Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has shown that human memories are malleable. She successfully planted false memories into people's minds during some of her experiments. Her position on the fallibility of memory has not always been well-received, but the results speak for themselves. And this may cause the believer in Christ to ask: Did God design memories to be moldable?
During a 2009 episode of CBS' 60 Minutes program, Loftus explained to Leslie Stahl that human memories are, "susceptible to distortion, contamination, and other influences."1 For example, she told Nature, "We can get people thinking they got sick drinking vodka, so they don't want to drink as much of it later on."2
Loftus helped institute guidelines for the New Jersey legal system, including instructing juries that memory, "is not like a video recording."1 Her expert testimony has influenced judgments in several high-profile court cases, including those of Ted Bundy and Rodney King, according to a feature article in Nature.2
In addition, mentalist Derren Brown, featured on a popular UK television show, routinely uses powerful psychological tactics to influence participants' decisions and even erase certain events from their recollection.3
When and why did memories become malleable? Is it reasonable to attribute apparent imperfections—like memory being vulnerable to distortion or contamination—to God's creative acts? Not necessarily. The effects of sin's curse on the universe apparently reach into the mind of man.4 In other words, it's likely that memory's fallibility was not what God originally produced in his first man, Adam.
After all, the fact that, in just one afternoon Adam named many basic creature kinds, including birds, beasts, and creeping animals, implies excellent recall.5 Today, only a few of us can claim to have even traces of a similar eidetic (visual) memory.
So, the question remains: When "he shall return to the days of his youth," will the redeemed person enjoy a perfect memory more like Adam's?6
- Manufacturing Memories. 60 Minutes online video. Posted on CBSnews.com, accessed August 20, 2013.
- Costandi, M. 2013. Evidence-based Justice: Corrupted Memory. Nature. 500 (7462): 268-270.
- Derren Brown: The Assassin. Channel Four online video. Posted on channel4.com, accessed August 20, 2013.
- Thomas, B. 2013. Is Mankind Getting Dumber? Acts & Facts. 42 (5): 17.
- "It would be possible for him to name about three thousand of the basic kinds of these animals in about five hours (one every six seconds), and this would be adequate both to acquaint Adam with those animals and also to show clearly that there were none who were sufficiently like him to provide companionship for him." Morris, H. 2006. Genesis 2:19 the name thereof. New Defender's Study Bible. Posted on icr.org, accessed August 21, 2013.
- Job 33:25.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on September 4, 2013.