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Richard Dawkins Going After Faith Healers

  1. Aug 9, 2007 #1

    ZapperZ

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    In an entry on my blog, I mentioned about a BBC TV program where evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (of "The God Delusion" fame) is now going after faith healers and other supernatural claims. It seems that he found that entry and made a comment to it. He reported that he's working on a writing project that deals with a broader examination of all supernatural "phenomena". In the comment, he asked for evidence for a "non-physical" thing that exist.

    So far, since he posted it, no one has taken him on his challenge.

    Zz.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 9, 2007 #2
    Whatever I had in mind, Ivan has already stated in the comments. :)
     
  4. Aug 9, 2007 #3
    Interesting! I just finished reading his book.
     
  5. Aug 9, 2007 #4
    I'm am looking forward to seeing his new documentary 'The Enemies of Reason'. Various types of supernaturalism constitutes a multi-million dollar industry in the world, from faith healers to astrology and other kinds of pseudoscience.

    I think that this kind of rationalism is good for the world right now. I do have some comments on the issues brought up though.

    There is a frequently used ad hoc to faith healing, and indeed much else pseudoscience, that they represent 'another kind of knowledge', 'another way of knowing' or something 'outside science, reason and logic'. This is just a way of trying to bypass substantiating themselves as accurate.

    There are a few problems with this line of reasoning and I'm skeptical towards it.

    I dissect their claims into three categories: epistemological claims, methodological claims and evidential claims. In this context, epistemological claims is claims of other kinds of knowledge. Methodological claims are claims of other ways of getting to knowledge and the evidential claims is that they can support the assertions that has grown out of their epistemology or methodology with evidence.

    If one claims that there exist a different kind of epistemology or methodology for knowing about the supernatural, or indeed evidence for the supernatural, one still has the burden of evidence to show why their reasoning is relevant, independent of its natural or supernatural origin.

    There are further problems with their advocacy. If it is beyond science and reason and not controlled by logic, then how come they know it in the first place? Provided their reasoning is correct, thee would be no way they could know it in the first place. If someone is cured by faith healing, the action is indeed within the natural realm. Unless of course, they use a different type of epistemology or methodology, but it is still up to them to show how it is relevant.
     
  6. Aug 9, 2007 #5

    mgb_phys

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    Is there much point?
    You aren't going to convince the practioners; the ones that are crooks arent' going to admit it and the idiots aren't going to understand.
    As for the general believers - if they understood statistics, clinical trials and the scientific method they wouldn't believe in this junk anyway.
    Is it a worthwhile crusade or just a publicity stunt/ego trip fro the author?
     
  7. Aug 9, 2007 #6
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/05/newage105.xml

    It is not about convincing the practitioners, but creating a conscious-raiser among the public.
     
  8. Aug 9, 2007 #7

    mgb_phys

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    I agree it is incrediable but I think the number of people who currently spend money on crystal healing who will watch this and go "you mean there is no statistically significant correlation between the alternative treatment and a positive clinical outcome - I had no idea" is pretty small.
     
  9. Aug 9, 2007 #8

    chroot

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    mgb_phys,

    You're right. The "true believers" in things like crystal power genuinely believe their effects are in "other dimensions" or "planes of being" and are therefore not vulnerable to the tricksy statistical methods of scientists.

    For these people, the placebo effect is quite likely stronger than would be the effect of any verifiably efficacious therapy.

    - Warren
     
  10. Aug 9, 2007 #9

    Gokul43201

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    Faith healers don't die - they merely take extended vacations in other spectral planes.

    Consider Peter Popoff, who was driven to bankruptcy by a Randi expose', 20 years ago. Popoff is now back in the business with TV shows in the US and Australia and is likely raking in a million bucks a year off his scam.

    The market for peddling miracles is virtually infinite.
     
  11. Aug 9, 2007 #10

    Ivan Seeking

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    This study seems to be the core of any legitimate scientific debate about faith healing [this this involves prayer, not "healers"].
    http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/159/19/2273

    http://www.csicop.org/articles/20010810-prayer/
     
  12. Aug 9, 2007 #11

    ZapperZ

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  13. Aug 9, 2007 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    Has he published his results? The only rebuttle that I've found was in blog form. [except for links on the original page]
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2007
  14. Aug 9, 2007 #13

    Ivan Seeking

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    ...I was trying to cover a lot of territory, but it seemed that even the most credible rebuttles allow that there may be a slight positive result in the Harris study.
     
  15. Aug 9, 2007 #14

    ZapperZ

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    There are no results to publish. As Vic Stenger mentioned, the quality of the result itself is apparent.

    But here's a more important fact. If this is true, we would have a more resounding, and better detection of it since then. That is what scientifically-proven phenomenon truly does. We know more and more about it after the initial discovery. Can you say the same about this? Has it been repeated?

