This article – informed by science studies scholarship and consonant with the emerging enterprise of “critical neuroscience” – critiques recent neuroscience research, and its current and potential applications in the national security context. The author expresses concern about the subtle interplay between the national security and neuroscience communities, and the hazards of the mutual enchantment that may ensue.
The Bush administration’s “war on terror” has provided numerous examples of the abuse of medicine, behavioral psychology, polygraphy and satellite imagery. The defense and national security communities have an ongoing interest in neuroscience too – in particular, neuroimaging and psychoactive drugs (including oxytocin) as aids to interrogation. Given the seductive allure of neuroscientific explanations and colorful brain images, neuroscience in a national security context is particularly vulnerable to abuse. The author calls for an urgent re-evaluation of national security neuroscience as part of a broader public discussion about neuroscience’s non-therapeutic goals.
I really like the tone of this one: Fascinating article that constructively criticizes the crossroads of neuroscience and the real world applications that exist “where the translation from research lab to real life may involve great leaps, among them the troubling jump from brain scanning to terrorist screening.”
One point particularly well articulated is about the linguistic “hazards—practical and ethical—that arise from the deployment of opaque terminology” speaking to how common of a misconception is it for the layman to be under the impression that because we have a big important name for a part of the brain- that must mean we understand everything about it, selling pseudo intellectual fluency…which is clearly far from the truth.
My ‘ol buddy (in my head) Dr. Gudjonsson makes a quick appearance referencing to SERE tactics and interrogations leading to the recognition that there is a lack of research surrounding national security and neuroscience. From truth serums to oxytocin laced drugs, polygrpahs and to my personal fav, brain imaging…these instruments are presented and deconstructed in a way that is easy to understand and at the same time, makes us question how we could ever trust their use for lie detection or terrorist screening. You might say duh, but this is the court where ball is being played now.
LSD and, increasingly, the polygraph may seem consigned to the annals of U.S. national security. But no one should doubt that the concerns that have motivated their use are alive and well in the neuroscience and national security communities. Via
I’ll take that as a fair warning.
Marks, J.H. (2010). A Neuroskeptic’s Guide to Neuroethics and National Security American Journal of Bioethics: Neuroscience, 1 (2), 4-12 (in press)