I would like to clarify my argument and apologize to Alex Ricca, George Clark (Mailbox, Aug. 17) and others if I gave the impression that I was trying to absolve criminal behavior simply because we (likely) don't have free wills.
If it turns out that we are completely robotic (and it certainly looks that way to me), it needn't change anything in our legal system, nor would it give a free pass to psychotic leaders and rapists.
Being robotic would not absolve us of the consequences of our actions. Society still has to protect itself. It doesn't matter if people can't stop themselves from doing awful things. We as a society need to protect ourselves from harm; that's the bottom line.
It would take guilt off the table, though, and that might not be a bad thing. It could lead to us treating each other with more understanding and compassion, sort of like we already treat the insane. In any case, we have to protect ourselves, whatever that entails.
Finally, Paul Mann's assertion (Mailbox, Aug. 10) that we have a little bit of free will (for trivial matters) seems overly generous. It looks to me like our lack of free will is complete. The unconscious brain (our inner robot) is the biological machine that builds our thoughts. It's an absolute marvel of complexity and a master illusionist that we are only just beginning to understand. It even reprograms itself continuously.
Douglas George, Eureka