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Posts Tagged ‘Catholic church’

Churches, germs, and technology

Posted by c. wagner on November 12, 2009

Who says that the Catholic church frowns on innovation?

A number of churches are installing a little device from an Italian inventor, in the hopes of cutting down on the spread of disease.

It functions like an automatic soap dispenser in public lavatories – a churchgoer waves his or her hand under a sensor and the machine spurts out holy water.

That’s right. A touchless holy water dispenser. And they’re being installed to stop the spread of disease that would be passed on by the old-fashioned communal bowls or sponges of the blessed fluid.

No word on where the Vatican stands on these changes.

Read the article from the Telegraph.


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Can we use this for a paternity test?

Posted by c. wagner on November 3, 2009

I love miracle stories. I really do.

The newest one involves a communion wafer in a Catholic church in Poland. Seems this wafer fell into some water and was transmogrified into heart tissue. At least according to one Polish scientist. No word on what tests she used to determine this.

Skeptics are claiming that the wafer is probably just coated with bacteria and are asking to test it. They even want to do genetic testing on the miraculous “tissue”. Think of it. If the wafer really did what Catholics claim it does–turn into the body of Jesus Christ–scientists might be able to sequence the DNA of God.

The odds look good:

The Catholic Church said already ruled out the possibility of a hoax, and local police have said that there is no evidence of fraud.

I can’t wait to see how this pans out.

Read more from the Times Online.

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How well can you forget?

Posted by c. wagner on October 27, 2009

I’ve been debating posting on this for a couple of days now. On one hand, the question of the reality and validity of repressed memories is interesting. On the other hand, we are talking about a man convicted of an awful crime that is related to a perhaps even more evil cover-up.

Remember Paul Shanley? The now-former priest who became the poster molester of the sex abuse in the Catholic church a few years ago? He’s now appealing his conviction. And he may have a good argument.

There were dozens of priests and hundreds of victims involved, but Shanley’s case is unusual in that there is no corroborating evidence of his crimes. Often in cases of accusations of sexual abuse — even ones that occurred years earlier — there is some other supporting proof. But the only evidence against Shanley was the memory of a now-grown man who said he didn’t recall the abuse until 2002 when he heard about a newspaper article on the clergy abuse scandal. That, he claimed, triggered a flood of memories of abuse that had occurred decades earlier at Shanley’s hand.

The problem? What the victim claims is unheard of in science.

Shanley’s lawyer argued that the former priest deserves a new trial because the jury relied on misleading “junk science” testimony about repressed memories, wrongly suggesting that such memories were considered valid by the psychological and scientific community. (Indeed, a judge concluded that repressed memories are “generally accepted by the relevant scientific community of mental health professionals.”)

Shanley’s lawyer is correct: There is no scientific consensus (and little research suggesting) that people can completely forget about traumatic events, only to recall them in detail years or decades later.

Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, for one, has spent her career studying the mechanisms of memory and how easily memories can be corrupted. Here’s her overview of the literature on creating memory, repressed memories, and the power of suggestion as of 2003.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Even if this conviction is overturned, Shanley was accused of abuse by three others, who were dropped from the original suit.

Read the column by Benjamin Radford.

Read the story at

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