Today I would like to discuss a matter of great importance regarding the brain, and give a modest proposal about how this matter could be understood in a scientific manner. I give warning at the outset that this entry is likely to be troubling to many people, so if you are squeamish, I suggest at this point that you go elsewhere. For those who are willing to delve into the implications of the causality of mental trauma, you have been warned.
The Bible is very strict on providing the death penalty for crimes such as kidnapping, rape, and incest. For example, Exodus 21:16 tells us: “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.” Likewise, Leviticus 18 describes in vivid detail the boundaries of incest that are forbidden for godly people to cross—including half-siblings, nephews and nieces, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. This chapter (and plenty of others) also condemn with the death penalty the practice of homosexual sex, and this passage also gives the death penalty to bestiality. Leviticus 19:29 commands: “Do not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry, and the land become full of wickedness.” And like these other sins, the Bible places the death penalty on rape, with generous assumptions (for the victim) about the assumption of rape (see Deuteronomy 22:25-27).
Many people think that the death penalty is so common for these sins because the Bible is some sort of overly harsh and condemnatory and barbaric document. But they are capable of a vastly more charitable construction that may, in fact, be scientifically demonstrated if someone is so inclined as to research the matter in a longitudinal study. If it can be shown that traumatic events or sexual sins have an effect on brain activity, then we can determine physical repercussions to sinful behavior, and therefore demonstrate the cause of such problems. In fact, if one can spot the effects of such trauma as child abuse, rape, or incest on a child, and then notice later “second-order” effects on the brain like homosexual activity and pornography, or drug or alcohol abuse, that often result from such sins, then it may be possible to provide the chain of brain activity leading from original innocence to a very corrupt state (a corrupt state that is, lamentably, all too common in this world).
Let us therefore propose a longitudinal study for the brave neurologist. Let us take a large enough sample of newborn babies (say, 1,000) whose parents have given permission for periodic (say, once every six months for the first eighteen years of their life) scans of brain activity. If certain behaviors are “hard wired” into the brain, then we might expect the scans of those newborns to show marked differences. However, if it is traumatic events or sinful behavior that change the structure of brain activity, we should expect to see that as well. Given that an average of 1 out of every 4 or 5 children is sexually abused in the United States, we should expect that at least 200 to 250 children would show changed brain activity as a result of that horrible trauma during the course of their childhood. We should also witness during their childhood and teenage years the brain effects of sexual and chemical experimentation, if indeed (as we would expect) that it is behavior and actions that wire the brain.
The political and moral implications of such a study would be immense. For one, if it could be shown, with hard data, that it was rape and abuse that caused a significant portion of the scourge of homosexuality, drug and alcohol abuse, and pornography, then there would be significant cause to increase the punishments on child abuse and on rape in general, given its effects on the brain. We might also then combine treatment of drug and alcohol abuse with other counseling that dealt with the original causes of such abuse, and that dealt with the whole family (since it is usually in dysfunctional family situations where such behavior occurs in the first place). Additionally, if it could be shown that sexual abuse was the cause of a great deal of the sexual sins of our society, we might be less inclined to “blame the victim” and more inclined to seek the deeper causes of our society’s moral decay in the abuse of the helpless and innocent, even if we find that behavior is the cause of brain changes, rather than the result.
Either way, causality is important. If we can show that brain changes result from actions, we might have a better idea of when and how such behavior results. We might find that some actions (in particular, a great deal of addictions) are second-order problems, the attempts to self-medicate an existing mental disorder, and we might therefore work back from the present to deal with both the existing “crises” of behavior and the underlying causes of those behaviors. We might additionally give much harder criminal penalties (including the death penalty) for those actions on the part of others that are so traumatic in the first place and cause such terrible damage within the brain. Whatever the results of the study, we would have proof of the effect of behavior over the long term within the brain, and then be able to act accordingly with knowledge on those actions that caused a loss of mental health.
Nor does this exhaust the worthwhile implications of such research. A longitudinal research project on people who are in therapy should be able to determine if therapy is successful. That is to say, if therapy works, we should expect to see evidence of it working in the healthy and “normal” brain function of people who have gone through treatment. Likewise, we should be able to see those addicted to prescriptions show the brain functions of addicts—and likewise shy away from over-medication of mental health issues as has been the habit. Again, the possibility exists that mental health treatments may be testable in an empirical fashion, showing either the tendency to encourage or induce substance abuse, the effectiveness of treatments, or something else entirely. Whatever happens, though, it may be possible already, within current technology, to determine the success or failure of counseling through changed brain activity over a period of time, should anyone be so inclined to test it.
This suggests that what has hitherto been an almost “magical” aspect of health, mental health, can enter the realm of hard science and leave behind unprofitable speculations through the development of real accountability for treatment decisions. Likewise, the fact that it should be possible to test the longitudinal results of trauma and the development of the brain’s pathways through behavior suggests that political disputes over the homosexual agenda can be tested by hard science, with all the political implications of such a test. Those who claim to be the representatives of science ought to relish such a challenge. Are there any takers?