Imagine there are two men. Both experience an emotionally trauamatic situation. Both suffer the same emotional states as reaction to this trauama — confusion, anger, rager. Both experience the gut-wrenching pain that goes along with this, and both imagine inflicting violence in response to the trauma.
Now imagine one of these men is stentenced to twenty years in prison, where he experiences loss of freedom, rule by gangs, and perhaps rape. The other goes about his day.
Clearly this is injust, but this is how how legal system is set-up. We punish in response to someone’s behavior, which of course is systematic discrimination against those with poor behavioral control. Every day countless people of evil intention, evil hearts, and evil design go free because they happen to possess better behavioral control, while those who suffer the same temporary lapses as everyone else are imprisoned because of a lack of behavioral control.
Clearly, behavior matters to society. We don’t want people to be violent around us. So we create this institutional evil — the prisons — to avoid an even worse evil — anarchy.
In the coming years and decades, pharmacological gene therapy may save us from a lot of this evil. By giving more people an equal playing field — by allowing this who suffer from the illness of poor behavioral control to be cured — we may allow many prisoners to enjoy a normal life and allow more citizens to be secure from criminal violence.
Indeed, the benefits may not end there. We may be able to help those who suffer from thoughts that lead to this sort of trouble to escape from those thoughts, and those who suffer from sick desires to be free of those desires, in the way that those who suffer from other forms of sickness may also be cured.
Some of course will object. They will prefer a world where men are killed in bar fights, where children are sexually abused, and prisoners are raped, to one where people can be cured of illnesses. This may be because they view the technology of cure as morally suspect, through a pagan belief that some people have less virtue than others and thus deserve more punishment than others, through a belief that time in prison is not a loss, or some other reason.
But I believe in building a world with less suffering. I believe in a political philosophy based on love. So I welcome the coming of pharmacological gene therapy.
And as a realist, I am happy I don’t have to rely on such airy beliefs. There’s money to be made in better behavior through chemistry, just as there is inbetter thinking through chemistry.
Isn’t it great when money and love work for the same ends?