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Recently, at a symposium titled "Is There Science Underlying Truth Detection?" held at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences6, Jed Rakoff, a United States district judge for the Southern District of New York, made it very clear that he will never allow an fMRI scan as evidence for deception in his court. Judges like Rakoff are worried that lie detectors may take away from the jury its role as fact-finder, specifically when assessing the credibility of a witness. One could imagine that a jury will no longer have to watch a witness testify, hunt for deceptive behavior, and decide whether or not to believe the witness, because the fMRI will isolate the "liars." What does this "mechanization," or dehumanizing of deception detection, in the name of objectivity imply? In a way, it dehumanizes the behavior itself. A lie becomes defined by a certain pattern of oxygenated blood in the brain, completely decontextualized of the emotional dynamics that caused an individual to deceive in the first place.
Peeking into someone's brain is a powerful tool, and therefore highly coveted by security agencies in our current day and time. Some bioethicists are concerned that the fMRI lie detector may be abused. They believe some agencies might be tempted to use the test in situations where use of the test may infringe on individual privacy and autonomy. Furthermore, the false confidence in this technology could possibly blight a person's future, and many ask whether or not we are willing to take that risk. They wonder if the exaggerated reliability of the fMRI exemplifies how a technology can be spurred on by the convergence of basic science, the directing of research through funding, and certain groups who desire a particular technology. Essentially, this promoted reliability is pushing us further into equating the brain and the mind, physiology and emotion. What does this mean in terms of detecting deception among criminals? Stephen J. Morse, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that legally relevant neuroscience must begin with behavior, not with a picture of blood flows in the brain. "Brains don't kill people - people kill people."
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