In a forthcoming article in the New Statesman, Sam Harris states that not only is the idea of god a delusion, but so also is the idea of free will. He states that "we can find no room for it in the causal order" and that "all of our behavior can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge." Finally, he states that "every person represents a confluence of forces that he did not will into being - and we can be lucky or very unlucky in this respect."
While all of this might be true, I'm not inclined to make as much of this as Sam is. If one completely unpacks that confluence, we risk losing the big picture: that of the human herself. If we think of a human being as a machine that can be tuned like an instrument, which knobs should we turn and why? More importantly, who gets to turn the knobs? All social and personal goals are bound up in that 'confluence,' so in the end, it comes down to an arbitrary set of value judgements no one is qualified to make (Not that someone wouldn't try).
I regard myself as a responsible human being: one of the many, many pillars upon which civilization rests. That civilization is the lifeblood of all human endeavors, providing manifold benefits to us all. We do not all contribute equally to that civilization, and some weigh it down, sometimes in grevious ways. I recognize that even the Charles Mansons of the world may be themselves victims (if that is even the right word) of circumstance, but my compassion is muted by the scope of human experience that must be sacrificed to save that one shaky pillar. My desire to show mercy is undercut by the other pillars still standing, wavering, looking for an excuse to fall down.
For now, I regard the notions of praise, blame, and responsibility as at worst workable shorthands designed by natural selection to maintain society and order, and identify and achieve ever greater social harmony. Clearly there is more to it than that, and science can contribute to that process, but it must take care not to undermine it's raison d'etre: the human experience itself.