Posts Tagged “brain shrinkage”

Gray739-emphasizing-hippocampusIt hardly seems possible, in this day and age of rampant accomodationism and the steady rise of relentless religionism, that a scientific study conducted in the United States could reach a conclusion such as this. But, as improbable as it is, it’s happened. A Duke University study suggests that religion causes hippocampal atrophy, as Scientific American reports (WebCite cached article):

The article [cached], “Religious factors and hippocampal atrophy in late life,” by Amy Owen and colleagues at Duke University [cached] represents an important advance in our growing understanding of the relationship between the brain and religion. The study, published March 30 in PLoS One, showed greater atrophy in the hippocampus in individuals who identify with specific religious groups as well as those with no religious affiliation. …

In this study, Owen et al. used MRI to measure the volume of the hippocampus, a central structure of the limbic system that is involved in emotion as well as in memory formation. …

The results showed significantly greater hippocampal atrophy in individuals reporting a life-changing religious experience. In addition, they found significantly greater hippocampal atrophy among born-again Protestants, Catholics, and those with no religious affiliation, compared with Protestants not identifying as born-again.

Cue the sanctimoniously-outraged religionists who will scream and holler and stamp their feet at the results of this study. They’re sure to vilify its authors, and they likely will attempt to get them fired from Duke. They will, no doubt, condemn the “atheist fundamentalists” who cooked up this study in order to discredit religion, because they’re all wicked “secular progressives” who want to destroy the country’s “moral fabric.”

There’s just one problem with any such claim, if it’s made (and I’m betting it will be): It’s not true! The Duke University institute that produced it, the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, was founded for the purpose of granting scientific (specifically, medical) credibility to religion. The last thing its staff want to do is come up with a study that even remotely appears to discredit religion!

Aside from this basic error, though, attacks on people basically have nothing to do with the veracity of their science; that stands or falls on its own, and to say otherwise is to engage in the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem.

I plan to stand back and watch the fireworks erupt. And I’ll await the peer review and follow-up studies which will, someday, tell us how valid this study truly is.

Hat tip: Nocturnal Slacker v2.0.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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