Today's Datablast: What would Jesus do? We have answers. Photo: Getty.
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We think Jesus would do what we would do

Many of us are unsure, but when we do offer an opinion of Jesus it is slightly coloured by our own views.

For more political data, explore May2015.com, where this article originally appeared. 

What would Jesus do? YouGov have polled the public.

He would want open borders and to renationalise the railways, but be undecided about gay marriage and oppose the death penalty. But many of us are unsure. At least a third of voters – and sometimes more than half – can’t muster an answer to these hypotheticals.

Do these questions also reveal something about us as voters? While people seem to mainly answer the questions without regard to their political beliefs, there are clear divides between voters of different parties. The poll shows what we might expect – our view of Jesus’ opinions is partly determined by our own.

Take immigration.

A third of us think Jesus would want “no restrictions at all” – open borders! Even the Green Party don’t think that. Only 1 in 20 of us think Jesus would want no immigration at all. Another 10 per cent think he would want tighter limits.

But that varies greatly between the parties. A third of Ukippers think Jesus would want no immigration or tighter borders, but only 6 per cent of Lib Dems agree. (As always with individual polls, we are looking at small sample sizes with high margins of error.)

What about gay marriage? It’s another issue that divides the liberal and the conservative, and again each think Jesus would tend towards their view.

Only a fifth of Ukippers think Jesus would support gay marriage, while around half of Labour and Lib Dem voters think he would.

As a country we can’t decide. Just over a third of voters say Jesus would be supportive, just under a third say he wouldn’t. (This echoes a “Jesus survey” YouGov ran of American voters in July.)

The even more startling differences are by age – just as they are on the issue itself. Here is how opinions of Jesus’ view on gay marriage differ by age group:

We can find a similar story in the rest of the data. Only 30 per cent of Tories think Jesus would want to renationalise the railways, but closer to a half of Labour and Lib Dem voters think so. And a third of Ukippers think Jesus would favour the death penalty, while fewer than a sixth of mainstream voters think he would.

But we can over-emphasise this bias. Even Tory voters agree Jesus would be three times more likely to support than oppose renationalising the railways. And Ukip voters, who are vehemently pro-death penalty, are divided on whether Jesus would agree with them.

Finally, how does religion affect people’s views? The only significant difference YouGov pick up is on gay marriage: 40 of those without a religion think Jesus would support gay marriage; 31 per cent of Christians think he wouldn’t.

What would Jesus do? If we offer an opinion, it’s likely to be shaped by our own.

Explore May2015.com.

May2015 is the New Statesman's new elections site. Explore it for data, interviews and ideas on the general election.

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear