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The New York Times
March 13, 2001

Anatomy of a Teenage Shooting

To the Editor:

Re "A Brain Too Young for Good Judgment" (Op-Ed, March 10): Daniel R. Weinberger asserts that "the evidence is unequivocal that the prefrontal cortex of a 15-year-old is biologically immature. . . . The 15-year- old brain does not have the biological machinery to inhibit impulses in the service of long-range planning."

Until recent times, children who reached biological maturity, typically around the age of 13, were treated as adults. Benjamin Franklin was an apprentice printer at age 12, and his brain was evidently well enough developed to plan for the future.

Mr. Weinberger's disclaimer -- "this brief lesson in brain development is not meant to absolve criminal behavior" -- is unpersuasive. That's exactly what it is. Such fashionable neurologizing of bad behavior is destructive of civilized discourse and human relations.

Syracuse, March 10, 2001
The writer is professor emeritus of psychiatry at SUNY.

Thomas S. Szasz Cybercenter for Liberty and Responsibility:
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