A team of international scientists led by noted Egyptian Psychiatrist A.P. Eman have released a study designed to determine if blind faith to Biblical texts hinders intellectual growth and development in adherents. Preliminary results suggest that evangelicals or “born-again” Christians are more apt to resist advances in scientific knowledge and culture to the detriment of themselves and, by extrapolation, to the society in which they reside. “The study is still underway, and we have more to learn” says Dr. Joost Dunn, Project Lead in Analytics. Eman and Dunn look forward to the results of the CAT scans of the respondents brains before and after they are presented with certain types of documented and valid scientific data.
Assessing and accepting new knowledge does take time and the brain processes involved are complex. “What is unique with our test subjects is that the reaction to the stimulus is dominated by more primitive brain centres; indicative of a time when scientific knowledge simply did not exist and societies were less organized”, states Eman. By comparison, the control group displayed dominant use of higher brain functions when presented with the identical stimulus throughout the test period. This group held little or no fundamentalist Christian beliefs and was randomly selected.
Drs. Eman and Dunn have emphasized that, though preliminary, the results are pointing in the direction they initially suspected. What is unique is that in many cases the subject understands the concept but will resist it even if it’s valid and true. Born-again Christian belief utilizes primitive brain functions and adherents are subject to displays of anger and, in some cases, violence, when presented with stimulus that is counter to ingrained beliefs. “We have observed respondents in deeply aggravated states as they struggle with “new” knowledge. We are seeking further funding for peripheral but related studies as we move ahead. This is a rich context for research and development that holds significant implications for policy development, societal institutions, and general social cohesion”, notes Eman.
The initial phase of the study subjected respondents to a valid scientific presentation (the stimulus) and were then asked to fill out a questionnaire. “These results are based on statistical analysis and will be further confirmed through brain mapping”, says Dunn. Though the questionnaire was not released with the press kit, the team did include a typical example of a stimulus. We reprint it here with permission:
1. All species reproduce to an extent that their population size could continue to grow indefinitely.
2. Populations of species remain the same size (under normal conditions).
3. Resources (such as food) are limited which leads to competition.
4. Individuals are never identical; there is always difference, variation.
5. Variation is inherited through the organism’s genes.
6. The next generations are the results of organisms who have survived conditions. They survive to reproduce. Those organisms born with variations and did not survive were unable to fit the environment into which they arose. Variations and environments are in unique balance. This shapes populations and determines survival success.
The international team, sponsored, in part, by various humanist, scientific and skeptic organizations conducted the tests at various academic institutions in North America, Australia and Europe. The team is divided into a number of smaller groups led by experts in cognitive science, medicine, anthropology, sociology and psychology. The study is expected to continue over the next three to five years depending on funding. According to Eman, “This study will provide insights as to how adherents of these belief systems impede their own intellectual progress as well as the advancement of societal institutions and projects”.