodies, as well asperforming frontal lobotomies and boiling their skulls in acid. Therationale for the guilty verdict was that it was claimed that he knewwhat he was doing was wrong, as evidenced by the fact that he liedto the police about his activities. I raise this case to illustrate twopoints: First, the legal system assumes a capacity for individualsnot only to distinguish between right and wrong, but to actaccording to those distinctions—that is, an integral component ofthe legal system is a belief in free will. Furthermore, the legalsystem assumes that it is possible to distinguish those individualswho have this capacity of free will from those who lack it (32).To many there is clearly a difficulty—indeed, a disturbingdegree of arbitrariness—associated with any decision that eval-uates the degree of mental and legal responsibility that accom-panies such criminal acts. Indeed, there is extensive and ongoingdebate concerning this topic (32). As noted by Lady Barbara Wootton, the British criminologist,“If mental health and ill-health cannot be defined in objective scientific terms that are freeof subjective moral judgments, it follows that we have no reliablecriterion by which to distinguish the sick from the healthy mind.The road is then wide dispense with the concept ofresponsibility altogether”(33). And, as argued by the New Yorkpsychiatrist Abraham Halpern,“There is no morally sound basisto select a mental disease or defect as a justification for exculp-ability while excluding other behavioral determinants, such asheredity, poverty, family environment, and cultural deprivation.”(34). And as noted by Wilson and Herrnstein,“The recurrenttheme for the concept of responsibility, hence for the appropri-ateness of punishment, is behavior freely and intentionallyengaged in. The difficulty is that this conception places the legalsanction against offensive behavior in direct confrontation withthe sciences of human behavior. If society should not punish actsthat science has shown to have been caused by antecedent con-ditions, then every advance in knowledge about why peoplebehave as they do may shrink the scope of criminal law”(35). A Proposal If free will is an illusion, then it becomes more difficult to holdpeople responsible for their actions. I have argued that one of thereasons that individuals have been so reluctant to question thereality of free will is the belief that it would be difficult for societyto function under a system in which this concept was abandoned.However, this has not stopped people from speculating about theinadequacies of the present system and alternative possibilities.As argued by Wright,“All told, then,“free will”has been a fairlyusefulfiction, a rough proxy for utilitarian justice. But all of thetime-wasting debates now in progress (Is alcoholism a disease?Are sex crimes an addiction?...) suggest that it is beginning tooutlive its usefulness. After another decade or two of biologicalresearch, it may be more trouble than it’s worth; and in themeantime, the scope of“free will”may have shrunk considerably”(20). Wright then suggests, as one alternative, that we“....dispensewith volition altogether and adopt explicit utilitarian criteriaof punishment.”Progress in understanding the chemical basis of behavior willmake it increasingly untenable to retain a belief in the concept offree will. To retain any degree of reality, the criminal justice systemwill need to adjust accordingly. However, to retain a degree oforderliness in society it will still be necessary to incarcerate indi-viduals found guilty of certain criminal acts. This is rationalized invarious ways including the following: To a), protect society; b),protect the offending individuals from society; c), provide suchindividuals with appropriate psychiatric help; d), act as a deterrent(the act of incarceration and the presence of a criminal codeforming part of the environment); and e), alleviate the pain of thevictim. The proposal is a pragmatic one, based on the belief thatthe welfare of society at large is more important than the welfare ofthe individual offender.One might ask: How does this proposal differ from the presentsystem? Whereas in some ways, not significantly; in other ways itdiffers fundamentally. The primary difference would be theelimination of the illogical concept that individuals are in controlof their behavior in a manner that is something other than areflection oftheir genetic makeup andtheir environmental history.Furthermore, psychiatrists and other experts on human behaviorshould be eliminated from the initial judicial proceedings—therole of the jury would be to simply determine whether or not thedefendant was guilty of committing the crime; the mental state ofthe defendant would play no part in this decision. However, if adefendant were found guilty, then a court-appointed panel ofexperts would play a role in advising on matters of punishment andtreatment. This is a system that would hopefully minimize theretributive aspect of criminal law; concerns about this aspect oflaw, which have probably been around since laws werefirst intro-duced, include those expressed by Wootton (33), Menninger (36),and, more recently, Greene and Cohen (37). Also