I attended an episcopalian high school, which meant that I had to sit through a chapel service every day. Thankfully the services were never fire-and-brimstone stuff. These were Episcopalians, after all. Instead, they were most often like general-interest lectures. But one service in particular has stuck in my mind, during which whoever was giving the service described an unusual experiment involving the relationship between rats and God. I think the experiment might be an interesting addition to my next book, so I'm trying to track down details about it. But so far I've been unsuccessful. So I'm hoping that one of the Museum of Hoaxes readers might know something about it.
The experimenters, so it was said, wanted to test empirically if the universe tends more towards benevolence (good) or malevolence (evil). So they attached two sets of wires to some rats. One wire delivered a painful shock. The other wire triggered a pleasure-center in the rat's brain and made them feel good. The researchers then programmed a computer to randomly activate these wires over a period of time. The activation of the wires was supposed to be totally random, but when the researchers measured which wire got turned on more often, they discovered that it was the pleasure wire. From this they concluded that there must be a benevolent force in the universe (i.e. God) that favors pleasure over pain.
Now, I can see many flaws in the design and conclusions of this experiment. Not least of which is that a benevolent God would never have made the rats suffer by making them endure the experiment in the first place. But that's not the point. The point is that it's a very odd experiment... if it ever really did occur. Or is it just one of those urban legends that circulate through the church community. Anyone know any details?
Did somebody really do such an experiment? Obviously, it's possible, but it seems very unlikely. What was the purpose of the experiment? And why would God allow this experiment to take place, and then mess with the results?
In any case, even if the experiment did happen, the interpretation is hideously bad theology. I think one thing scientists and fundamentalists could agree on is that God does not operate in this fashion. As Einstein is supposed to have said, "God does not play dice with the universe" (that is, the universe follows consistent and discernable patterns of cause and effect).
The story is that a frog placed in a pot of hot water will jump out, but if you put the frog in cold water and gradually heat it, the frog will stay in until it boils to death.
I've heard this since I was a young boy (about 1725 or so), and I've always wondered if it was true. It seems like it couldn't be true: When the water gets hot enough to be painful, wouldn't any animal jump?
For reasons I hope are obvious, I don't want to repeat this experiment myself, but does anyone know of any well-documented record of it being done, and what the results were?
I doubt there is such a thing as a pleasure-center in a rat's brain, especially one that can be accessed with a simple wire. And if there is, how did scientists discover it? Watch for the rats to smile? I vote for urban legend.
As for the validity of the experiement, I could actually see some idiots trying that. Where's PETA when you really need them, eh? Even assuming a lack of true random number generation, I'm willing to bet that the number of good zaps to the number of bad zaps differed only by a margin of three or four per rat, and probably much less. If God does love rats, it's not by much.
Mind, if the God in question is Ganesh, then we know he likes rats.
Good point, Robin Bobcat! :lol:
It's a pretty famous experiment.
A behavioral psychologist, at any rate.
Another equally valid conclusion to draw is that God wants the pleasure centers of the brain stimulated -- so we should smoke, drink and do drugs.
They need a Sunday School teacher these days?
You can get "real" (quantum) random numbers from http://www.fourmilab.ch/hotbits/how.html ... at least, totally unpredictable.
And I do recall reading a news story about scientists putting a monkey into perpetual orgasm via electrical stimulation, but I cannot find any reference to it online, so maybe I just imagined it. Although, Larry Niven did write extensively about 'wireheads' and 'tasps' (similar).
@luckygerbils: Random numbers are possible: