Science proves that consecrated wafers are still wheat and not Jesus

I don’t know much about the Raëlian Movement, but what I’ve learned suggests that Raelians are plenty weird. Their faith is based on Earth’s life having been created by space aliens, so they’re creationists, and they have all kinds of strange views, including a form of baptism that alters your genetic makeup but prepares you for your eventual judgment by the aliens. They’re a small sect, cult, or religion (whatever you want to call them): Wikipedia estimates that there are only about 90,000 members worldwide.

On the other hand, the sect has some good liberal views: they are pro-gay, in favor of food derived from GMOs, and anti-Catholic. The last view is probably one that gave rise to the “research” paper I’ll highlight today.  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.

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.

This is in fact a piece of research I’ve always wanted someone to do. Since Catholics believe in transubstantiation (the wafer and wine become the body and blood of Christ during the Eucharist) and not consubstantiation (the wafer and wine are partly made of Jesus, and partly of grapes and wheat), an analysis of a consecrated wafer should show that its substance is entirely that of the human body.

Now we know that a wafer and wine don’t change into a beaker of blood and a gobbet of flesh after they’re blessed, but one other strategy is to look at the DNA in these substances. Perhaps (or so the Raelian investigators thought), they’d find human DNA—Jesus’s—in the wafer and wine. Their rationale for the work is this:

Using science to test a religious claim

It could be argued whether supernatural claims can or should be tested by science. The famous view advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion are “non-overlapping magisteria” [3] has been extensively criticized by both scientists such as Richard Dawkins [4] or Yonathan Fishman [5] and philosophers like Russell Blackford [6]. The transubstantiation claim by the Catholic Church is particularly relevant because of the doctrine’s insistence that the transformation of bread into the body of Christ is not symbolic but a physical reality. The claim is both fantastical and easy to test. However, the main reason for this study was to answer requests by former Catholics recovering from dogmatic indoctrination in the hope that it would help others develop informed opinions on the validity of religious dogmas.

And so Marsic and Sam did a study. They purloined five consecrated wafers (they discuss the ethics of this, and decide that it’s okay), and analyzed the DNA of the consecrated wafers as well as that of a “control” group of unconsecrated wafers, a “human DNA” control group from cultured cells, and a negative control (nothing added to the PCR [DNA amplification] reagents).

They then amplified the DNA from diagnostic stretches of each sample, and, as molecular geneticists do, ran it out on gels to see what it looked like.  The DNA of each sample was amplified with either “wheat primers” (DNA fragments taken from wheat that will amplify only DNA that matches the wheat sequences) or “human primers” (ditto, but using human DNA templates). They then stained for DNA. The figure below (with caption from the paper) tells the tale.

M is simply a stock group of DNA fragments of known size, whose position on the gel is used to gauge the size of the DNA fragments in adjacent lanes.

NC is just the reagents without any DNA. It shows no DNA at all, as it should.

HC is human control DNA. As you see, it amplifies with the human-specific primers, on the left, but not the wheat-specific primers, on the right; this is as it should be.

WC is the unconsecrated wafer control. As you see, it amplifies with both human and wheat primers (two bands on the “WC” lane in the left amplified with human primers), indicating the presence of some human DNA in the wheat control. This suggests, and it seems likely, that the purchased unconsecrated wafers were contaminated with human DNA when they were being handled. This happens sometimes: it doesn’t take much foreign DNA to show up as a strong band indicative of contamination; this happened to me when I was amplifying Drosophila DNA during an ancient sabbatical in Princeton, and got my own DNA instead).

What is more important are samples 1-5, which are the five consecrated wafers.  Looking at lanes 1-5 on the left side of the figure, the wafers show no  evidence of having human DNA (except for a faint band in sample 5, probably again suggesting human handling), but they show strong evidence of having wheat DNA, as you can see from the dense wheat-primer-amplified bands in lanes 1-5 on the right, matching the wheat control in size.

Fig. 1. Agarose gel electrophoregram of PCR amplification products. M: 50 bp DNA ladder; NC: negative control; HC: human control; WC: wheat control; 1 to 5: consecrated scramental bread samples. Left: reactions using human-specific primers; right: reactions using wheat-specific primers.

Fig_1_Host_DNA

Conclusion: consecrated wafers do not contain human DNA, though they could sometimes acquire a bit of it by being handled. After being consecrated, all their DNA still comes from wheat.

Now you could argue that testing DNA doesn’t tell you whether Jesus is in the wafers, but if they still look and taste like wheat, and still have wheat DNA, on what basis can you then claim that the wafers have become the body of Christ? As the authors note:

As believers themselves agree that the appearance, taste and texture of sacramental bread are retained after consecration, it is unclear what the “substance” that is allegedly transformed could be. If the host still looks like bread and tastes like bread after having been consecrated, the molecules responsible for the taste and texture can not have been affected. This leaves DNA as the most probable candidate. Indeed, if wheat DNA in a piece of bread could be replaced by human DNA, the change would not affect the bread’s texture or taste. On the other hand, it could be argued that DNA represents the actual “substance” of any biological material because it contains the information that defines that material and could be used to create a copy of it. Therefore, testing the transubstantiation claim by DNA analysis seems a quite reasonable approach to take.

