Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Slice of Life on the Wackier Side

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Ralph ReilandEvery week, I think it can't get any crazier — and then it does.

The other night I saw two grown men on TV getting thrown out of Rick Santorum's rally at the Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Ill., after they stood up and kissed.

And it wasn't just a little peck on the cheek — right there in a packed gymnasium while Santorum was saying that Barack Obama thinks "there is nothing really unique about America."

Video footage shows the crowd chanting "USA, USA, USA" as the men were escorted out the door.

Then we found out there's a pill for racism.

A new study from Oxford University, "Propranolol reduces implicit racial bias," states that this common blood-pressure pill "reduces in-built racism."

Explains the university's news release, "In a study published in Psychopharmacology, researchers gave 18 people the drug propranolol and 18 people a placebo and found that the propranolol group scored significantly lower on the Implicit Attitude Test into subconscious racial bias -- a standard test for testing subconscious racial attitudes."

Reportedly, propranolol "blocks activation in the peripheral 'autonomic' nervous system and in the area of the brain implicated in fear or emotional responses," explains the news release. "The researchers believe propranolol reduced implicit racial basis because such bias is based on automatic, nonconscious fear responses, which propranolol blocks."

Sylvia Terbeck, the study's lead author and experimental psychologist at Oxford, said the results "offer new evidence about the processes in the brain that shape implicit racial bias," a bias that "can occur even in people with a sincere belief in equality."

Oxford philosophy professor Julian Savulescu, a co-author of the study, took things a step further: "Such research raises the tantalizing possibility that our unconscious racial attitudes could be modulated using drugs."

So what if we add a hefty dose of propranolol to the water supply at the Christian Liberty Academy, to short-circuit the brain's automatic "fear and emotional responses"? Would a smooch between two guys in the gym then produce diminished levels of nationalistic chanting?

Some people aren’t so sure that it’s such a good idea to alter our views through chemistry. "They're lurching toward Soviet-style political psychiatry by suggesting that ideological disagreement on racial matters is a mental disorder requiring medication," writes Taki's Magazine columnist Jim Goad.

In other medical news, a Massachusetts physicians group is offering a free pizza to any new vasectomy patient. Dr. Evangelos Geraniotis, a urologist with the practice, maintains that a fast vasectomy is an "easy and less stressful" form of birth control.

For guys who are extra apprehensive, pepperoni is included.

I haven’t seen any response from Rick Santorum on that yet. I did see that last October he asserted during an interview with an evangelical blog called Caffeinated Thoughts that all contraception is wrong, pizza or no pizza. Explained Santorum: "Many in the Christian faith have said: 'Well, that's OK. Contraception's OK.' It's not OK because it's a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They're supposed to be within marriage. They are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also commutative, but also procreative." He added that it can’t just be about "simply pleasure."

Yet Santorum told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren in February, “I've had a — a consistent record on this of supporting women's right to have contraception. I've supported funding for it." Which begs the question: Why would Santorum oppose contraception on moral grounds, while at the same time supporting government funding of contraception? Or why would he argue against the contraceptive mandate Obama imposed on insurance companies while supporting government funding? No matter how you slice it, I don’t see how Santorum can reconcile these seemingly conflicting positions. I say: Hold the pepperoni and give the Senator a pie full of tomatoes.

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics and the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

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