The risks of applying empirical reason to moral reasoning are revealed in the final paragraphs of Oakley's article, when she notes that "some people are innately duplicitous, self-serving and deceitful" - "malevolents" who by implication should be in prison rather than "high in social hierarchies".
But even if one has not seen the film Minority Report , the risks of such assumptions should be obvious in her example of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There is a gene for evil; Ahmadinejad says things about homosexuals most of us in the West dislike; thus Ahmadinejad possesses such a gene; thus he cannot be reasoned with.
So do a couple of rogue genes substitute for - indeed circumvent - a holistic range of religious, cultural and personal factors contributing towards Iran's political stance. Given that his "evil" intentions are already determined somewhere deep within his DNA, there is no point in using diplomacy. Such a belief starts to look suspiciously like an empirical 45-minute claim justifying Ahmadinejad's eradication no matter what. We all know the sort of self-serving, malevolent black holes into which this sort of pre-determination can lead us, fatally.
Alistair Brown, PhD research student, Department of English studies Durham University.