Realistic Limits and Truthfulness

(Mark D.) #41

Was the custom of going to church an important part of your life before? It wasn’t in mine. I think it is because I’ve gone so long without that kind of community that I don’t miss or look for it. Then again here I am involving myself in this online community so go figure.

If that is anything you like to share I’d be interested in how you think about God.

(George Brooks) #42


Funny you should ask that!

I was baptized Catholic … when I couldn’t say much about any of it…

And my early childhood was pretty much devoid of church. But in my teen
years I fell in with the a teen choir group, sponsored by the Nazarene Church.

And I’ll be danged… I was going to church all the time … and sometimes singing
in churches too. I was the resident “un-saved” heathen… but sometimes that
was pretty convenient for my “folks” … they didn’t have to go very far to test some
new “Let’s Get Saved” narrative… I was always right there… ready to “almost get

The choir group “domesticated” me sufficiently that I was able to mingle with
kids my age and their parents… and it definitely changed the direction of my life.


There are even serious scientists within the field of biomedical research and medicine that are asking if we shouldn’t treat diseases with placebos if they are effective. Their attitude is “if it works, why not use it?”. The question definitely rubs scientists the wrong way, but is that a bias in itself?

(Mervin Bitikofer) #44

I suppose in the U.S., if a placebo was to be really effective, the distributor would have to charge the patient a lot of money for it. Oh the ethical issues involved!


The protein chemist in my sees it as a trade-off between specificity, function, and evolution. Evolution only does “good enough”, not perfect. If the accuracy of human intuition is good enough in the environment we evolved in then that is what evolution will settle on. I can’t remember who said it, but if we run away in terror because the wind rustled the grass behind us that is a very small price to pay for running away when a Bengal tiger rustles the grass behind us. The false associations that we make are far outweighed by the true associations that we make. Increasing specificity does not increase function so it isn’t selected for.

(George Brooks) #46


I saw a documentary last year or so … and read the related main stream feature article on the topic …
about doctors who work with patients to “design their own placebo” medications.

Everyone knows there is no medicine … but there’s a prescription… and design aspects for what
the medicine should look like – and what subconscious factors seem to be helpful for the patient to

If I recall correctly, the medicine is not cheap… but not as expensive as the real stuff… if such a
medicine actually existed. The money goes into getting custom-made medicine pills / tablets / capsules…
but with no active ingredient other than the patient’s MIND!


That is also a very real part of human psychology. Increased cost causes humans to assign more worth to an item without any evidence that the association is true. Sell a bottle of mustard for $20 and people will tend to think that it tastes better than the same mustard at $5.

(George Brooks) #48

And that is why these “placebo consultant” MD’s insist that the medicine cost SOMETHING… and
help the patient design what it should look like.

Everyone knows the medicine isn’t really medicine… but the pills/capsules still seem to help the
patient feel in control of their lingering symptoms for which nothing else has provided relief!!!

(George Brooks) #49

But the character of our souls, meekly supported by the flimsy armatures of our imperfect bodies,
is - - in God’s view - - perfect for God’s ultimate design!

(Phil) #50

I wandered the aisles of the local pharmacy, and those placebos are quite expensive. Most of the supplements cost about 30 bucks a month. It is amusing to see people take Red Rice Yeast which has a small amount of a naturally occurring statin drug at 30 bucks when the generic form with known purity and efficacy costs $5. The cost is actually part of the placebo effect, in that people who pay a lot for whatever treatment or product are more likely to say it works. Sadly enough, that works to the scam artists favor.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #51

I’m sure the temptation to apply this to religion has crossed your mind plenty, but anticipating that plenty of atheists and former believers have already “gone there”, I think I would respond in part to such challenges with the further thought that …

There is a difference between thinking that my mind helps create reality, and realizing that my mind is an important and influential part of reality (especially my own physiological and perceptive reality).

Some religionists and atheists of more fundamentalistic bent are so busy reacting against the perceived subjectivism of the first category that they fail to take stock of the solid truth that still remains with the latter. “Mind? What mind? … this is just me perceiving and speaking the unvarnished truth!” (…and so runs their ‘invisible-to-them’ biblical hermeneutic as well.)

(George Brooks) #52


I would never pay $1 a day for something that contained WEAK medication dosages! I would insist on nothing but pure, unmitigated, placebo ingredients … as long as it was covered by a shiny “real gold” look! Now THAT is medicine!


There are chemicals that have a known and objective mechanism of action, so that isn’t necessarily true (unless you are being sarcastic).


A discussion that devolves into post-modernism and solipsism usually isn’t a discussion I am interested in. Human psychology is fascinating, but there has to be at least some acknowledgement that there is an objective reality out there.

(Phil) #55

I know we are wandering off topic, except it is exploring how we perceive truth. But I remember how they did a study of placebos and found capsules were stronger than tablets, which were stronger than liquids. Shots of course are even more efficacious, as the bright red B-12 shots prove. Black colored meds were strongest, followed by red, then yellow with green and blue being relatively weaker, but not as weak as pink. So be careful with placebo black capsules.

(Jay Johnson) #56

Yes, the pharmacies are filled with placebos! When I was first diagnosed with high cholesterol, my wife insisted I take the “natural” stuff first, which was a bunch of red yeast rice and Co-Q10. After a year, it had a minor effect on my cholesterol numbers (probably related to diet) and a major effect on my liver function. Everything was fine when I started taking the real stuff. So much for natural solutions.

I agree that it is an innate predisposition. As Augustine said, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” On the subject of the effort required to be an atheist (at least in this culture), you and @MarkD probably also would enjoy A Secular Age by Charles Taylor.

As he points out, it was not so long ago that human cultures did not distinguish at all between the secular and the religious spheres of life. Religion and spirituality permeated all things. It has only been in the last few hundred years that the secular/sacred division even appeared in human culture. Taylor traces that out and discusses its effects on our current situation. Now, after all that build up, I have to admit that the book is only on my want list, not on my bookshelf. But it sounds great …

(Randy) #57

My partner lent me Paul Offit’s “Do You Believe In Magic,” and I now buy copies to give my patients.

It’s been very helpful to show patients that too much “placebo” can kill you.

(Phil) #58

I have been meaning to get that book. It is interesting personally to integrate “science-based medicine” along with belief that healing can take place through faith and prayer.

(Jay Johnson) #59

I’m giving a shout-out to @Jon_Garvey, another (former) physician. The whole tail-end of the thread should be of interest to our old friend.


Yeah, that is what I would call “bad” evidence based belief, I know lots of atheists who believe in things like astrology and ESP, and they always tell me that the reason they believe it is basically some anedotical evidence of things that were “too strange to be coincidence”, in a way, you could say that this a “evidence based” belief, but with very bad evidence, since every controlled test done to test this things failed or was not reproductible. Science on the other hand is good evidence bases belief. Creating beliefs based on evidence is natural to humans, the difference is in the quality of evidence.
I concede that some aspects of religious belief, like efficacy of prayers or revelations could follow that logic, and that there are people out there which believe in their religion because of that. However, I don’t think it is fair to compare belief in God in its totality to this, I have a hard time understanding (even when I was an atheist) why so many atheists don’t consider the existence of God a legitimate question for which a good case could be made of and are so quickly to dismiss it as something that is certainly attributed to some misunderstanding or trick of the brain like astrology and other superstitions.