Recenlty, WNYC‘s Radiolab ran one of the most intense and interesting podcasts I have heard in quite sometime. The podcast, titled “Blame,” is about the intersection of law, technology, and moral responsibility.
The first story, “Fault Line,” is about a New Jersey man epilepsy may or may not have play a role in his child pornography addiction. Here is a description of “Fault Line”:
Kevin* is a likable guy who lives with his wife in New Jersey. And he’s on probation after serving time in a federal prison for committing a disturbing crime. Producer Pat Walters helps untangle a difficult story about accountability, and a troubling set of questions about identity and self-control. Kevin’s doctor, neuroscientist Orrin Devinsky, claims that what happened to Kevin could happen to any of us under similar circumstances — in a very real way, it wasn’t entirely his fault. But prosecutor Lee Vartan explains why he believes Kevin is responsible just the same, and should have served the maximum sentence.
The second story, “Forget about Blame?”, is a conversation between the hosts of Radiolab with David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who argues that the law should forget about retributivism and blame. Eagleman defends the “my brain made me do it” defense and suggests that neuroscience should fundamentally alter how we think about criminal law.
Here is a description of the story:
Nita Farahany, who’s been following the growing field of Neurolaw for years now, helps uncover what seems to be a growing trend — defendants using brain science to argue that they aren’t entirely at fault. Neuroscientist David Eagleman thinks this is completely wrongheaded, and argues for tossing out blame as an old-fashioned, unfair way of thinking about the law. According to David and Amy Phenix, a clinical and forensic psychologist who relies on statistics, it makes more sense to focus on the risk of committing more crimes. But Jad and Robert can’t help wondering whether that’s really a world they want to live in.
Finally, the third story, “Dear Hector”, is a remarkable tale of forgiveness. It is about a father who befriends his daughter’s murderer.
Reporter Bianca Giaever brings us a story of forgiveness that’s nearly impossible to comprehend — even for the man at the center of it, an octogenarian named Hector Black.