Tortured Belief

I’m more and more convinced the world morphed into postmodern weirdness when I wasn’t looking. Or there’s been some sort of Gwyneth Paltrow like time distortion parallel universe thing happening. This just in:

People are to be tortured in laboratories at Oxford University in a US-funded experiment to determine if belief in God is effective in relieving pain. Top neurologists, pharmacologists, anatomists, ethicists and theologians are to examine the scientific basis of religious belief and whether it is anything more than a placebo.

And the purpose of this research?

The study is considered of vital importance in the present world climate, given the role of religious fundamentalism in international terrorism. A better understanding of the physiology of belief, the conditions that entrench it in the mind and its usefulness in mitigating pain, could be crucial to developing counter-terrorist strategies for the future.

God forbid that we might actually commission some sociological, anthropological or political science research into the causes of terrorism and its link with religion.

Right, I’m off to read Marx on history as farce.

ELSEWHERE: Saint at DogFightAtBankstown has an excellent post on this and has some interesting background on the foundation funding this research.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Nic White
2022 years ago

Filed under WTF…

David Tiley
2022 years ago

The mind boggles about the protocols..

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Why don’t they just draw upon the immense historical catalogue of material about this issue?

Googling “Auto da Fe” would be a start.

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

The terrorism bit looks like an attempt to shake the research money tree, but the research itself looks interesting. I was brought up attending a Christian Science church (the aversion therapy worked; I am now an atheist), the particular oddity of which is a belief in the use of prayer instead of medical science. Each Wednesday there was a ‘testimony meeting’ at the church, in which people would tell their prayer success stories. Of course I do not now believe that God had anything to do with whatever relief from illness occurred, but I would be fascinated to know whether there is some physiological benefit in belief.

MrLefty
2022 years ago

It serves the dual purpose of training people who can later be employed by the US at Gitmo.

(“I received my Bachelor of Torture from Oxford Univerity!”)

yobbo
2022 years ago

Boom boom. A real gut-shaker.

Martin Pike
2022 years ago

It shocks the system, but I must admit the results would be intriguing. I think anecdotal evidence suggests that there are all many of ways that the mind can overpower and control bodily instincts such as pain, breathing, heart rate etc.

It would be about the strength of the belief, and is in fact a study of mind over matter, that age old topic.

Brings to mind the balinese kris dance- the kris being a wavy sharp knife designed specifically for opening up wounds that don’t heal. Everyone dances up into a trance then at the end they stab themselves vividly hard in the chest- hard enough, so the claim goes, that it would normally break the skin and cause them to drop with pain.

Then there’s those indian guys who put hooks through their tongues and backs.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2022 years ago

Nabby is right, that there is enough historical evidence around not to need a special experiment.

Maybe the problem is that most historians, with honorable exceptions like our own Currency Lad, are leftists. So they are likely to condemn the process, which might not please the moneybags at the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex.

Social research, without having to set up special torture chambers, would seem feasible. Interviews with Habib and many of the Gitmo victims would be interesting to say the least. If paid for at a reasonable commercial rate, they might provide some compensation, which neither the Howard nor the Bush Governments are likely to offer.

The best living example of survival is Nelson Mandela. I am not sure of his theological beliefs (some blogger might provide), but he had a huge commitment to humanity to help him survive.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I’m just totally unsure that the reaction to seeing a picture of the Virgin Mary is an effective measure of religious belief. How does one “scientifically” measure belief anyway? It seems to me a very ill thought out experiment from a methodological point of view.

Don, on social research, a US Sociologist went off and interviewed a lot of terrorists, and wrote a book based on the research. Mark Juergensmeyer’s “Terror in the Mind of God”:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0520240111/qid=1105578098/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-7858168-5947154?v=glance&s=books

Paul Watson
2022 years ago

“God forbid that we might actually commission some sociological, anthropological or political science research into the causes of terrorism and its link with religion.”