And, of course, if the wafer did have human DNA, Catholics would proclaim that as a miracle: strong evidence for the truth of transubstantiation. Negative results, though, have to be explained away, and not by saying that transubstantiation is a fiction.

Since the Catholics claim that  transubstantiation is real, how would they deal with findings like this? Well, they do what they always do: waffle and then say “it’s a mystery that surpasses our understanding.”

For example, Wikipedia says this:

According to the Catholic Church, when the bread and wine are consecrated by the priest at Mass, they cease to be bread and wine, and become instead the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ. The empirical appearances and attributes are not changed, but the underlying reality is. The consecration of the bread (known afterwards as the Host) and wine represents the separation of Jesus’ body from his blood at Calvary; thus, this separation also represents the death of Christ. However, since according to Catholic dogma Christ has risen, the Church teaches that his body and blood are no longer truly separated, even if the appearances of the bread and the wine are. Where one is, the other must be. This is called the doctrine of concommitance.

To justify why the bread and wine still look like noms and not blood and flesh, the Church relies on something called “substance theory,” which claims that something can change its nature without changing its substance. In other words, the wafer and wine really are Jesus but you can’t detect that in any way. This kind of philosophical weaseling is more or less what you expect from the Church.

Here are more weasel words from the Catholic Education Resource Center (CERC):

Yes, the bread and wine do not change in characteristics [sic] they still look the same, taste and smell the same, and hold the same shape. However, the reality, “the what it is,” the substance does change.

And the ultimate excuse comes from the CERC entry on “The literal truth”:

The incarnational nature of the sacraments also sheds some interesting light on human nature. At first glance, the transformations effected in the sacraments seem wildly out of sync with man’s identity as a “rational animal,” and especially with modern technological man. At best, what the Church claims occurs in the sacraments seems to reflect “magical thinking” and a distinctly unmodern cast of mind.  A closer look, however, reveals an intimate fit between the deepest desires of the human heart and what actually happens in the sacraments.

Yes, at first it looks bogus, like “magic,” but “a closer look” shows that the transubstantiation really occurs because we want it to. This is why the Raelian experiment will be ignored by the Church, but also why we should ignore the Church’s pronouncements about reality, for they reflect sets of claims that are untestable but satisfy our emotional needs. The words, “A closer look, however, reveals an intimate fit between the deepest desires of the human heart and what actually happens in the sacraments,” shows the ability of the Church to maintain its claims by simply making stuff up.

h/t: Dan Dennett, Grania Spingies

137 Comments

  1. francis
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    But are they gluten-free:-)

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      “Because the Catholic Church states that Communion bread must be made of only wheat and water with “sufficient gluten to attain the confection of bread,” the only option for the Catholic celiac has been to receive Communion under the species of wine alone.”

      Read more and weep: http://www.catholicceliacs.org/Options.html

      • merilee
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        I shoulda known…

  3. Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    ‘I am a poor wafer-ing stranger.’
    –Jesus

  4. Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    It’s statistically likely that some Jesus molecules (if he existed) were in the wafer.

    • eric
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Hmmm…maybe. I remember that’s true of gasses (i.e., its statistically extremely likely that you just breathed in some molecules Caesar breathed out with his last breath). But I’m not so sure about solids and liquids. The statistical calculation assumes sufficient time for perfect mixing across the entire globe. That may be reasonable when you’re talking N2 molecules in the air, but it seems unlikely to me in the case old flesh and bone.

      • Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        It’s not just Jesus’s dead body to consider. Most of the cells in the human body are replaced every few years and the detritus is excreted and urine or feces, which soon evaporate or decay into the atmosphere.

        • boggy
          Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          Yes, atoms of Jesus’ body must exist, so even if he ascended into heaven, body parts such as his primary teeth and the Holy Foreskin were left behind so whether you believe in reincarnation or not, we all contain remnants of His time on earth.

          • Jonathan Wallace
            Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

            I don’t know for sure but I’d be willing to bet there is a cathedral somewhere which claims to have the holy foreskin in a little box for the faithful to come and pray to. I shouldn’t be surprised if there were quite a number of cathedrals making such a claim and that if all the preputial remnants were reassembled they would indicate a holy penis of quite extravagant dimensions!

            • Posted October 30, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

              I’m sure there will be much information about this very thing in this Nat’l Geo documentary.

            • Posted October 30, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

              And the wiki will confirm your suspicions about there being rival foreskins in rival cathedrals.

            • Marella
              Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

              There are many; Jesus apparently did the same thing with his foreskin as with the loaves and fishes.

              • microraptor
                Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

                Or he had some really strange anatomical features.

