Experiments performed on humans in “When Darkness Prevails” may seem far fetched, but the human race has a sad history of doing just that.
Nazi Sterlisation Experiments
One of the main reasons the Nazi concentration camps were formed, was the removal of ‘undesirables’ from the population and finding ways of keeping the race ‘pure.’
Many sterilisation methods took place in the camps which included performing mass hysterectomies, vasectomies and castration, without the use of anesthetic. Women were injected with unknown compounds (now believed to have been silver nitrate or iodine) which resulted in severe vaginal bleeding and cervical cancer.
Radiation was also viewed to be a quick solution and prisoners would be asked to fill out forms while being unknowingly exposed to radiation. Many received severe burns from the exposure as well as developing cancer in the long term.
The Milgram Experiment
The experiments conducted by the Nazis raised many questions about the nature of our species. To determine if they were all evil human beings, or simply following orders, Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University conducted another experiment; which focused on the conflict between a person’s conscience and their desire to obey an authority figure.
In July 1961, Milgram put an advertisement in the newspaper searching for volunteers in a study at Yale University. There were 40 males chosen to take part, all between the ages of 20 and 50. The participants were paired off, and they drew lots to determine who would be the teacher and who the learner. Milgram had the draw fixed, however, and the learner was always one of his students.
The learner was taken into a room, where electrodes were attached to his arms. The person conducting the experiment (a representation of ‘the authority figure’) would then go with the teacher to the next room, where they could hear the learner but not see them. The equipment in this room would contain an electric shock generator labelled from 15 volts to 450 volts.
The learner was given a list of words, and required to learn their match, after which he was tested by the teacher. For each one that was answered incorrectly, the teacher was advised to administer a shock increasing the voltage each time. The person acting as the learner would scream appropriately, although they weren’t really receiving the shock.
If the teacher refused to administer the next one, there were four prods used to encourage him to continue.
- Please continue.
- The experiment requires you to continue.
- It is absolutely essential that you continue.
- You have no other choice but to continue.
The volunteers were also assured that they would not be held responsible for their actions, and there would be no permanent damage to the recipient. All participants continued to 300 volts (severe shock) and 65% continued to the highest voltage of 450 volts (XXX).
This led Milgram to conclude that most people were likely to follow orders of an authority figure, over their conscience, even to the extent of killing another innocent human being.