Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The BBC is rubbish

Give them the simple job of reporting a scientific story with a religious angle and they completely fluff every aspect. The story is about a paper in Neuroscience Letters. Here's the abstract:

Beauregard M, Paquette V. Neural correlates of a mystical experience in Carmelite nuns. Neurosci Lett. 2006 ;405(3):186-190.

The main goal of this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was to identify the neural correlates of a mystical experience. The brain activity of Carmelite nuns was measured while they were subjectively in a state of union with God. This state was associated with significant loci of activation in the right medial orbitofrontal cortex, right middle temporal cortex, right inferior and superior parietal lobules, right caudate, left medial prefrontal cortex, left anterior cingulate cortex, left inferior parietal lobule, left insula, left caudate, and left brainstem. Other loci of activation were seen in the extra-striate visual cortex. These results suggest that mystical experiences are mediated by several brain regions and systems.
PMID: 16872743 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

And here is my translation:
We looked at the brains of contemplative nuns in prayer with a scanner that allows the active bits of the brain to light up. The bits at the front, the side and the bottom lit up as did some bits deep down and a bit at the back to do with seeing things.

Or put more simply:
There is no one part of the brain involved in mystical experience, but lots of bits of the brain.

The BBC reports that there is “no single God spot” in the brain. Duhhhhhh!!!! Is that really what it comes down to – “Look! If you put some nuns in a scanner, you’ll find out where the religious bit of the brain is!” Are they seriously saying that the hypothesis for this study was that the brain has a single portal of entry to do with God? Ill-informed, trivialising, theologically illiterate tripe that would get a D minus in senior school RI. No doubt the Beeboids were hoping to do mass brain surgery and disable religious feeling (well, Christian religious feeling, that is) or to conclude that religion is all in the mind.

I am sick of the trivialisation of religion in general and the Catholic Faith in particular by the MSM (the BBC is particularly bad). Reading this stuff one wonders how they make it up.

“Nuns are said to experience Unio Mystica - the Christian notion of a mystical union with God - during their 20s.”

Says who? When exactly in their 20s? All nuns or just contemplatives? Sr Joan Chittester or St Edith Stein? Did Karen Armstrong have this, or did she miss out and is so peeved she’s been bonkers ever since?

Still, they did at least have the sense to get a priest, Fr Stephen Wang who might utter something sensible. :

"True Christian mysticism is an encounter with the living God. We meet him in the depths of our souls.
"It is an experience that goes far beyond the normal boundaries of human psychology and consciousness."

But now look what they’ve got
“Who was the real Mary Magdalene? The sinner woman of the Bible; Jesus' girlfriend? Or was she an important leader in the early church?”

(Answer: (1) Read the Gospels (2) No; and (3) No)
How do they get away with this? Does the fact that you’ve read and swallowed wholesale the DVC qualify you to be religious affairs correspondent for the BBC?

Do all religions get this treatment? What do you think?

This page refers to:”The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)” That’s right, “peace be upon him” They’ve already started saying the “Prophet” Muhammed on BBC news. Can’t be too long until they start saying “peace be upon him”, a la Jack Straw.

But back to the Christian Faith. Here is the BBC’s take on Christianity:

“Jesus said that he had come to fulfil God's law rather than teach it.”
Hmmm…..Our Lord seems to have done quite a lot of teaching in addition to fulfilling the Law. Do they imply
(1) He is not God?;
(2) He did not teach God’s law?;
(3) Teaching God’s law is somehow unchristian? (the subtext here is that to teaching anything dogmatically is not Christ’s way – that’s the “Of course Jesus was a really good bloke and all that, BUT…” argument I grew tired of hearing as an undergraduate 20 years ago)
or how about this?

“Justification by faith
Christians believe in justification by faith - that through their belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and in his death and resurrection, they can have a right relationship with God whose forgiveness was made once and for all through the death of Jesus Christ.”

Well some Christians do, but it’s only half the story as far as Catholics are concerned.

I could go on but I'm already very, VERY ANGRY


Anonymous Mac McLernon said...

Having studied some "brain stuff" many years ago, I found this intriguing... do you think they stuck the nuns in the scanner and waited for them to start praying, or did they wait for the nuns to get down to prayer and then whip them into the scanner pronto before they "came round"? I mean, an MRI scanner isn't exactly portable! They had to reinforce the floors at the Institute of Psychiatry/Maudsley Hospital when they put one in about a decade ago...

(sorry for being frivolous, but really, the science stinks!)

Fr Stephen Wang is a reasonable chap, so I asume that his comments would be sensible (if not, then they've been selectively edited by the beeb!)

7:23 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...


I downloaded the paper in full. They put the nuns in the scanner and asked then to think about (
1)the most intense personal connection they had had then;
(2) the most intense spiritual experience they had had. They were essentially trying to relive the experience of mysticism.

You are right, the science stinks.

12:11 AM  
Blogger Angela Messenger said...

Your comparison of Sr. Joanie to ST. Edith Stein cracked me up!

5:16 PM  

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