Of course, people still commit innumerable bad actions, but the idea that people make conscious decisions to hurt or harm is no longer sustainable, say the new brain scientists. For one thing, there is no such thing as "free will" with which to decide to commit evil. (Like evil, free will is an antiquated concept for most.) Autonomous, conscious decision-making itself may well be an illusion. And thus intentional evil is impossible.
Have the new neuroscientists brandishing their fMRIs, the ghostly illuminated etchings of the interior structures of the skull, succeeded where their forebears from disciplines ranging from phrenology to psychoanalysis have failed? Have they pinpointed the hidden anomalies in the amygdala, the dysfunctions in the prefrontal lobes, the electrochemical source of impulses that lead a Jared Loughner, or an Anders Breivik, to commit their murderous acts?
And in reducing evil to a purely neurological glitch or malformation in the wiring of the physical brain, in eliminating the element of freely willed conscious choice, have neuroscientists eliminated as well "moral agency," personal responsibility? Does this "neuromitigation" excuse—"my brain made me do it," as critics of the tendency have called it—mean that no human being really wants to do ill to another? That we are all innocent, Rousseauian beings, some afflicted with defects—"brain bugs" as one new pop-neuroscience book calls them—that cause the behavior formerly known as evil?
The whole article is quite interesting, even though I disagree with its general conclusion. There's really too much to summarize except to add that it really makes no difference whether you call bad actions the result of brain dysfunction or evil intent from a social perspective. If you have a criminal who has demonstrated a desire to harm others, wherever that desire comes from, he or she needs to be removed from society. This is the basic function of prison - to keep the rest of us safe from such individuals. Many criminals do show decreased functioning in areas of the brain that control impulses, but at the same time it is possible to engage in activities with the express goal of improving your brain's executive function. That's much of what working magick is all about.
On the one hand, Thelema rejects the notion of metaphysical evil in much the same way as these neuroscientists do. From moment to moment, True Will is simply True Will and the right course of action is to follow it wherever it leads. On the other hand, in Thelema it is also considered essential to discipline the mind and the will so that an accurate impression of the nature of True Will can emerge, free from the limitations of condititioning programs that are essentially reactionary in nature rather than a manifestation of the authentic self. If there is in fact no such thing as Will, it would seem that Thelema is a pointless pursuit, but on the other hand, self-discipline is generally necessary in order to achieve the greatest possible success in life. Maybe that's why The Book of the Law so emphatically states that "Success is thy proof." When a method works it works, regardless of what you decide to call it.