by Charlie Stack
The pseudoscientific topic I want to discuss is Faith Healing. Faith healing is something that I was unfamiliar with, but something that stuck out to me when I discovered it. Faith healing at the simplest form is healing through faith. This may mean that a preacher would lay his hands upon your forehead if you were sick, and through some divine intervention, you would be healed. Faith healing is big in the Christian practice of religion. Of course, like all other pseudoscience’s we have been exploring, evidence is empirical rather than evidence based. This theory has been popular throughout history, dating back tens of thousands of years and across all different cultures. It could have gained popularity since faith healing was typically free, and something done out of the kindness of someone’s heart, rather than for compensation. This is different from most of the other alternative medicine practices we see and could account for popularity. People claim that faith healing can claim diseases or disabilities such as blindness, deafness, AIDS, disabilities, and physical abilities. While it may not be as popular today due to the expansion of medicine that works, it is still popular for people who have very high beliefs in faith. Extraordinary means that something is unusual, or unlikely. Faith healing fits this definition perfectly. The reason that it fits is because it does not work, if it did, then everyone would be doing it and there would be a lot less disease in the world.
Faith healing is all empirical evidence, which means that some people do intently believe that it works. According to Psychology Today, a large and popular psychology magazine, they believe that is has positive benefits and can work as well. Psychology today ties faith healing to a placebo effect. A placebo effect can mean that because of faith healing, one simply expects to get better. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, which we learned can have a strong correlation between belief and something happening. Of course, if you have AIDS, or a broken leg, and you go to a faith healer believing it will disappear, it will not, but if you go for a small sickness and believe it, it is possible. It is possible that belief can help the functioning of our immune system, and this is an explanation for faith healing. Not everyone has good experiences with faith healing, though. With no scientific backing or true evidence, it is still extraordinary. There have been many claimed faith healers who have been caught for blatant fraud, two of the most popular are Benny Hinn and Peter Popoff. Benny would call out to a large audience and only bring those up who needed healing. Investigators would follow up after the supposed healing and found that there was absolutely no evidence that any healing occurred. Peter Popoff was caught by James Randi receiving audio from his wife of what to say through an earpiece, completely disproving him.
There are not many cognitive contributions to faith healing besides placebos and self-fulfilling prophecies, which are stated above. To explore a self-fulfilling prophecy a little deeper, it is a belief that comes true because we think it will, or that it already is true. Beliefs have such a big influence on our outcomes on life, that often believing something puts us in situations or environments where the outcome we want can become true. This is true for a lot of social and emotional contexts. There is a lot of evidence that supports self-fulfilling prophecies. Most of the evidence comes from the placebo effect. The placebo effect has been demonstrated many times and the main outcome is that participants who used the placebo have shown increases in health or wellness although there was no real medication. This states that believing in something helps our immune system, which helps us recover. This shows that people who believe in faith healing are uninformed. It is likely that they have never heard of self-fulfilling prophecy or placebo effect and are completely ignorant to it. They are also being tricked, often people who perform faith healing know that it is a scam. It is also likely that people who are treated for faith healing on a small issue, and get better, would get better with no treatment at all.
Most of the believers come from religious backgrounds, especially those of Christianity. This could be because of the new testament where there are examples of people being healed by Jesus through the power of touch, or faith healing. Often, he healed someone that would not of been possible back in his time, or even at all. This is interesting because once again there is no real evidence of it. If you are someone who takes the bible very literally, then it is possible that you will have a strong belief towards faith healing.
Faith healing might seem like it might not be a serious issue, because it can lead to self-fulfilling prophecy or placebo effect which is shown to have positive scientific results, and, science is good. The problem comes into effect when people have unrealistic expectations and things that need cured which are not possible. Faith healing can cause tremendous amounts of harm, for example: In Oregon, there was a case where someone died due a congenital condition that was easily treatable, but his church suggested faith healing. In California, a case was reported where a man had a rash and heard about faith healing on the radio, instead of going to a doctor he went to a faith healer and later died, the apparent healer was charged with manslaughter. There are many cases of this happening, but these two alone are enough evidence that faith healing should not have supporters. At the end of the day, it is a belief in magic that has only a minimal correlation to science due to the placebo effect, and causes more harm than good.