Ain’t No Lie

Sandra Day O’Connor
Sandra Day O’Connor Wikimedia Commons

This week the MacArthur Foundation announced plans to convene a group of scientists, law makers and some really good thinkers for a discussion on the ethics of using neurotechnology in the legal system. Presiding over the $10 million effort, called the Law and Neuroscience Project, is honorary chair Sandra Day O'Connor.

A couple months ago I wrote that the perfect lie detector remains elusive. Unless something's changed since then, lie detectors of any sort--from the polygraph to brain scans--are virtually inadmissible in court.

Some believe lie detection could one day be as important in trials as DNA is. But a court-ready lie detector has been "ten years away" for half a century, and the general feeling I got from reporting the story was that it might forever be a decade beyond the present.

Neuroscience could impact the courtroom beyond lying, though, says the project's director, Mike Gazzaniga. So it's not too early for jurists and scientists to start a dialogue on the topic, especially since the first party deals necessarily in absolutes and the other in shades of gray. Compromise and mutual understand will take some time.

But for now, at least, your secret love for "Melrose Place" is safe from the jury.

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