Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the March AD 2005
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

Update:  After last month’s article on the “the Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford” it may seem that we were picking on that venerable University.  The very day that the Bulletin was printed, the University issued an announcement that proved our point to the proverbial “T.”  Now that the “string-pullers” have determined torture to be appropriate in the war to impose their values on the less compliant peoples of the world, Oxford University has announced a study of

how religious faith affects experiences such as pain, whether there is a detectable physical difference in the brain between religious and secular faith.... The Oxford Centre for Science of the Mind (OXCSOM) will be a multidisciplinary program of research into the physical basis of beliefs and subjective experience.... led by Oxford neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield.  The John Templeton Foundation has given $2 million to fund a two-year pilot of the Centre, with the possibility of long-term funding if it is successful....  One of the first projects to be undertaken will be an investigation into whether people cope with pain differently depending on their faith, using volunteers who will have a small amount of chili gel applied to the back of their hand and will be asked about their response to the sensation, whilst having their brain activity monitored.[i]

    The Oxford description of the pain sounds fairly tame—tame enough to attract volunteers without recruiting them from Guantanamo—but a London Times interview with the Oxford researchers suggests something more sinister:

  The pain experiments will be conducted under the direction of [Dr.] Toby Collins, who.... said that many people in pain turned to faith for relief. Some looked to religious or secular healing systems.... As they suffer, the human guinea pigs will be asked to access a belief system, whether religious or otherwise....“We will simulate a burn sensation to see how people, through distraction or by accessing different strategies, can modulate and reduce the levels of pain.”

  John Stein, a neuroscientist from Oxford’s physiology department, said: “Pain has been central to a lot of problems that religious and other thinkers have concentrated on.”  Professor Stein said that people differed widely in the extent to which they felt pain. “What we want to do is correlate that with their underlying beliefs.”

  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.[ii]

    The Times article, by Ruth Gledhill, dated 13 January 2005 was carried by a number of news outlets and included the observation that:

  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.



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