Two members of the Raelian Movement did a PCR experiment and Jerry A. Coyne, a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, used his popular blog to promote it as science – “Science proves that consecrated wafers are still wheat and not Jesus.”
Coyne even chooses language to make it sound like the Raelian exercise is standard science:
Damien Marsic and Mehran Sam, identified as belonging to the Association of Raelian Scientists (in Las Vegas), have published a paper in a place called “Scientific Raelian”; the paper’s title is “DNA analysis of consecrated sacramental wafers refutes Catholic transubstantiation claim.“ (emphasis added)
Yet Prof. Coyne is misinforming the general public when he characterizes the Raelian project as “science” and a “published paper.” The Raelian project was not published; it was posted on a Raelian web site. There is no evidence the “paper” was sent out for independent peer-review. Instead, it looks like a couple of members of the Raelian Movement simply posted their work on a web page whose stated purpose is as follows:
SCIENTIFIC RAELIAN will focus on more in-depth articles on selected topics related to the Raelian philosophy. We will explain how recent scientific discoveries support the Raelian worldview, with references to original scientific research and publications.
In other words, the PCR work is an internet posting on a Raelian apologetics site. It is not a published paper and it is not science.
Remember that Prof. Coyne tries to make it sound like he is promoting this work as science because he is standing on principle:
Yes, a Raëlian group did some research, and I’m not going to dismiss it out of hand simply because of who did it (if that were the case, I’d dismiss the Human Genome Project simply because it was headed by born-again Christian Francis Collins). As always, we must evaluate the data on their own.
This is a ridiculous, mean-spirited analogy. Collins has a long history of publishing his work in the mainstream, scientific journals and the Human Genome Project involved a large team of mainstream scientists publishing their data in the mainstream scientific community. In contrast, the two Realians did not publish their data in a mainstream scientific journal. They posted their results on a Raelian apologetics website that also includes articles that supposedly support “the Raelian baptism…..as a wireless transmission of the baptized individual’s genome to an orbiting computer set up by the Elohim to record the information at the precise time of the ceremony.” That Prof. Coyne cannot see the difference between the Raelian internet posting and Collin’s scienctific acheivements shows us how his hatred of Collins and Catholics disables his brain.
So let’s look more closely at the posting Prof. Coyne insists is science.
We’ve already seen that the results are flawed: true science is not built around a lone experiment where the essential negative control is contaminated. The Raelians need to obtain a non-contaminated control and redo the experiment. How did Jerry Coyne miss that fundamental scientific problem?
When we look at the introduction section, we can again see we’re not dealing with science. The Raelians introduce their work as follows:
The doctrine of transubstantiation was officially defined during the council of Trent in 1551 CE and holds that the consecration that takes place during Eucharist literally changes the substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ. Understandably, the claim has been viewed with skepticism among non-Catholics, but also among increasing numbers of Catholics who are being disillusioned with the Church’s disconnect with today’s scientific understanding and its insistence on upholding irrational dogmas. We propose to test the credibility of the transubstantiation dogma by analyzing the substance of consecrated sacramental bread.
While this introduction might possibly be good enough for an 8th grade science fair poster, it fails miserably as an introduction for a scientific journal paper (explaining once again why this work would have never been published in a true scientific journal). Note the Raelians give us just one sentence about Catholic doctrine and cannot even be bothered to provide any citations. The purpose of the introduction is to set the stage, allowing the reader to appreciate the significance of the scientific results. But there is nothing in the introduction that makes me think Catholics would expect consecrated sacramental bread should have human DNA. Because the Raelians do not make any effort to consult and interact with Catholic writings, the introduction comes across as nothing more than setting up a straw man for purposes of confirmation bias. This is cargo cult science at work.
Let’s see if I can explain the problem in a way that even Jerry Coyne could understand it. Imagine the anti-evolutionary Raelians instead had posted an article claiming to have disproven evolution. In their introduction, they note (without any citations) that evolution is supposed to be caused by mutations so they proposed to test the credibility of this idea by analyzing fruit flies that have been subjected to a mutagen. In their results, they have a single PCR gel that shows (with flawed controls) the mutated flies were all still members of Drosophila and then argue that evolution has been disproven. As we all know, Jerry Coyne would never promote that antievolution internet posting as a “published paper” that is part of “science.” Yet the very same logic is being used in the anti-Catholic internet posting that Coyne does promote as a “published paper” that is part of “science.”
So far, Jerry Coyne’s notion of science includes an internet posting with an introduction that sets up a straw man and results with flawed controls. Can it get any worse?
When we turn to the discussion section of the internet posting, we find the following:
This study could be criticized on ethical grounds for using deception to collect samples. Indeed, the individuals who provided us with the consecrated hosts obtained them during communion, pretending to be believers, and transferred them discretely into plastic bags instead of ingesting them. However, these individuals were all former Catholics who had felt victimized by the Church’s dogmatic teachings and saw this action as contributing to their recovery. The moral dilemma of obtaining samples through deception is to be contrasted with the ethics of enrolling non-consenting newborns into a religious organization, endoctrinating children with unquestionable dogmas and instilling fear, guilt and shame in them with long-lasting consequences for their psychological well-being. Anyway, in agreement with our results, we are confident that no sentient being was physically harmed in the course of this study.
Whoa. The Raelians just admitted that they used deception to collect samples. That is, their “study” entailed the use of deception. And this would not be the first time Raelians used deception:
In 2002, Clonaid, a company run by Raelian bishop Brigitte Boisselier, made claims worldwide that they had succeeded in creating a human clone, whom was named Eve. However, the Clonaid has refused to allow independent scientists to examine the child or the technology used to create her, ostensibly to protect her privacy. Lacking any peer verification of the claim, the scientific community generally considers Eve to be a hoax.
You can read more about the Raelian cloning hoax here.
What’s most interesting about the Raelians use of deception to gather samples is that they rationalize it by arguing the end justifies the means. In fact, their rationalization makes it rather obvious the authors are coming from a distinct anti-Catholic bias – “The moral dilemma of obtaining samples through deception is to be contrasted with the ethics of enrolling non-consenting newborns into a religious organization, endoctrinating children with unquestionable dogmas and instilling fear, guilt and shame in them with long-lasting consequences for their psychological well-being. ” Take that!
At this point, it is time to pause and consider what we have. We have two members of an atheist religious cult that has a history of being anti-Catholic and engaging in scientific hoaxes. They use PCR to supposedly “test” Catholic doctrine, but instead of submitting their work to a mainstream scientific journal, they post it on a Raelian apologetics website. They also admit that their “study” employed deception and justify this deception by arguing the end justifies the means.
Okay, so let’s add to all this with some basic questions derived from critical thinking – Is there ANY evidence, any whatsoever, that the Raelian “researchers” ever had in their possession some consecrated sacramental wafers ?
Is there ANY evidence that they ever obtained DNA from consecrated sacramental wafers?
If we are to believe there exists individuals, pretending to be believers, who obtained consecrated hosts, and we are to believe DNA from consecrated hosts was actually isolated and amplified, we must do so purely on faith.
And that leaves us with the most delicious irony of ironies. Jerry Coyne has a book coming out where he attacks faith and pits it against science. Yet it is the same Jerry Coyne who promotes cargo cult science as true science and does so from a position of faith.