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Passing judgment

In his otherwise excellent Commentary column on excusing criminal behavior, Stanton E. Samenow commits a category error that undermines the rest of what he wrote (“Psyching out crime excuses,” Aug. 26). After defending the idea that people control their own choices in life, Mr. Samenow inexplicably concedes, “Until science tells us more, we have no satisfactory explanation for evil.”

Science will never be able to explain evil because “evil” is a value judgment, not a scientific judgment. Like good, evil refers to behavior, ethics and choice, not to biology, chemistry and physics. The good and bad that people do are simply not measurable by science or subject to the laws of mechanics. That is why “social science,” including psychology and sociology, is an oxymoron. Behavior cannot be studied, explained or predicted like the movement of planets or molecules — no two persons are identical, and “mind” is not an organ subject to physical laws. Therefore, science cannot tell us more about good and evil.

JEFFREY A. SCHALER

School of public affairs

American University

Washington

SHELDON RICHMAN

Editor

The Freeman

Foundation for Economic Education

Irvington, N.Y.

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