(Who is responsible for the killing of folks by James Eagen Holmes?)
The Dangers Of Reducing All Human Behavior To Biological Causation
Ozodi Osuji, PhD
It is reported that James Eagen Holmes, the graduate student who murdered twelve people and wounded over 59 others at an Aurora, Colorado Movie theater was studying neuroscience and that he recently made a presentation on the Biological Basis of Psychiatric and Neurological disorders to a class he was taking.
Psychologists and psychiatrists are perceived by their colleagues in the physical sciences as not true scientists. Because of this disrespect they are struggling mightily hard to prove to their scientific colleagues that they are real scientists. The only way that they can prove their scientific status is to demonstrate that all psychological, psychiatric and neurological disorders have biological basis and, indeed, that all human thinking and behavior are biological in origin.
If the mental health establishment can convince the public that everything human beings do is rooted in human biology they would have succeeded in making psychology a real science.
The problem with this herculean struggle to reduce human thinking and behavior to biological causation is that it takes away what it means to be a human being: possession of will. We generally define people as those animals that have will and exercise will albeit limited.
We know that nature and other people exercise power over individual human beings but we also know that each individual in the final analysis has will power.
Consider that each of us is alive by his desire to be alive. Each of us has the ability to kill himself at any moment he desires to do so and to kill other persons if he so desires it. Right now, if I choose to l can point a gun at my head and kill me or point a gun at another person and kill him. So why don't I do it? I do not do it because I do not want to do it (choice, freedom).
It is not fear of death or fear of God and other such nonsense that prevents people from killing themselves or other people but because they have the ability to decide what is good or bad. They judge killing the self or other selves wrong.
(The sin of slavery and racism is that white folks realized that they had the ability to enslave unarmed Africans and did so, feeling that just because they had the guns to do so that they should do so; they are human beings and ought to have realized that what makes us human is the ability to decide to not abuse or oppress other folks even if we have the ability to do so; you may have guns to point at others to oppress them and get them to do what you want done yet you should not do so for it is not right to do so. Who said that it is not right to do so, you ask? Something in all of us says so; what it is I do not understand; some call it God.)
Clearly, biological factors affect human behavior. I have written tons of papers showing how biological factors affect human behavior. I believe that biological factors trump social factors in determining human behavior.
Consider. When a person points a gun at us our bodies elicit certain excitatory neurochemicals (translated to neurotransmitters such as noradrenalin) that excite all the organs in our bodies; they make our hearts pound faster, our lungs work faster, our blood rush blood to all over our bodies quicker; they make us talk rapidly and think rapidly...information is rapidly sent to the brain, which rapidly process it and feedback given to us as to what to do in response to the danger, to run from it or stay and fight it.
In fear and or anger response we ascertain that biological factors (noradrenalin) affect thinking (makes it faster). Therefore, we can generalize and say that biological factors affect thinking and human behavior.
Having stated that, however, our experience teaches us that it is not only biological factors that make human beings think. There is an unknown aspect of them that also think.
You may agree or disagree with them, the fact is that those who have had out of body experience and or near death experiences tell us that in their non-physical states (they tell us that they also saw themselves in bodies) that they were also thinking.
I do not know that what near death experiencers tell us is true or not, or whether spirit exist or not. What I do know is that there seem an aspect of human beings that is not biological in nature. I believe that ultimately there is an unknown aspect of us that though biology influences is not biological in nature.
In their efforts to make themselves seem scientists, psychologists and psychiatrists are tryingly mightily to convince folks that all human behavior is due to biological factors.
Yes, there are biological influences in our behaviors but there are unknown aspects to us. There is a mystery in us.
The current influence of neuroscience can give impressionable students such as James Holmes the impression that all that people are is their bodies. If we teach folks to believe that human beings are only their bodies then we have empowered them to dispose of people as one disposes cattle.
If you reduce people to the status of cattle who only are their bodies then you have made it possible for sick persons like James Holmes to kill them and not feel like they did anything wrong.
Killing a person is always a judgment call. If I judge you an animal, as not different from a cow I can kill you and not feel guilty.
If neuroscientists prove that all there is to people are their brains, their bodies why shouldn't any one kill them and not feel guilty?
Why not kill the neuroscientists and put them out of their misery, their efforts to reduce people to animal level only so as to make themselves seem like physical scientists?
There is a danger to biological reductionism, to reducing all human behavior to biological causation. Neuroscientists are therefore culprits in James Holmes murder of people at a theater to the extent that they helped take away from him that which makes us human, our ability to choose to love or to hate, to allow other people to stay alive or to kill them.
I have worked with schizophrenics, bipolar affectively disordered persons (manic), depressed persons, anxious persons and personality disordered persons and know from clinical experience that there are biological factors in their diseases hence the need to give them medications that attempt to balance their screwed up brain neurotransmitters. However, I also know that there is an aspect of mental disorders that is not biological in etiology...such as the meaningless lives we live (existentialist philosophy, such as Sartre, and or religion, such as Plotinus' Gnosticism, seem to be helpful in giving people a way to cope with life in a seeming meaningless and pointless universe).
We must keep emphasizing that life is a mystery to be respected and loved. When some psychologists, or psychiatrists or as they call themselves today, neuroscientists (those who study neurons, nerves, the nervous system....well, the human self is more than the nervous system, there are muscles, bones and other parts of the body, all those affect behavior so study the entire human physiology not just the nerves) tell unbalanced but bright students that all they are is their bodies they dispose them to have no respect for human life and to destroy it.
Neuroscience is on a dangerous path by teaching that all behavior is determined by the brain, body.
Consider that 96% of the universe is unknown to physics...the73% that is made of dark energy and 23% dark matter. In a universe where we understand only four percent of phenomena we ought to accept that we do not know much.
Neuroscience is studying the brain; the brain is probably only 1% of people and the other 99% is their entire bodies. Even if we understand all human biology, chemistry and physics and the known physical universe, we still do not understand 96% of people and their physical universe and ought to shut up and stop reducing complex human beings and their behaviors to only biological causation.
There remains an unknown X causing peoples behaviors, an X that is not their bodies or social factors?
There is no doubt that James Eagen Holmes will be subjected to psychological and psychiatric evaluations. They will probably find some kind of psychoses (onset of schizophrenia or delusion disorder?) in him. Those notwithstanding, he is a human being and, as such, has a will.
We all must take responsibility for our actions. Mr. Holmes is responsible for his actions, mental disorder or not. We cannot reduce people to animal status by only saying that their brain chemical balance or imbalance made them do what they do.
I do not care whether Mr. Holmes had excessive dopamine in his brain that made him engage in psychotic thinking; the fact is that he did what he did and must be given responsibility for his actions (and takes whatever consequences for such action the law has).
*This paper was first sent to the Los Angeles Times.
Ozodi Osuji, PhD