              • Marella
                Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

                Like the Indian gods with all those arms …

          • Posted October 30, 2014 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

            Of course, that’s ignoring the whole fictional character bit….

            b&

        • Posted October 30, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

          Sperm cells live only a few days. By my conservative estimate, Jesus (if he existed), being fully human (while fully divine, of course), produced at least 7×10^10 sperm cells during his lifetime (seventy billion American). They must have ended up somewhere. It’s a statistical near certainty that some if not all communion wafers, consecrated or not, contain Jesus sperm molecules.

          • Posted October 30, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

            “They must have ended up somewhere.”

            Mostly in an old sock, I would guess.

            • Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

              That’s resonable supposition. The socks would have been washed by Mary, or by a slave, and hung up to dry, the washwater thrown on the ground to evaporate.

          • Mark Joseph
            Posted November 4, 2014 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

            Gives a whole new meaning to the Every Sperm is Sacred song…

  5. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    This is in fact a piece of research I’ve always wanted someone to do.

    This is research that someone actually had to do? Transubstantiation is so freaking stupid that it’s remarkable than anyone can take it seriously. You must be yanking our chain here, Jerry! Imagine if work like this were proposed in a NIH proposal you had received to review. You couldn’t seriously give it a postive rating could you?

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      Look, it’s fun, and no federal money went to support it. The research is serious, even though the question is pretty dumb. Just because I wouldn’t suggest this be federally funded doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a fun result, and forces Catholics even further into the hot seat.

      Really, are you telling me that I shouldn’t have posted on this, and that I’m yanking your chain?

      No, I’m not yanking your chain; I’m pointing out ways that science conflicts with stupid religious claims and the contortions that the faithful must go to to defend those claims.

      Your comment is pretty uncivil. Yes, all religion is stupid; does that mean I shouldn’t try to debunk it?

      Perhaps you didn’t notice that a lot of this post is about excuses Catholics make for refutations of their theory.

      • Ken Elliott
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:51 am | Permalink

        The Catholic Church has stretched itself incredibly thin in the realm of credibility, as evidenced by this post. That, to me, is the more mind boggling aspect, not that this study was done, but that the Church seriously refutes it. The Church reminds me a lot of my mother in law who refuses to believe real events and their consequences, instead making proclamations for what she deems events to have been.

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

          Please note that ‘refute’ has a strong, precise sense and a wishy-washy, empty sense. Merriem-Webster gives precedence to the latter (which you used), but most writers (esp. scientists) would say it’s far better to avoid it. ‘Denies’ is the correct word in the above paragraph. 🙂

          • Ken Elliott
            Posted October 30, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

            Thank you Dr. Scanlon. I guess I was overconfident in my understanding of the definition, and likely of the specifics of this post. I appreciate the lesson. I will have to go over this again because it still seems to me to be a refutation, or an attempt at refutation, when the CERC explains how the study’s findings are incorrect by not taking into account the power of desire as explained by the Catholic Church.

            Excerpt from the CERC’s entry on the “Literal Truth”, included near the bottom of this post: “A closer look, however, reveals an intimate fit between the deepest desires of the human heart and what actually happens in the sacraments.”

            I took that as the CERC helping us understand how the process truly works despite any scientific findings, essentially a refutation of the study. But, I am not well trained, nor well versed in any branch of science, so I have a lot of room for growth when it comes to anything beyond high school levels. I am, however, fascinated by everything I read on WEIT and the ensuing discussions by the incredible folks who regularly comment.

            So, again, thank you for your insights.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:23 am | Permalink

            Thank you John. That misuse of ‘refute’ really yanks my chain too. Newsreaders do it all the time and I usually end up yelling at the screen “‘Denies’, bananabrain, ‘denies’!!”
            (My TV is used to being yelled at).

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:50 am | Permalink

              Oh dear I’ve just realised that looks as if I was being a bit harsh to Ken Elliot. Not my intention and I do apologise if it came across that way. My ire is directed at newsreaders who habitually use ‘refute’ of every denial even when it’s transparently thin.

      • Barry Lyons
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

        Jerry, I read the headline to your post in a deadpan manner. I knew I was going to be in for a good time as I read it. And, yes, it’s the untangling (disentangling?) of these lunatic beliefs (but done in all seriousness) that makes a piece like yours fun to read.

      • Denis Westphalen
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        Hey, serious contender for the IgNobel prize here!

        • Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

          Definitely. I’m still amazed at this experiment, but only because it proves that at least one Raelian knew how to perform a gel electrophoresis.

          • merilee
            Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:09 am | Permalink

            that surprised me, too

            • Gordon
              Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

              Not me because “they have all kinds of strange views, including a form of baptism that alters your genetic makeup but prepares you for your eventual judgment by the aliens.”
              So of course
              (a)they would need to know if the baptism worked
              (b) It would allow you to determine who was an alien so that you could be sure if the judgment was being done by a qualified entity.

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        Jerry, sorry if my comment seemed rude. I didn’t mean to come off as uncivil and don’t see why you couldn’t have written that “this a piece of research I’ve always wanted someone to do” with tongue in cheek.

