Can science use magnets to disconnect a true believer?
I’m busy writing book three of my transhuman trilogy, and a few weeks ago I took my protagonist to the world’s premier cyber lab and stuck some magnets to his head. He needed it, and his brain function improved. But it did nothing to wipe out his belief in God or alter his opinion of immigration. Never occurred to me that it might. But a few days ago, scientists reported they could make Christians stop believing in God, and instill positive attitudes about immigrants.Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), researchers safely shut down certain groups of neurones (British spelling) in the brains of volunteers.
TMS, which is used to treat depression, involves placing a large electromagnetic coil against the scalp which creates electric currents that stimulate nerve cells in the region of the brain involved in mood control.
Researchers found the technique radically altered religious perceptions and prejudice.
Belief in God was reduced almost by a third, while participants became 28.5 per cent less bothered by immigration numbers.1
The article explained something of the nature of the study—targeting the frontal cortex where the brain detects and responds to problems—and states:
The research suggests our brains use the same basic mental pathways to solve practical problems such as following directions or ideological issues such as immigration and religion.1
My first thought: Why would people who just got God yanked out of their heads by magnets soften their hearts to the needs of others? My second thought: Why pick God and immigration as test topics at all? Why not hook a magnet to the head of a pedophile instead?
The experiments were conducted in the UK, where belief in God is at an all-time low. And immigration is a subject of contention among the British. How would the study differ in a country where religious conviction has not yet dropped to this critical level of decline? Where immigration is a battle among politicians, but not one polarizing the general public? How would the mind-altering magnet therapy affect Americans?
And exactly what was the reason behind the research? I moved on to another article when I finished the first one. It offered the study’s conclusion, which was not mentioned or even eluded to in the first article:
History teaches that investment in cherished group and religious values can bring forth acts of both heroic valor and horrific injustice. Understanding the psychological and biological determinants of increases in ideological commitment may ultimately help us to identify the situational triggers of, and individuals most susceptible to, this phenomenon, and thereby gain some leverage over the zealous acts that follow. …The results provide evidence that relatively abstract personal and social attitudes are susceptible to targeted neuromodulation, opening the way for researchers to not only describe the biological mechanisms undergirding high-level attitudes and beliefs, but also to establish causality via experimental intervention.2
I admit I’m a pop science junkie, especially when the experiments of theory-builders attempt to explain (or explain away) God. But I had to read this wordy wrap-up a couple of times. In the article’s final paragraph, writer William Briggs shares his take on the matter with abundant clarity. He writes:
Did you catch that? These scientists hope that in the future belief in God, or in some other politically incorrect question that might — only might — lead to “zealous acts,” can be treated, maybe even cured, by magnet zappings. And there you have the real danger that follows from believing you can quantify the unquantifiable.2
I studied the reality of transhumanism before I fictionalized it. Now that I’m almost done with my lovable transhuman who follows God’s call to serve the Underground Church, I’ll soon take up with some other figment of my imagination. Maybe I’ll try some magnet therapy him. Could this be the New World way of finding out if God is in a person’s head, or if He resides somewhere deeper? Beyond the magnet zone?
As for me, I’m not concerned about getting God yanked out of my head by a magnet. It’d be an epic fail on the experiment scale. Sometimes science is good. Sometimes it’s just good for a laugh.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, (nor magnets) will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
1 Selina Sykes, Oct. 15, 2015, Scientists claim they can change your belief on immigrants and God – with MAGNETS, Sunday Express retrieved from http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/611992/Scientists-experiment-magnets-immigrants-God-magnetic-waves
2 William M. Briggs, Oct. 15, 2015, Scientists Claim Zapping Brains with Magnets Can Treat Belief in God, The Stream, retrieved from https://stream.org/scientists-claim-zapping-brains-with-magnets-can-treat-belief-in-god/