I note that I amnot thefirst to propose that psychiatrists should be excluded fromthe initial court proceedings; Glueck (38) and Menninger (36), forexample, who both had substantially more expertise than I have inthisfield, long ago made similar suggestions.Here, at this rather late stage, I should acknowledge that it hasbeen argued by Morse that the question of free will does not formpart of the US legal system (39). This being the case, then eventhough the law assumes that the brain can function as a responsibledecision-making machine in a manner that isnotsimply a reflec-tion of the genetic and environmental input, this assumption isapparently made without actually using the term“free will.”Inkeeping with this line of thinking, Morse notes,“The law does nottreat people generally as non-intentional creatures or mechanicalforces of nature. It could not be otherwise.”In response to this,I provide another quotation of Thomas Huxley:“Volition...isan emotionindicativeof physical changes, not acauseof suchchanges...The soul stands to the body as the bell of the clock tothe works, and consciousness answers to the sound which the bellgives out when struck.... We are conscious automata.”(28). Thatis, Huxley believed (as I and many others do) that we aremechanical forces of nature and that, by some mechanism we haveevolved the phenomenon of consciousness, which, I would argue,has conferred upon us the illusion of responsibility. Furthermore, Ibelieve that it is time for the legal system to confront this reality—increasingly indicated by studies in both genetics and neuro-sciences—that we are indeed“mechanical forces of nature.” Concluding Thoughts I noted earlier that belief in what I refer to as the magic of the souland Cartesian dualism hasostensiblydisappeared. The emphasis thatI now giveto“ostensibly”reflects my belief that, in the absence of anymolecular model accommodating the concept of free will, I have toconclude that the dualism of Descartes is alive and well. That is, justlike Descartes, we still believe (much as we pretend otherwise) thatthere is a magic component to human behavior. Here I argue that theway we use the concept of free will is nonsensical. The beauty of themind of man has nothing to do with free will or any unique hold thatbiology has on select laws of physics or chemistry. This beauty lies inthe complexity of the chemistry and cell biology of the brain, whichenables a select few of us to compose like Mozart and Verdi, and therest of us to appreciate listening to these compositions. The reality is,not only do we have no more free will than afly or a bacterium, inactualitywehavenomorefreewillthanabowlofsugar.Thelawsofnature are uniform throughout, and these laws do not accommodatethe concept of free will. Some will argue that once we understandbetter the mechanistic details that underlie consciousness, then wewill understand free will. Whatever the complexities of the moleculardetails of consciousness are, they are unlikely to involve any new lawin physics that would break the causal laws of nature in a non-stochastic way. If I am wrong on this point, then I eagerly await theelucidation of this principle. In the meantime it would be prudent toassume (in keeping with the thoughts of William of Occam, whereone always adopts the simplest of competing hypotheses) that anysearch for some new“Lucretian”law of physics, or some startlinglynovel emergent principle, will not be successful.Many believe that the consequences of a society lacking freewill would be disastrous. In contrast, I argue that we do notnecessarily need to be pessimistic about confronting a worldlacking free will. Indeed, it is quite possible that progress in someof the more vexing sociological problems may be better achievedonce we clarify our thinking concerning the concepts of free willand fault. Certainly, crime is a problem that society has muchdifficulty dealing with, and in the United States we have thehighest rate of incarceration in the world (40). For these andother reasons, surely it is inexcusable that in addressing these problems we continue to entertain this fallacious assumptionconcerning the most basic feature of human behavior.Finally, I would like to make the following point: In the intro-ductory chapter of many undergraduate texts dealing with biologyor biochemistry, it is common to stress (as I have in this article) thatbiological systems obey the laws of chemistry and physics; as livingsystems we are nothing more than a bag of chemicals. It is almostwith a sense of pride that the authors of such texts may contrast thisunderstanding with the alternative earlier belief in vitalism—thebelief that there are forces governing the biological world that aredistinct from those that determine the physical world. The ironyhere is that in reality, a belief in free will is nothing less than acontinuing belief in vitalism—a concept that we like to think wediscarded well over 100 years ago! It is my concern, that this vital-isticwayofthinkingabouthuman behavior—astyle of thinkingthatis present throughout our scientific institutions—serves only tohinder what should be a major onslaught on determining themolecular genetic and chemical basis of human behavior.