        • Timothy Hughbanks
          Posted October 30, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

          …and I certainly know better than to tell you what not to post. I visit here often and if a post doesn’t interest me, I don’t comment. This topic is of interest, we just have a different take on it.

  6. Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    LOL “underlying reality.” Are there any other inanimate objects in the known universe which have a reality underlying the one available to our five senses?

    • eric
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Inanimate? Maybe not. But IMO the RCC’s transubstantian claim is not that different from broader Christian theological claims about humans having souls. The soul is another one of those things where they’re going to claim the “substance” is not empirically detectable, but its still really real real.

  7. Hordes
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    The real question is…why are Christians so eager to eat Jesus? I mean, now hearing that they actually see transsubstination as a real process, and not a metaphorical one…that sound disgusting, dont you think? (note: I’m not Christian, and dont know much about theirs beliefs on these matters, so excuse me if it’s obvious somewhere.) Even if he did exist, and even if he did create miracles, that doesnt mean eating him will benifit you in any way…why would someone even think that :/

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      The myth goes that His followers were commanded to eat Him. That, plus all the kneeling that goes on in church, makes lots of fodder for some rather unsavory humor.

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OM NOM NOM MEGA

      • Ken Elliott
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        Hilarious.

    • merilee
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      Yes, so obvious…The Emperor has no clothes!! Makes no sense at all, does it?

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      It terrified my Inuk friend when she was first at a mass as a child. Inuit have sometimes resorted to cannibalism, but those who do so before it is absolutely necessary are regarded (as they would be almost everywhere) as committing a horrible transgression. So when she saw what looked like well fed people talking about eating a guy, this coupled with the torture symbols really disturbed her.

  8. Tulse
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    This seems to me to be a pretty silly study. Of course the wafer doesn’t change into flesh — I don’t think anyone, including the Catholic Church, has ever claimed that (since it’s rather obvious). Instead, as Jerry notes, the Vatican does its ridiculous theologico-philosophical dance about “substance”. This study doesn’t address that, so it really doesn’t address the claims of the Catholic Church (however silly those claims are).

    And honestly, we’re going to cite Raëlian research? I know that Jerry addressed this point by comparing them to Collins, but Collins published in regular journals, not Scientific Born-Again Christians. At the very least I’d question their peer-review process.

    And, to be clear, this is the same journal that also published this study:

    Raelian baptism: a 35 year old hypothesis validated by science
    The Raelian Movement, as many other religious organizations, has a baptism ceremony. A notable distinction is that the Raelian baptism is only performed on consenting adults, not on infants or children. In addition to being a symbolic rite (the recognition of the Elohim as our creators), the Raelian baptism also has a rational purpose and meaning. Called “Transmission of the Cellular Plan” (TCP), the Raelian baptism is understood 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. […]

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      Would you like to point out to me what you see as the ERRORS in this research? I don’t see any obvious ones? Or are you going to discount it purely because it was done by Raelians?

      If you can’t find any errors, I’d appreciate it if you’d say that, and then tell us why Raelians should not be allowed to publish any scientific research.

      • Tulse
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        Jerry, I hate disagreeing with you, but I would suggest it is prudent to be cautious about research reported in a journal with a very clear bias, and that reports on other research that is clearly less supportable and more religiously informed, like the “study” on Raelian “baptism” reported in the same journal. Should we take the latter study just as seriously?

        And who is on Scientific Raelian‘s editorial board? Who selects its reviewers? Does it even do peer review? There is absolutely no information on the website that provides any details like these, as one would expect from a legitimate scientific journal. Without those, the “study” is nothing more than a blog post, and hardly counts as publishing scientific research. We rely on proper peer review by other experts to catch errors — without such review, this kind of report seems worthless to me, equivalent to much of the “work” done by the Discovery Institute.

        In any case, my larger point was that, even if this research were reported in Nature and impeccably peer-reviewed in a transparent fashion, it isn’t testing the hypothesis under contention, since the Catholic Church has (quite sensibly) never claimed that the actual material in a consecrated wafer detectably changes. Yes, this is a very silly notion, but it’s not the claim that is tested by the “study”. As such, even if it were a completely legitimate piece of scientific research, the conclusion it draws is unwarranted.

        • Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

          Yeah, and it’s prudent to be cautious about research published in PLOS ONE, where they simply see if the methods are kosher and don’t worry too much about the results (or the psychology of the investigators). As far as I can see, the authors’ methods are fine, unless you think they’re committing fraud.

          As for Raelian “baptism,” I’d have to look at the study. You’re simply dismissing the study because it was done by Raelians. Yes, it may be biased, but I don’t see any fundamental flaws in the DNA work done above.

          The Catholic Church may have said that it looks like a wafer and wine, but they never said anything about DNA, so this puts the final nail in the coffin.

          And did I say that this counted as peer-reviewed scientific research?

