Sunday, October 21, 2007

Trust in a Bottle

By Lawrence G. Downing

Under the headline “Researchers Find Trust to Be a Hormonal Affair,” Los Angeles Times staff writer Robert Lee Hotz (June 2, 2005, A18) reports that a team of researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and Claremont Graduate University in California have recently discovered that trust can be artificially generated by a nasal spry containing oxytocin, a hormone which, the article proclaims, evolved a hundred million years ago to aid mating among fish and breast-feeding among mammals. Oxytocin, the scientists found, also promotes trust between human beings.

Hotz quotes Paul J. Zak, director of Claremont’s Center of Neuroeconomics Studies and an author of the research paper, “’If I increase your level of oxytocin, I can induce you to overcome your anxiety in trusting a stranger. It is a [biochemical] signal we induce unknowingly all the time by looking people in the eye or shaking someone by the hand.”

The implications of this finding boggle the mind. Spritz a whiff of the magic hormone into a reluctant investor’s snout, Viola, a life-long buddy who will sign on the dotted line! Put mist of oxytocin in a politician’s hands and the sky’s the limit! Consider the unprecedented opportunity this finding has for the evangelist world! The possibilities are limited only by the number of imaginative delivery methods.

One or two obstacles remain before oxtyocin can be applied on a mass scale. Because the hormone is broken down in the stomach, reports the article, its effects are relatively short and must be administered by inhalation or injection. A thick fog of oxytocin will do the trick, says economist Ernst Fehr in Zurich. It is only a matter of time until a forward-thinking numbers-driven cleric learns to adopt an effective delivery system to his/her bag of manipulative paraphernalia, all under the guise of advancing the Work.

Humor aside, the ethical associated with oxytocin are significant. Unanswered in the article is whether certain individuals inherently have higher levels of the hormone than others. Does it follow that those who naturally evidence higher oxytocin concentrations in the blood stream are more trusting and hence more prone to accept religion than those with lower levels? Should religious professionals seek to establish an ideal oxytocin level and administer appropriate doses to maintain those levels?

Consider the possibilities that await the enterprising entrepreneur whose vision is cast to capitalize on oxytocin’s powers to promote immediate and lasting trust. Think of the potential that awaits the pastorpreneur who files a Religious 501 C 3 and becomes the founder of the “Trust Now True Believer’s Church.” We can only imagine the slogans: Let us Spay! Spray and Believe. It’s Only a Spray Away.

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