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

That’s on the money, Paul. A lot of Middle-Eastern countries turn out lots of graduates with no corresponding economic opportunities. The same was true of Russia before 1917, incidentally.

saint
2022 years ago

Paul – I thought the 9/11 bombers blew that theory apart (sorry about the pun). Educated, middle class families etc.

All – I should point out that our own Paul Davies (he of ‘The Mind of God’) shot to fame as a winner of the Templeton Prize while he was teaching at Adelaide Uni. I like Davies – able to write about complicated science in accessible ways. But I do wonder about him in recent years…like Templeton he has gone a bit kooky.

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

don wigan message. Firstly good to see you back. Secondly I discovered a W’bool blogger. I mentioned you in her comments and I thought you might like to encourage her.Its called confessions of delusional brilliance.
http://doskathon.blogspot.com/2005/01/mediocre-mecha_12.html

I thought of you because she commented on W’bool cabbies on Adrians Cab blog.
http://jafablog.typepad.com/man_of_lettuce/
I hope you dont mind.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Not just about generations. I suspect the footsoldiers of many a guerilla movement sign on because they live in societies so static and oppressive they can never get ahead economically. Stuck in some garbage dump endlessly sorting rubbish, or sweating in the canefields with a machete. Once you are too poor to ever afford a family – particularly in societies where families are central – your life is worse than worthless.

Then you might as well take to the hills.

saint
2022 years ago

“I’m just totally unsure that the reaction to seeing a picture of the Virgin Mary is an effective measure of religious belief. How does one “scientifically” measure belief anyway? It seems to me a very ill thought out experiment from a methodological point of view”

Just read the list of researchers and google up their bios, Mark. You will be familiar with some of them. Some have excelled in mistaking the nature of relgious belief, particularly Christian belief.

I can’t speak for Hindus, Muslims etc but as a former atheist now Christian I can understand these dudes (and Templeton himself) thinking Jesus is my self-actualizer, wealth generator and pain killer. But if that is what you think, you don’t really need $2 million and a prss release. You might as well just say ‘Jesus is a tool’ and be done with it. It works for the rest of the world.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Thanks for the tip, saint, I’ll have a google.

Paul Watson
2022 years ago

“Paul – I thought the 9/11 bombers blew that theory apart (sorry about the pun). Educated, middle class families etc”

saint
2022 years ago

Paul – apologies it seems it was me who didn’t understand your point.

Thanks for clarifying.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2022 years ago

Thanks for the welcome back, FXH. Although the perils of learning the cabbing game have sapped my time, I was also wiped out for a while by an electrical storm demolishing my modem.

I’ll be around now, but perhaps not so frequently as in the past.

I’ll follow up those references you gave. Regards…

Ali
Ali
2022 years ago

I recall a slightly related experiemnt that was conducted quite some time ago. It involved test subjects to stand in a room and pull a level which illiceted large amounts of electricty to a man in an adjacent room.
However, in actual fact the whole set up was a farce and everyone save the subject was in on the plan.
The premise of the experiment was to examine peoples obedience of authority figures. As the voltage increased the man in the adjacent room would cry out in pain (all be it pretencious) and the subject despite being witness to the pleas for mercy would obey said authority figure even to the point where they were aware the voltage would eventuate in death.

I say this because said experiment by law would not be condoned today as it breaches Psych. eithics. The phrase that comes to mind:
“Only in America”.
Lets hope it stays that way.

trackback
2022 years ago

turning to faith for relief

This is pure unadulterated copying. Mark Bahnisch at Troppo Armadillo did the heavy lifting of actually finding this item from the Times via The Australian, and I am just going to post the whole thing. It is beyond boggling. The…

trackback
2022 years ago

turning to faith for relief

This is pure unadulterated copying. Mark Bahnisch at Troppo Armadillo did the heavy lifting of actually finding this item from the Times via The Australian, and I am just going to post the whole thing. It is beyond boggling. The…