          This discussion is over. The post was meant to be lighthearted but also to underscore the Church’s waffling in the face of palpable counterevidence. You’re turning it into a source of controversy because it’s not “real” scientific research.

    • Sastra
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      Of course the wafer doesn’t change into flesh — I don’t think anyone, including the Catholic Church, has ever claimed that (since it’s rather obvious).

      Never say never — especially when it comes to religion. I’d say it’s rather obvious that historically speaking plenty of Catholics play games on this one and sometimes did and do actually believe that the wafer actually changes into actual flesh. Have you never come across any of the Catholic anecdotes where a Jew or some other nonbeliever does something to a consecrated host … and it bleeds?

      As Jerry writes:

      And, of course, if the wafer did have human DNA, Catholics would proclaim that as a miracle: strong evidence for the truth of transubstantiation.

      That’s not a small point.

    • Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:16 am | Permalink

      Oh, but the Church absolutely dies claim that it happens on occasion as evidenced by the over 100 Church approved Eucharistic miracles.

  9. Bill Gilliland
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Clearly, the answer is that Jesus must be homozygous for SNPs that cause the “human primers” to simply fail to anneal to His template DNA in the consecrated, transubstantiated wafer.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Clearly more needs to be done. The next steps would be to test if the wafers have any physical change before and after consecration. Do they change in weight? Is radiation of any sort detected from a wafer as it is being blessed? Are there alterations in any nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids before and after the blessing? These are reasonable tests that can address any rebuttals from the church.

      • Bill Gilliland
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        Thats a good point. The body of Christ, being meat-based, will be mostly protein (and therefore contain lots of Nitrogen and Sulfur). On the other hand, a wafer will be mostly carbohydrate, consisting mainly of lighter elements like Carbon and Hydrogen.

        Clearly, if transubstantiation happens, there must be considerable nuclear fusion occurring to covert that carbohydrate to protein. And because these elements are of lower atomic number than Iron, the nuclear reactions must be highly exergonic.

        Should transubstantiation actually be real, there is nothing preventing the Pentagon from weaponizing it. Imagine locking a military chaplain inside a large shipping container filled with unconsecrated wafers, primed and ready. When he gets the signal, the chaplain consecrates the lot, causing enough instantaneous fusion to set off a massive thermoconsecrational explosion.

        • Posted October 30, 2014 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

          I’d watch that movie…on Netflix.

        • Marella
          Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

          “thermoconsecrational explosion”

          Great phrase, positively brilliant!

        • hwgvictor
          Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

          If that’s not a scene from an anime, it certainly should be.

  10. Mark Reaume
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Jesus is the original Wonder Bread!

    I remember the Raelians, they made a claim that they cloned a human a dozen years or so ago.

    • microraptor
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      Yeah, that’s basically the only reason anyone has heard of them.

      • Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        Well, there was the mass suicide of 39 members in San Diego, accompanied by voluntary castration.

        • merilee
          Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

          were they the ones in the track suits?

        • microraptor
          Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:54 am | Permalink

          I’m actually not joking when I say I’d never heard of that.

          • Jeffery
            Posted October 30, 2014 at 11:18 am | Permalink

            Those suicides were by members of the Heaven’s Gate cult, which is entirely different from the Raelian movement.

            • Posted October 30, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

              My bad.

            • microraptor
              Posted October 30, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

              I remember that, but I never heard that they castrated themselves.

              • Jeffery
                Posted October 30, 2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

                I believe that nine male members, including Marshall Applewhite, went to Mexico for castration surgery to reinforce their “chaste” lifestyle (in direct contrast to the Raelians who have a branch of women who are sex workers).

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:31 am | Permalink

                “(in direct contrast to the Raelians who have a branch of women who are sex workers).”

                They do?

                So, not entirely without redeeming social qualities then. 😉

              • microraptor
                Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

                That depends on how the women are treated. As it’s a religious cult, I’m definitely going to require proof that everything is voluntary.

  11. beanfeast
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Since the Catholic Church insists that a change has really taken place, perhaps we need to design an experiment in which priests, cardinals or even the top man himself pick out the consecrated crackers from a selection of consecrated and unconsecrated crackers.

    I would really like to hear them explain how they can say the change really has taken place, when even the holy men with the hot line to god can’t divine a difference.

  12. John Taylor
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I’ve posted this twice before but I like it so much I can’t help but post it again.

    http://www.catholic.com/blog/michelle-arnold/god-is-in-the-details

    There is nothing better than bathing in the goodness of Jesus in a cracker.

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Slightly jealous of her title, “Staff Apologist.” Full-time mea culpa-ist?

  13. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I’ve read that in earlier times there appeared to be no barrier between men and gods (women and goddesses). Men could aspire to become divine through heroic works and gods could transform into men, swans, bulls etc.

    There’s an argument that Jesus started out ‘ordinary’ and had godhood retrofitted later. Indeed much early Christian debate raged around the issue of how godly Jesus was and when his godhood started. A cognitive gap opened between the worlds of men and gods which became dogma – but by then the RC Church was stuck with the transubstantiation magic ritual.