    If you have read Bob Park's column for any period of time, you would have come across several other published studies that negate and contradict the effects claimed in that paper.

    In other words, we are still dealing with not trying to refine the initial discovery, but still dealing with whether this actually exist or not, after all these years (and more if you consider that such a claim has been made for as long as there are prayers and faith).

    Zz.
     
  16. Aug 9, 2007 #15

    Evo

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    Prayer does not heal the sick, study finds

    The study debunking prayer was in the American Heart Journal last year.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article1072638.ece
     
  17. Aug 9, 2007 #16

    ZapperZ

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    Here's an even earlier study done by the Mayo Clinic:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2843/is_2_26/ai_83585945

    Zz.
     
  18. Aug 9, 2007 #17
    Consciousness.

    Try to touch or observe it any way in any other way than through your own. I think it exists because I experience it. If it doesn't exist, then reality does not exist. This opens the possibility that other non-worldly things exists (one likely possibility is that humans and animals have a consciousness, but I can never prove it. It's possible that all things have a consciousness, but again, I would not know whether this is true or not.). However, this does not prove that any other non-physical things exist any more than it does that there are invisible pink elephants swimming around my head. There could be no non-physical things floating around my head. There could be every conceivable form of physical thing in non-physical form floating around my head. There could be an infinite amount of combinations of all things represented in an infinite number of non-physical planes of existence.

    But I wouldn't know.

    This is the flaw in atheism. Athiesm doesn't admit the possibility of any non-physical thing, and yet there is; consciousness. The certainty that there are no non-physical things is often based an "appeal to ignorance" fallacy. Because nobody can prove that there are any other non-physical things anywhere, they assume that there is not. This is why I am agnostic. I don't believe in God or Zeus or whomever.. There is a lack of proof for those wacky ideas, however I cannot prove that there is nothing else non-physical out there. Religion and atheism are flawed in precisely the same way, they are both certain because their take on things cannot be disproven in the physical world. An atheist would have to have a way to detect all non-physical things and then detecting no non-physical things to be certain of their position. Religion must prove that a non-physical thing exists in a non-physical world, and yet it cannot. (ironic, isn't it?). There could be a non-physical thing out there that resembles the idea of a God or invisible flying pink elephants, but I wouldn't know, now would I? And so I cannot conclude one way or the other. I can conclude that Christianity is false, that other religions are false, I can even conclude that it is time wasted to pursue all religions in an effort to prove or disprove them all, because I imagine the likelihood of a non-physical thing being proven is rather slim indeed.

    Now, if consciousness does not exist because I cannot observe it physically, then there is no physical reality. Without this reality in which all things take place, this question, as well as all others, becomes irrelevant. I choose to believe that reality exists; to not do so would defeat the purpose of living, and therefore all desire within my consciousness. No matter how I try otherwise, I cannot be other than compulsed to exist happily. Without that fundamental cornerstone of logic, that reality exists, I cannot think or conclude on any practical matter and so my life would fall to ruins and I would be an imbecile with no chance for joy. I think it's illogical to bring oneself to ruin on such a premise that consciousness does not exist because we cannot physically prove its existence.

    -Phil

    P.S. I'm a big fan of Dawkins, but I don't agree with the premise of pure atheism, although I do find it more forgivable than religion. Religion is absurd.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2007
  19. Aug 9, 2007 #18

    Evo

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    Btw BoredNL, you made a great post in philosophy on the meaning of life, meant to say something earlier to you.

    I don't equate the supernatural to conciousness. I can (by the definition of consciousness) determine if another human is conscious, although there can be a blurred area. I believe that you can observe conciousness, isn't that how we normally decide if a person is conscious, by observation? I think you mean something other than being physically aware.

    I know atheists that don't believe in a god or gods but believe in the supernatural like ghosts, for example.
     
  20. Aug 9, 2007 #19

    morphism

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    That's a good post, BoredNL.
     
  21. Aug 9, 2007 #20
    Thanks. :)

    Non-physical and supernatural are two separate things though. One means something that exists apart from the physical world (and so would never be observable from physical reality). The other is simply unexplainable by any physical laws, such as ghosts (if they were to exist). Consciousness is both.

    You cannot see a person's actual consciousness. You can see them move, speak, smile, laugh, cry, but you cannot see their consciousness. It's possible that the only consciousness that exists is your own, and that although all things seem to follow strict laws, it is still simply a fabrication of your consciousness.

    Because a God could be a non-physical thing that cannot ever be observed from the physical world, which we have no way of proving or disproving, no matter how absurd the notion may seem in light of the absurdity of religions, there can be no proof that there is no God. To repeat my point though: There is no physical proof either.
     
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