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Old 03-20-2007, 08:59 PM   #32
Spider AL
@Spider AL
A well-spoken villain...
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Join Date: Jan 2002
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Originally posted by tk102:

What I am arguing against is the stance the belief placebos is inherently harmful, and by the nature of its irrationality, bad in all cases.
Well then you're certainly not arguing against me, because I for one have certainly never stated anything so silly. In fact, reading through this thread I can't see that anyone has stated anything so silly.

I mean, please direct me to a quote if I've missed it.

What I for one stated (in my first post) was: "Belief in the effectiveness of homeopathy is not supported by evidence, therefore it is irrational, and like all irrational beliefs it is intrinsically worthless and may well result in negative consequences for the person who holds it, and for those around them. Beliefs must be based on reason and evidence to be valid. End of story."

Let's examine that:

1. "Belief in the effectiveness of homeopathy is not supported by evidence, therefore it is irrational ..." (obvious)

2. "... and like all irrational beliefs it is intrinsically worthless ..." (Indeed, irrational beliefs have no intrinsic worth. A rational belief has worth because it enables one to operate efficiently within the world, it enables one to predict likely outcomes with a certain degree of accuracy. Your contention is that an irrational belief that one is getting better may have positive effects on oneself if one is sick. This ignores the fact that any perceived positive effect can also be attained through rational means, therefore there is no need for the irrational belief, as you imply. More on this later.)

3. "... and may well result in negative consequences for the person who holds it, and for those around them. ..." (Once again, obvious. An irrational belief in homeopathy for instance may result in a sick person eschewing conventional treatments and/or giving up the SEARCH for experimental- but still scientifically based- treatments for their ailment.)

4. "... Beliefs must be based on reason and evidence to be valid. End of story." (And again, uncontestable. A belief without evidence to support it is merely chaotic conjecture, without foundation, it is not logical, robust, nor reliable.)

Originally posted by tk102:

Now, if the positive thinker affirmed and believed "I am beating this illness through the power of my positive thinking," that would be the same as a placebo, would have the placebo effect, and would be labelled the same way by some as "lying to yourself".
Firstly, with all these hypothetical distinctions between different types of positive thinking, you have missed a rather important chain of reasoning.

1. Placebos by their very nature do not cure illnesses.
2. The "placebo effect" is merely psychological.
3. Therefore it is not the placebo that is responsible for the psychological effect, but the person themselves.
4. People taking dummy pills often convince themselves that their symptoms are less severe as a result.
5. Therefore a person is capable of mentally controlling their perception of their own symptoms to an appreciable degree. (And this is the absolute best one can hope for from either placebos or isolated positive thinking)

And your contention that the only way of accomplishing this is by lying to yourself (and/or being lied to by some swami/guru) is flatly false. Meditation, visualisation, repetition of positive phrases are all fairly good at managing pain, etcetera. They don't require falsehood.

As an example, I don't need to say: "my wound is spontaneously healing due to this badger-nose-pill I just swallowed (false) therefore I feel no pain".

To accomplish a very positive result, I merely need to repeat to myself: "I am in control of my pain (which is true), I am compartmentalising my pain, I feel no pain." Irrational beliefs are not required, by any stretch of the imagination.

Originally posted by tk102:

I acknowledge that if a medicine, scientifically shown to be effective in a double-blind study, is available for a treatment of course it should be used. However, if there is no cure for the treatment, I argue that it is immoral to try to take away a person's belief in the placebo.
As far as I can see you have no basis for this argument. First of all, as stated before, a belief in homeopathic quackery can only distract a sick person from seeking experimental scientific treatments for their ailment. It can only distract them from campaigning for more research into their ailment.

And even in the most dire hypothetical, if I found I was terminally ill and there was literally NO possible scientific treatment for my disease... and NO possibility of finding ANY experimental scientific treatments... I wouldn't want to spend my last weeks convinced that the glorified bottle of spring water that Dr. Quacko gave me was beating my illness. (Something you earlier stated was necessary to engender a really positive placebo effect.)

Instead I would want to know the truth, that I was doomed... and I would want to know this so that I could soberly and carefully prepare for my own demise. False hope, after all, is merely escapism.

Originally posted by tk102:

You would rather that person not use the irrational power of their own mind to improve their condition simply because it is irrational.
I for one would rather they used the RATIONAL power of their own mind to improve their condition, rather than believing in ghosts and shadows, and thereby making themselves:

1. vulnerable to snake-oil salesmen,
2. open to the effects of mass hysteria &
3. prone to poor decision-making in general.

Originally posted by tk102:

(It seems to be a recurring theme throughout this forum that belief without evidence is irrational and must be abolished.)
Belief without evidence is irrational, and people in general would be better off if they discarded their blind faith and replaced it with critical thought and rationalism. That's not really up for debate, it's axiomatic. However nobody on this forum has been advocating the abolition of people's right to hold irrational beliefs, as far as I'm aware.

Originally posted by tk102:

If you take away the belief of someone
On a side-note, I have to comment on your perrennial usage of terms like "take away their belief". I would like to contrast this type of language with my own terminology, namely "take away their delusion", or "reveal to them the truth", or "show them the facts, and the logical arguments". Just a point to consider.

Originally posted by tk102:

It is better instead to help someone keep looking for a scientifically proven effective treatment while not discouraging their use of the placebo. That is the best of both worlds.
That doesn't make much sense, TK. If as you stated earlier, the person taking the placebo MUST BELIEVE IT'S EFFECTIVE in order for the placebo effect to occur in its most positive form... How motivated is this person going to be to find a scientifically based remedy? I mean they already believe that their bottle of water is curing their ailment. Why go looking for something else?

No, I'm afraid that rationalism and irrationality cannot comfortably co-exist in the real world.


Originally Posted by RoxStar
I have benefited as a diabetic from many alternate/natural medicines and therapies.
I'm not doubting your honesty Rox, but frankly without more detail I for one can't really accept nor address your assertions. Many people believe that their alternative therapies have helped them... belief doesn't constitute viable evidence of efficacy.

But perhaps if you were to elaborate we could examine any evidence you wish to put forward.

[FW] Spider AL
Hewwo, meesa Jar-Jar Binks. Yeah. Excusing me, but me needs to go bust meesa head in with dissa claw-hammer, because yousa have stripped away meesa will to living.
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