    No wonder it seems incoherent.

    • Newish Gnu
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      I just finished Bart Ehrman’s “How Jesus Became God”, which covers this point. The chapters in which early apologists were arguing about the nature of the trinity* were especially incoherent.

      *By that point, they all accepted the idea of the trinity but were still identifying which ideas about the nature of the trinity were heretical and which were “correct”.

  14. Ewan
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    The question for any defender of the doctrine of transubstantion must now be: Does the ‘real substance’ (“the what it is”) have any discernible natural properties at all?

    The centuries long retreat of religion into ‘pure faith’ continues, inch by inch.

  15. Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    So much for the project to clone Jesus.

  16. Pliny the in Between
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    A major flaw in the study is the fact that the DNA of interest is not deoxyribonucleic acid but rather divinoribonucleic acid.

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      The proteins don’t just fold – they genuflect!

  17. Newish Gnu
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    I have read the paper (and I’m not gonna) but here’s what I really want to know: Did they identify areas for further research? The wine, perhaps?

    • Newish Gnu
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      …haven’t….

  18. Newish Gnu
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    It was PZ who observed years ago that the Raelians demonstrate that atheism is no guarantee of rationality.

    • lkr
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Technically the Raelians are theists, just have odd thei.

      Pretty much like me and my spaghetti colander.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        Pedant alert: theoi 🙂

  19. Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    First, to all those criticizing the study based on the authors and their presumed biases…well, the obvious answer is not to criticize the study itself or Jerry for posting it, but to call for replication. And I can’t imagine this being a particularly difficult experiment to replicate.

    That writ, the official Catholic explanation is just bog-standard Platonic bullshit. The ceremony leaves the atomic structure of the crackers intact, but it swaps out the Platonic ideal template out from underneath. Just as there’s a Platonic ideal rabbit, for example, from which all other rabbits are molded, there’s a Platonic ideal Jesus and a Platonic idea cracker, and some sort of pointer from the real-world actualization of each back to their Platonic ideal. The Catholic hocus-pocus makes it so that the cracker’s Platonic ideal is now Jesus rather than the cracker, even though no change in atomic structure takes place.

    …of course, this immediately brings to mind all the usual chaos one expects with null-referenced pointers and the like….

    b&

    • reasonshark
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Of course, “Platonic” in this context is a fancy word for “imaginary and somehow superior to mere reality as a result”. When reality doesn’t match what you believe, just invent another reality in your head.

      The nice thing about using the imagination is that there are no obstacles between you and what you want to believe. That’s why the best way to defend made-up airy-fairy tales is with more made-up airy-fairy tales.

      Let’s hope more people realize they’re being fooled by such twaddle and leave the religious ranks.

    • Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:10 am | Permalink

      Access violation at 0x00000000. The platonic pointer to nothing.

  20. John Scanlon, FCD
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    “…they cease to be bread and wine, and become instead the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ.”

    [Obi-Wan]From a certain point of view.[/Obi-Wan]

    • Matt
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Robot Chicken?

  21. Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    On the other hand, perhaps the sky-fairy created wheat in his/her/its image and there was a mistranslation somewhere about us being created in the sky-fairy’s image. Heaven may be filled with waving fields of grain for all anyone knows!

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Could it be JC was actually made of wheat? It may be why his mom’s face keeps showing up on toast and torillas …

  22. Robert Seidel
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    If Improbable Research has the guts, this will make one of the next Ig-Nobel-prizes.

  23. TJR
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Jesus must be present in the wafer homeopathically.

    • Matt
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      I think you mean homeopathetically….see what I did there?

  24. mordacious1
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    It must be rough being a catholic and a vegan.

  25. Hempenstein
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Overheard after a communion long ago: “But mommy, if it tastes like tissue paper, why did you eat it?”

  26. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Sub

  27. Andy B
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    This seems to miss the point, doesnt it? In a enlightened mood, we are inclined to determine religion to be silly and its claims to be ill-founded. But for the religious person, faith is so constitutive of his self-regard and his way of life that he has an immediate relation to (his) truth: so much so that the absolute is the given and his faithful relation his beliefs is one of absolute certainty and immediate truth. Tf, no argument against “ridiculous claims” can persuade a religious person.

    It seems to me that the enlightened person has a fundamentally opposite relationship to his beliefs. He holds them only insofar as they can be subjected to the standard of rational skepticism. In this mood, tradition, religion, and any existing standard external to reason counts for naught.

    The religious person has a relationship of trust to his beliefs; the enlightened person has one of suspicion to his. I think that if we argue against religion by disproving particular beliefs, we will succeed in disproving beliefs but never in convincing anyone who was not already convinced.

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      True. However there is a spectrum of trust in beliefs, from blind absolute to kinda-sorta – which is why it’s so important to keep having these conversations. The kinda-sortas deserve the opportunity to get some reality and might just come around to the truth.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      Two observations.

