Friday, October 18, 2002
CHAIRMAN KASS: If you would kindly stay at your seats while we
have a public comment from the one person who has signed up, it's
Wrye Sententia, who is the Director for the Center of Cognitive Liberty
and Ethics. I believe that's California; is that right?
MS. SENTENTIA: Yes.
CHAIRMAN KASS: And you've come a long
way and most welcome to you. We look forward to your comment.
MS. SENTENTIA: Thank you.
I just have a few brief comments that emphasize
two main points, and I'd like to start by saying that any
discussion of the ethics of treating or manipulating the mind or what
some people are now calling neuroethics must begin by protecting the
interiority of individuals' minds.
So our twofold principles are that, first, no
one should be forced to use drugs or mind technologies against their
will, and second, that no one should be denied access or criminalized
for their use.
The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics is
a nonprofit, education, law, and policy center working in the public
interest to foster cognitive liberty, which we defined as the right of
individuals to think independently and autonomously, to use the full
spectrum of their mind, and to engage in multiple modes of
So in essence, we're working to protect the
full potential of the human intellect.
Cognitive liberty is an essential human right.
The United Nations' universal declaration of human rights and the
U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights both support a basic human right
to cognitive liberty or freedom of thought.
The complexity of our social fabric conspires
to make any assignation of transcendent values difficult, particularly
when, as in the case of bio or neuroethics, the issues span such
elementary yet malleable values as individual and collective good or
quality of life.
The CCLE recognizes — that's the Center
for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics — recognizes, as does the Council,
that the complexity of many of the issues involving brain enhancement
are not easily resolvable.
However, we hope that by introducing the
principle of cognitive liberty into the discussion, the Council will
find useful distinctions in making its recommendations.
To the CCLE and our supporters, the question of
mind enhancement is fundamentally a question of cognitive
self-determination interwoven with an ethics of reciprocal autonomy,
autonomy not as arbitrary legislation created for oneself, but rather
as laws that permit whenever possible successful interaction with
others based on respect and tolerance for each other's core values
I'd like to read a quote from Laurence
Tribe of Harvard Law School.
"In a society whose whole constitutional
heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to
control men's minds, the governing institutions and especially the
courts must not only reject direct attempts to exercise forbidden
domination over mental processes. They must strictly examine as well
oblique intrusions likely to produce or designed to produce the same
Decisions about as intimate a freedom as
cognitive liberty should be allocated to the individual rather than the
government. The CCLE works from the premise that the role of the
state, criminal law, science, and ethics, should be guided by
principles that enhance opportunities for each individual to
Public policy decisions should be framed by
principles of legal liberalism, not by moralism or paternalism. This
is not to say that morals or safety precautions have no place in
determining appropriate uses of drugs or mind technologies, but that
the role of the state should not be to determine what is or isn't
moral, what are or are not acceptable personal risks.
In our opinion, public policy for psychotropic
drugs and/or brain technologies should stem from our democratic
government's responsibility for preserving individual autonomy and
choice to the maximum extent possible.
While neuroethical issues are complex and often
deeply philosophical, the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics
maintains that a solid starting point for practical discussion begins
with these two fundamental recognitions.
First, as long as their behavior doesn't
endanger others, individuals should not be compelled against their will
to use technologies that directly interact with the brain or be forced
to take certain psychoactive drugs.
Second, as long as they do not subsequently
engage in behavior that harms others, individuals should not be
prohibited from or criminalized for using new mind enhancing drugs or
Simply put, the freedom and right to control
one's own consciousness is the necessary foundation on which
virtually every other freedom stands.
My written comments also have been submitted to
the Council which are extended.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Thank you very much.
Is there any other member of the public that
would like to make a comment before we adjourn?
CHAIRMAN KASS: If not, thanks to our guests
for stimulating presentations. Thanks to the Council members for your
attention during the long day.
You should have at your seat the directions for
where we are meeting at dinner, which will be, I believe, at seven
o'clock; is that correct? Let me have it. Six thirty for the
reception, seven o'clock the dinner.
I remind you that tomorrow morning we start at
8:30, and we will be joined by two distinguished guests from the U.K.
to talk about regulation in Britain.
The meeting is adjourned.
(Whereupon, at 5:33 p.m., the meeting in the
above-entitled matter was adjourned, to reconvene at 8:30 a.m., Friday,
October 18, 2002.)