In general, researchers hope to answer the same ontological question: "Who are we?" Practitioners address the question in their own unique ways, employing the rhetoric and idioms, and the agenda and metrics, that express their respective domains. Researchers in the various brain sciences work at the frontier of knowledge about our brains, the final material cause of all of our endeavors. They fully share the commitment to this fundamental question. From the perspective of the brain sciences, the answer to this question-though certainly not now and perhaps never fully elaborated-is nonetheless more widely understood than at any time in human history. We know at least this with certainty: Everything-everything-we perceive, know, feel, and sense emanates from the brain. Much of the new data affirm our sense of self. But some do not. We should look into those matters and take seriously the observation of Robert Sapolsky, who notes that many of the findings from neuroscience "must challenge our sense of self."
This Article, which introduces Mercer's 2010 Symposium edition, reports on some of the possibilities-and some of the dreams-from the research that supports the assertion that we should take cognizance of this new knowledge of ourselves. Others will share information about the admissibility of imaging evidence, about its potential for teasing out invisible biases, about the use of fMRI technology to determine some of the neural correlates of behavior, about the potential of neuroscientific data to unlock some of the hidden bases of our norms, and, finally, about the tricky use of imaging evidence to mitigate punishment in the death penalty context. Other articles will try to bring us up to date on the many advances in the brain sciences and present a somewhat skeptical approach to the law and neuroscience projects.
Theodore Y. Blumoff, Foreward: The Brain Sciences and Criminal Law Norms, 62 Mercer L. Rev. 705 (2011).