      1) The characteristics that you give as defining religious persons vs enlightened persons are surely typically found in all persons. To varying degrees no doubt, but even the committed Heaven’s Gate cultist determined to suicide with her cocultists is careful crossing a busy street on her way to die.

      2) There is myriad evidence that religious people do in fact change their beliefs due, at least in part, to encountering arguments of disproof of specific religious claims and beliefs.

  28. noncarborundum
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Huh. I never knew that one of the deepest desires of my heart was to consume the flesh and blood of a fellow human being. I guess you learn something new every day.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Actually you are (theologically) consuming the flesh and blood* of a god, or a third of a god, or the divine son of a god.

      *Best before the Enlightenment

      • noncarborundum
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        I think the canonical view is that Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine, sort of the way a Certs is both a candy and a breath mint. So my description is not wrong, just incomplete.

  29. Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    As an aside: this does show how (science oriented) philosophy changes. Nobody outside of the Catholic philosophers think that the Thomist theory of matter is anything but long dead. (I might add also it was a regression; Aristotle, who they claimed to be following, would not have recognized what they did to to his metaphysics.)

  30. Scientifik
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    “On the other hand, the sect has some good liberal views: they are pro-gay, in favor of food derived from GMOs, and anti-Catholic.”

    Regarding GMOs, I think we should be open to the possibility that some genetic modifications we may introduce may be toxic to us. And therefore, my position on GMO food is that it should be tested on case by case basis (by independent, i.e. non-industry scientific bodies), before being put on the market.

    While we are on the subject, allow me to draw your attention to this story:

    http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=13-P13-00049&segmentID=2

    • H.H.
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Toxic how?

      • Scientifik
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        Well, we all agree that pesticides can be toxic to us and our environment, right?

        http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/human.htm

        Can we, therefore, assume that plants engineered to produce their own bug-killing toxins are automatically safe to us and our environment?

        • microraptor
          Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

          Especially when we know that some of the companies making pesticide producing GMOs (or herbicide resistent GMOs, for that matter) have long histories of lying to the public about the dangers of their products.

          • reasonshark
            Posted October 30, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

            This alone should raise suspicions about GM crops: they tend to give companies patent powers over the stuff we eat. They can’t even be trusted with pharmaceutical drugs, never mind GMOs.

            • microraptor
              Posted October 30, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

              Yeah, I’m quite firmly a believer in the idea that it’s a very dangerous mistake to trust that a for-profit company will put the safety of its employees and customers over making money in an absence of independent oversight.

    • TJR
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Or this, Nassim Taleb (Black Swan guy) et al on GMOs as a ruin problem:

      http://arxiv.org/pdf/1410.5787v1.pdf

  31. H.H.
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Wait a minute. I thought God was the ground of all being. How can the Eucharist’s “underlying reality” change unless god’s own nature changes as well?

    And what about all those claims that science is possible because god doesn’t tinker with reality? I guess ultimate reality is fair game.

  32. eric
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    According to the Catholic Church, when the bread and wine are consecrated by the priest at Mass, they cease to be bread and wine, and become instead the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ

    If priests could really do this…well, now I know why the gingerbread boy ran.

  33. Jeffery
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    What really happened was that Jeebus KNEW that non-Catholics were fiddling with some of his wafers, so he magically “un-transubstantiated” them! This was because the wonder and the glory of that particular miracle is reserved for Catholics only.

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Kinda self-defeating, though, no? He’s missing the ultimate opportunity for evangelization…again…again…again…again….

      b&

  34. Dylan
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    The argument being made here is a straw man. The Catholic theological position in fact depends on all the physical evidence (accidents) being consistent with wheat, because it is the essence (in the case of bread and wine, “substance”) which changes. The position depends on a Thomstic-Aristiotelian metaphysical understanding of substance and accident which modern natural science doesn’t have the capacity for. If you want to argue the issue, you have to claim that the metaphysical language has no content, or, admitting the validity of metaphysics, challenge the position’s metaphysical cogency. It doesn’t take a faithful Catholic to recognize this, just someone who knows what he’s talking about.

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for telling us how this magic trick works. Now apologize for your rudeness, or you’ll never post here again.

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Erm…you make no sense.

      Either transubstantiation is an expression of physics as bizarrely and incoherently out of date as the Four Elements (in which case the Catholics are idiotic superstitious primitives) or transubstantiation is consistent with modern physics (in which case it’s just been emphatically disproven).

      Are you really arguing that Catholics are ignorant of or purposefully ignoring the most introductory physics one learns in elementary school?

      For that matter are you ignorant of said physics?

      b&

    • reasonshark
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Thomstic-Aristiotelian metaphysical understanding of substance and accident

      A very fancy phrase for what is essentially a very puerile idea.

      If you’re going to defend that, then allow me to defend the dragon in my garage. He’s invisible, intangible, breathes heatless fire, and won’t show up on any modern sensory equipment… but he’s really there. I’ll call it the Draconian Argumentum ad Ignorantiam metaphysical counterargument to make it all philosophically respectable, which must make it a stronger argument.

