Study Finds Brain Injury Changes Moral JudgmentJohn Yoo is the legal mind who wrote the famous torture memo for George Bush.
Damage to an area of the brain behind the forehead, inches behind the eyes, transforms the way people make moral judgments in life-or-death situations, scientists are reporting today. In a new study, people with this rare injury expressed increased willingness to kill or harm another person if doing so would save others' lives.
But a large difference in the participants’ decisions emerged when there was no switch to flip — when they had to choose between taking direct action to kill or harm someone (pushing him in front of the runaway boxcar, for example) and serving a greater good.
Those with ventromedial injuries were about twice as likely as the other participants to say they would push someone in front of the train (if that was the only option), or to poison someone with AIDS who was bent on infecting others, or suffocate a baby whose crying would reveal to enemy soldiers where the subject and family and friends were hiding.
In Yoo's debate with Doug Cassel, the Notre Dame law professor asked: "If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?"
John Yoo: "No treaty."
Doug Cassel: "Also no law by Congress—that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo [while Yoo was a Justice Department attorney]."
John Yoo: "I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that."