About the Author
Opinion Archives
E-mail Scott
Scott's Links

Junk science and moral responsibility

By Scott Tibbs, May 1, 2013

I found two statements about "scientific research" in the news media objectionable last week. First, an editorial in the Herald-Times about an IU sorority that was roundly criticized for holding a party that mocked the homeless:

According to Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, these kids didn’t yet have the ability to think properly about their idea. Research shows the brain develops such abilities later than you might think — between the teens and the mid 20s.

This is nonsense. Age does not excuse bad behavior. Furthermore, these young women are not "kids." They are legal adults and perfectly capable of knowing right from wrong.

Then, a report from ABC News about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's role in the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing:

Now, science has confirmed that the human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. The brain develops from back to front – from the emotional limbic system first to the rational frontal precortex last.

This is not legitimate "science." This is junk science.

I have been 19 years old. Well before I was 19, I knew that setting off a bomb in a crowd and murdering an eight year old child was a morally reprehensible thing to do.

I am 39 years old. in my decades of observing human behavior in children and teens (as well as my own teen years, which were not that long ago) it is obvious that from a very early age people understand what is right and wrong. This is well before one becomes a legal adult at age 18.

Here is the problem I have with this "research." It is part of trend in our society for many years to reduce moral responsibility for bad behavior. Instead of moral judgment for bad acts, we make the decisions people make a product of chemical reactions or a bad social environment during childhood. We do not want to judge bad behavior and we certainly do not want to point out that anything is sinful or that there is some sort of higher moral code.

This is a symptom that we as a society have rejected Almighty God and His authority over us. Part of our rejection of Him is a rejection of any higher moral authority, a rejection of objective truth, and explaining away immoral choices as the products of forces beyond our control. Ironically, orthodox Christian doctrine as explained in the Bible is much stronger on the doctrine of Free Will than the humanists are.