      What the Catholic apologists are doing is no different, except that their nonsense is sincerely believed nonsense inherited from a long line of nonsense linked to the original perps within the Christian movement. And nonsense doesn’t cease being nonsense just because it’s aged. Acting like there’s a special sense that only the initiated can understand is a classic con trick, one that is blatantly self-serving.

      It doesn’t get any credit when it’s dressed up in high-falutin’ academic terms. Calling it metaphysics doesn’t let it off the critical hook.

    • BilBy
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      “The position depends on a Thomstic-Aristiotelian metaphysical understanding of substance and accident which modern natural science doesn’t have the capacity for”
      Oh boy, I’m going to crow-bar that line into a conversation today!

    • Marella
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

      “you have to claim that the metaphysical language has no content”

      I’m more than happy to do that. Metaphysical language has no content. It has no purpose beyond the poetic, no legitimate purpose that is; it is too often used to con the mystically minded into believing nonsense for the financial profit of the unscrupulous.

    • Posted October 31, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      See my remark above. Aristotle would not have recognized this metaphysics either, and Thomism is dead in any case. What killed it? Arguably Boyle, showing that the Aristotlian notion of matter in any form (haha) is inconsistent with what we know from the work of the chymists.

  35. Graham
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m still wondering how many wafers you have to eat before you’ve eaten a whole Jesus.

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      That’s not the interesting question.

      What you really should want to know is how many crackers you have to eat before you’re made entirely of Jesus? And what happens at that point? Spontaneous zombie apocalypse?

      b&

  36. Posted October 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if any Catholics will argue that the DNA test of the wafer is invalid because transubstantiation only takes place during the ritual and that a DNA test would have to be made during the ritual.

    • Randy S
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      How long after the ritual before the wafer turns back into a wafer? This is an excellent point. Does it last only the length of time that it takes to get to the recipients mouth (plus a few standard deviations to account for slow priests)?

      • Marella
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

        Going by their hysteria when someone purloins a wafer it appears the transformation is permanent; neither can they undo the magic spell. The cracker must be eaten as part of the ceremony or all hell breaks loose.

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      Nah, because that would be an open invitation to perform the indicated analysis, which would instantly transform into ridicule as soon as they refused to permit the analysis.

      They may be clueless idiots, but even their PR departments aren’t quite that blinkered…usually….

      b&

  37. Randy S
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    CLEARLY this doesn’t disprove transubstantiation. In fact, it only proves that Jesus was made of wheat.

    • Henry Fitzgerald
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      …And pasta is also made out of wheat! I sense an ecumenical opportunity here.

  38. Kevin Alexander
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    The results prove that the wafers are wheat but not Jesus but they do prove that they are God. Next up is to look for DNA from basil or oregano or to find evidence of His sweet spicy balls of ground round of being.
    Who knew that the True Lord (Parmesan Be Upon Him)was lurking in this ancient rite?

    • Randy S
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Post of the day.

    • Denis Westphalen
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Ramen.

  39. Posted October 30, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Why stop here? The Raelians should go on to debunk claims made by other religions. And what better than starting at home and working outwards?

  40. RossR
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    These tests still aren’t watertight: they failed to rule out the possibility that the historical Jesus was composed entirely of wheat.

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Composed entirely of wheat? You mean we’ve been arguing for two thousand years about a straw-man?

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted October 30, 2014 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

        Brilliant!

  41. Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    My deepest desire is to hit 800 home runs in the major leagues. Upon closer inspection, I actually have done this despite the continued outward appearance that I have never played major league baseball.

    • reasonshark
      Posted October 31, 2014 at 1:26 am | Permalink

      Although I have the mere surface properties of a 6-foot-tall human being, my true essence is a eagle-shark hybrid god with chainsaw wings, the ability to breathe fire, and telekinetic powers. Obviously, no scientific instrument could detect my true form, since I’m just that good at flying under the radar, but rest assured that those possessed of the true sight can detect and appreciate me in all my eagly sharky goddy chainsawy flame-breathy psychicy goodness. And of course, there’s no point looking into the minds of those with the true sight as if you were looking for IR detectors or ampullae of Lorenzini, because the mystical organs are not of this world either.

      • DiscoveredJoys
        Posted October 31, 2014 at 3:54 am | Permalink

        Although I have the surface properties of a mortal human being my true essence is immortal… Oh! It’s the same trick.

        • reasonshark
          Posted October 31, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

          It’s their… wait for it… SOLE trick!

          You may commence booing. >:D

      • Posted October 31, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

        Wow, I also have the surface properties of a six-foot tall human being. Maybe we should conduct a double blind study to see if we can determine which of us is the new home run king and which of us is the eagle-shark hybrid god.

        If nothing turns up, you’ll just have to have faith. After all, we want it to be true.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] 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.“ [Read more] […]

  2. […] Coyne has an excellent article on a recent experiment on the Eucharist that was done by the Raëlians. Yes, that’s right, […]

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