Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Scientific "torture"??

The BBC features a headline today 'Torture' to uncover brain secret. It's not really about torture at all - some psychologists are going to study pain using brain imaging, to see if religious faith relieves pain. In fact, the pain is quite mild and subjects have volunteered for it: "Volunteers will have a gel containing chilli powder or heat-pad applied to the back of their hand to simulate pain." I also heard the story on Radio 4, and the head of the brain science institute called it "a mild discomforting stimulus." It's got to be mild if people are volunteering for it! (And the study had to pass the Institutional Review Board research ethics review, of course.)

It's not just the headline - the 'torture' motif continues throughout the article:
Some volunteers will be shown religious symbols such as crucifixes and images of the Virgin Mary during the torture. ...

The team from the newly-formed Centre for Science of the Mind also want to include people with survival techniques in the torture experiments.
Now let's review what torture actually is:
torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity
The misleading motif of torture in the BBC article makes me a bit uncomfortable. On the one hand, it trivializes real torture, something that is actually a big deal, by cheaply capitalizing on the world's horror at Abu Ghraib to grab the reader's attention with an eye-catching headline (especially since torture is generally used to uncover secrets, so the shocking reading of the headline has a certain plausibility). And on the other hand, it contributes to a misperception of scientists as cruel monsters. There is a danger of science falling prey to evil -- witness Josef Mengele and to a lesser extent, American military doctors in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib -- but blurring the distinction between real torture experiments and "a gel containing chili powder or heat-pad applied to the back of their hand" is unfair, both to good scientists and to the victims of the real torture experimenters.

I'm not sure if it was a reporter or one of the investigators who used the phrase 'torture experiments' - either way it's irresponsible and disturbing.

Update, 13 Jan: As reader Sylvain notes in Comments (and as you would see if you click on the BBC story), the BBC has now changed the text of the story so that 'torture' is replaced by 'pain' or 'burnt.' Except for the captions to the picture and the inset. ("Torture is being used to help scientists understand how the brain works" and "How scientists plan to torture volunteers.") Since it's not in the text or headline anymore, the usage is less disturbing (though still not entirely neutral), so... good for the BBC. I hope they remember to change the captions. Thanks to Sylvain for pointing that out.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hummm... I guess the BBC must read your blog.
They've changed today every mention in the text of "torture" for "pain".

Except that they forgot the picture caption where we can still read :
"Torture is being used to help scientists understand how the brain works"

cheers,
sylvain 

Posted by Sylvain

1/13/2005 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good thoughts. I'm curious about this side of the case as well:

>>Some volunteers will be shown religious symbols such as crucifixes and images of the Virgin Mary during the torture.<<

And this is supposed to stimulate "faith?"  

Posted by Ariel

1/15/2005 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ariel, that's a good point. You might be surprised how simplistic a lot of psychological experiments are, just out of necessity. If you're looking for some sort of consistent effect, you have to get rid of as much variability as you can. (Hence the phrase "controlled laboratory conditions.") Perhaps you'd get too much variability if you just asked people to pray or meditate or whatever, whereas if you invoke images that trigger religious thoughts, you might get more consistent results.

Or maybe not. After all, they haven't done the experiments yet. If it turns out that a picture of the Virgin Mary works better to relieve pain in devout Christians than a random picture of some modern celebrity, they might be onto something. Or, maybe not. I'm interested to see what falls out of this study! 

Posted by Andrew

1/18/2005 12:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elocon skin care drug , Generic Elocon, Mometasone is a topical steroid. It reduces or inhibits the actions of chemicals in the body that cause inflammation, redness, and swelling. Mometasone is used to treat inflammation caused by a number of conditions such as allergic reactions, eczema, and psoriasis.

Gris-PEG skin care drug (griseofulvin) is used to treat skin infections such as jock itch, athlete’s foot, and ringworm; and fungal infections of the scalp, fingernails, and toenails.

Lotrimin skin care drug, Generic Lotrimin, Clotrimazole is an antifungal medication and prevents fungus from growing on your skin. Clotrimazole is used to treat skin infections such as athlete’s foot, jock itch, ringworm, and yeast infections.

Monistat skin care drug, Generic Monistat, Miconazole Nitrate Topical is an antifungal medication and prevents fungus from growing. Miconazole Nitrate Topical vaginal is used to treat vaginal candida (yeast) infections.

Oxsoralen skin care drug is a photosensitizer used to treat severe psoriasis. It may also be used to treat other conditions as determined by your doctor.

Penlac skin care drug (ciclopirox) topical solution is used along with regular nail trimming to treat fungal infections of the fingernails and toenails (an infection that may cause nail discoloration, splitting and pain).

Protopic skin care drug (Tacrolimus) ointment is used to treat the symptoms of atopic dermatitis (a skin disease that is also called eczema) in patients who cannot use other topical medications for their condition or whose eczema has not responded to another medication.

Retin-A skin care drug is often used to improve the appearance and texture of the skin. It produces a mild, superficial peel of the epidermis. Retin-A has effects on the both the superficial (epidermis) and the deep (dermis) parts of the skin.

Synalar skin care drug (Fluocinolone) is used to treat the itching, redness, dryness, crusting, scaling, inflammation, and discomfort of various skin conditions.

Temovate skin care drug, Generic Temovate, Clobetasol Topical cream steroid and reduces or inhibits the actions of chemicals in the body that cause inflammation, redness, and swelling. Temovate (Clobetasol Topical) is used to treat inflammation caused by a number of conditions such as allergic reactions, eczema, and psoriasis.

Tretinoin skin care drug skin preparations are a family of drugs all similar to Vitamin A. In general, tretinoin gels are stronger than tretinoin creams because the medicine penetrates better when in a gel form. Tretinoin is used to treat acne and aged, sun damaged skin.

Vaniqua skin care drug is used to slow down the growth of unwanted facial hair in women. It interferes with an enzyme needed in the skin for hair growth but does not remove hair. This drug is not for use in children under the age of 12 years.

3/30/2008 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger FeNaaa said...

The latter, Web 2.0, is not defined as a static architecture. Web 2.0 can be generally characterized as a common set of architecture and design patterns, which can be implemented in multiple contexts. bu sitede en saglam pornolar izlenir.The list of common patterns includes the Mashup, Collaboration-Participation, Software as a Service (SaaS), Semantic Tagging (folksonomy), and Rich User Experience (also known as Rich Internet Application) patterns among others. These are augmented with themes for software architects such as trusting your users and harnessing collective intelligence. Most Web 2.0 architecture patterns rely on Service Oriented Architecture in order to function

11/03/2010 01:48:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home