If nobody believed in superstition it would be unable to hurt anyone
The Placebo Effect
What is the placebo?
In medicine, the placebo effect is a necessary evil. It
is not something to be happy about doing to a sick person.
A placebo is intended to fool you into thinking it will
make you better. This causes you to feel better and more hopeful. It is never
the placebo that helps but how one feels about it so it follows any placebo will
do. That could be dangerous. It proves nothing has the right to claim to be the
A placebo is fundamentally a mechanism by which you seek
to dodge the truth because you think it relieves or stops pain. It does not
follow that the truth is really as painful as you imagine. The sensible person
makes the truth her or his placebo instead of trying to look for quick and
ultimately harmful solutions.
When a doctor gives you sugar tablets to cure your
erroneous belief that you are sick or sicker than what you are and you improve
that is the placebo effect at work.
It is really the doctor's helpfulness and giving you hope
that helps not the tablet. A placebo requires support from other people to work.
They need to help you keep feeling better. Company helps.
Take the placebo in medicine. The placebo has the best
chance of success when a pill is very big and costly. Fake surgery works better
than any pill as a placebo. If you are very sick you feel you need drastic help
which is why you will respond better to something that seems invasive be it
surgery or an injection or whatever. Side-effects real or imagined from the
treatment trigger a placebo effect for they think then the treatment is
powerful. Another huge factor is the patient must be listened to and feel
involved and active in the treatment. The latter means that if you think God is
curing you and listening to you and letting you get involved a placebo will
The placebo is not ideal and has dangers
Placeboes do not work for everybody. A significant
minority will get no benefit from the placebo. Also, in medicine you give a
group the real drug and another group the fake one. But you need the group which
gets neither so that you can measure the placebo as well. The minority could be
better off not knowing they are immune to placeboes. Believing the placebo is
not for them closes them off from all future placeboes that are offered to them.
The person attached to a placebo will ignore or dismiss or avoid any evidence
that disconfirms his placebo.
Obviously it will not do to depend on the effect too much
or to give it as a treatment too often.
Like all lies, the placebo lie will be found out. And the
person giving the placebo does have a duty to wean you off it and that involves
kindly admitting the truth. When any placebo will do and people all have
different placeboes that they think they believe in for different reasons
surely the truth has to out that they are being led to kid themselves?
Giving a person a placebo that helps them, risks judging
them as stupid people or people who care about what they want to think and not
I would add that having a placebo creates a need for new
placeboes that seem to validate it and creates an unhealthy fondness for
placeboes and fantasy based thinking.
So we see that placeboes though sometimes needed
are only short-term helps. They are not to be celebrated but seen as necessary
A good doctor will try to wean you off placeboes.
They are only for short-term immediate and important help. They are given to be
outgrown. Faith healing is cruel for it wants to keep you on them.
If you are making yourself ill from trying too hard to be
healthy or to get rid of sickness or from worrying too much about getting ill,
then a placebo may help. But it is not much of a help. It is not a real help.
What you need is for the doctor or whoever to tell you to go out and think about
the wellbeing of others and do something to make them much better. It will keep
your mind occupied and rescue you from thinking too much about yourself. You are
still indirectly thinking of yourself but in the proper way. Also, what relieves
you is that you are telling yourself that others have to worry about their
health not you and that comforts you because it is them not you that will have
to suffer should anything happen.
Happiness is impossible if you are an island. When you
are happy you are happy with others. Happiness is collective. Collective
happiness is what people really need not placeboes. Placeboes are
too focused on insular happiness.
Do not force yourself to think positive. You need to
think about and plan situations where positive thinking will emerge naturally.
That means finding joyful people who are full of life.
The placebo works through by being faith in faith.
Any placebo would do because it is never the placebo that
heals but one's positive and hopeful attitude to it. So there is no
justification for involving religion or healers in triggering the placebo.
Better to give somebody some holy water or a healing spellbook than to send for
a healer. It is better still to give a person the lifeskills that help them
reduce the need for the placebo.
If a placebo is ever justified, using a religious or
magical one never is. It is not needed for a start. It is always better to give
a person a sugar pill than to send them to a spell-weaver. At least then they
think it is science that is helping them.
Many people suffering from depression are helped by placeboes and they get new hope. It is obvious that only testable placeboes can be tried. To tell somebody that God can help them if they ask is irresponsible. Lots of people have done that and it has not worked and the only thing that helped was another placebo or medication.
A placebo needs a third party. Thus a placebo for
depression should only be facilitated by somebody who knows what they are doing.
If the problem is depression, thinking that prayer is
lifting it, is dangerous. And even more so when prayer is said to bring answers
but not in the way you expect - for example, it may not be God's will that you
recover. It is better to feel that your own inner resources are getting you
through it. Self-confidence needs to grow to help the problem. If you discover
that you need to be lied to by the person giving you a placebo or to deceive
yourself that is not going to help your depression but worsen it.
The Lourdes Placebo
The placebo is faith in faith and that is dangerous and
that stunts one's intellectual and emotional growth. Spiritual people who dish
out placeboes package them as being about more than just physical or
emotional healing - they tend to say there is a spiritual or religious element
too. They offer holistic placeboes - mind and body and spirit. If faith in faith
is even slightly encouraged and as a placebo then surely any faith will do?
An improvement in spiritual health is sooo easy to imagine when you are a vulnerable person that it gets your healer off the hook even if she is a total fake.
Pretending that you are healing the soul when you are not doing anything for the body or mind is a new scam.
St Bernadette of Lourdes said that those who said that holy water from Lourdes cured them were in fact cured by their faith and prayers. The placebo effect can be triggered by faith and prayer but the problem is that the "cure" or the new feeling of wellbeing will be attributed not to the placebo effect but to faith and prayer. What is wrong with that? It means that you ascribe the healing to the wrong thing and that is dangerous. You cannot get proper solutions unless you know what really works. If you think prayer cured you, you will not be looking for medicine anymore. You can say, "Okay I will not bother taking the cancer treatment as I am treating myself with prayer. If it does not seem to work, it only shows that in God's plan it was not meant to. Prayer cannot fail." Believers say that God cures through medicine which means that medicine in itself is no good - it is God empowering it to work that matters.
Medicine is no
good in itself no matter what science says. That is a terrible view and means
that it is luck not design we have to thank if religious people use doctors. At
least if you suspect the cure or feeling better is the result of a placebo, you
can continue with medical treatment for placeboes have their place in