God on the rack

ClockworkAn odd story was passed along by Mark Shea, whose blog is on hiatus while he vindicates the Queen of Heaven.

According to a report from the other side of the pond, human research subjects “are to be tortured in laboratories at Oxford University in a United States-funded experiment to determine whether belief in God is effective in relieving pain.”

And no, this isn’t the Sun wot reported it; it’s from the Times of London. The new Center for the Science of the Mind, we are told, will use “imaging systems to find out how religious, spiritual and other belief systems, such as an illogical belief in the innate superiority of men, influence consciousness.”

Backed by a major grant of the Templeton Foundation, this two-year study “will involve dozens of people being subjected to painful experiments in laboratory conditions.”

In a twist that’s likely to be worse than The Godfather: Part III, “While enduring the agony, [subjects] will be exposed to religious symbols such as images of the Virgin Mary or a crucifix. Their neurological responses will be measured to determine the efficacy of their faith in helping them to cope.”

Further, “As they suffer, the human guinea pigs will be asked to access a belief system, whether religious or otherwise.” The Times explains:

Scientists have long been baffled at the persistence of these beliefs in the face of seemingly irrefutable logic. Professor Lewis Wolpert, the biologist, has speculated in the past that a belief in how the world was created and what happens after death may have conferred an evolutionary advantage.

By way of introduction, Shea wrote, “If it weren’t in the Times, I’d take it for a parody.”

Print Friendly

  • Dan Crawford

    Well, it was in the Times, and why not take as parody? One can’t take their “news” all that seriously.

  • http://www.jlleblanc.com Joseph LeBlanc

    Didn’t the Times recently convert its publication to a tabloid format, deciding that the broadsheet was no longer profitable? Is this having an effect on their credibility?

  • http://www.relapsedcatholic.com Kathy Shaidle

    Hasn’t this sort of thing been, if not illegal, absolutely off limits among professionals, since Milgram (even though his experiment didn’t physically hurt anyone)?


  • http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/02/about_douglas_l.html Douglas LeBlanc

    Dear Joe,

    The Times hasn’t converted to a tabloid format, but is offering a tabloid-sized edition in addition to its regular broadsheet:


    The tabloid edition — like several in the United States, such as the Red Streak and the RedEye in Chicago — is designed for commuters.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    I believe the pioneering experiment along these lines was conducted in the 4th century by the pagan senator Salutius. Having observed that Christians seldom if ever renounced their beliefs under torture, he decided to determine scientifically if “Hellenists” had greater fortitude; he tortured some of his slaves, demanding that they become Christians. All quickly agreed.

  • http://kevinjjones.blogspot.com Kevin Jones

    Note the “US-Funded” line. Within the pages of American periodicals, certain advocates have made a case for torture as a necessary tactic in the War on Terror. No doubt the findings of this study, if it indeed goes through, will be of much interest in the renascent field of scientific torture.