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More Americans believe in the supernatural than 10 years ago...

By SIGFPE in MLP
Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 11:58:34 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

... according to this gallup poll. Only a small minority of Americans don't believe in extra-sensory perception and more Americans believe in haunted houses than don't.


BTW It's interesting to read this data directly from the gallup web site. The report includes the exact wording of the questions and sample size.

For some analysis of these results from a sceptical perspective, laying the blame for such an increase of superstition on the American media, read this.

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More Americans believe in the supernatural than 10 years ago... | 44 comments (44 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Tradeoff (3.87 / 8) (#1)
by 2400n81 on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 06:40:55 PM EST

Americans are becoming extremely less and less religious in the traditional sense, but people (being what they are) have found a substitute. Hence, the rise of pseudo-science/superstitious groups.

Why else is it that so many Americans know who Miss Cleo is... "Call me now for your free Tarot reading!"

And what is it, exactly .. (4.16 / 6) (#2)
by Eloquence on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 06:52:06 PM EST

.. that separates the belief in a supernatural being that eradicates cities and kills its own son to reveal its love for the beings it has created out of clay a couple thousand years earlier, subsequently thrown out of paradise and then nearly completely drowned in a huge flood, from the belief that cards can tell the future, besides its volume and implicit cruelty? (I read your post as implying that there is indeed a difference. I apologize if you think there is none.)
--
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
[ Parent ]
Organisation (4.66 / 3) (#7)
by SIGFPE on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 07:31:49 PM EST

The 'traditional religions' are organised. Believers in the efficacy of Tarot cards or ESP tend not to be organised in the same way and there tends not to be a set of dogmas (ie. conditions of membership to a 'church') associated with such beliefs. The original poster's comments can easily be interpreted as a statement that believers are moving out of organised religious groups into more 'sporadic' belief systems.

Nonetheless I think the original poster can easily be refuted with a small amount of research and I have every bit of sympathy with your sentiments. But I think you were unnecessarily harsh on a statement that could be interpreted in a far more generous manner.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

Well, not all religions are magical in nature... (3.00 / 1) (#25)
by neuneu2K on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 06:02:05 AM EST

Even taking into account the miracles, modern interpretation of major religions is strictly incompatible with "supernatural things", in the sense that only God can break the rules.

There is NO magical interpretation of the world in Islam, NO magical interpretation of the world in Roman Catholism (and I suppose in most of the other Judeo-Christian religions...).

Whatever, why are people thinking that that anything not explained yet cannot be explained ever ?
(that is the meaning of "supranatural":above the laws of nature and so not "explainable")


- "And machine code, which lies beneath systems ? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic..." - Umberto Eco
[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 0) (#29)
by priestess on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:06:44 AM EST

There is NO magical interpretation of the world in Islam
I'm not sure how you can say this, especially when you explicitly include the miracles. How is 'Only God can break the rules' not supernatural? You admit that there is a natural state (hence rules to break) and that they can be broken by something which must therefore be supernatural. God is the worlds greatest magician.
NO magical interpretation of the world in Roman Catholism
So there's no magic in transubstantiation? Weird, looked pretty supernatural to me, and suprisingly easy to refute you'd have thought too.

As far as I know nobody is saying that things can't ever be explained, just that there's nothing there TO explain in most of these cases except perhaps the irrationality which will probably be explained in Pychology if that ever gets anywhere.

Pre........

----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
[ Parent ]
evidence? (2.50 / 2) (#4)
by alprazolam on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 06:56:33 PM EST

according to this off gallup, people are at least attending church pretty consistently over the past 30 years. i'm of the opinion that america is getting more fundamentalist, more racist, more misogynist, over the past 5 years that before that, but i don't have a lot of experience to make any real judgements.

[ Parent ]
Miss Cleo (3.00 / 2) (#6)
by PopeFelix on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 07:30:19 PM EST

The reason behind Miss Cleo's fame is quite simple:

Her blasted commercials are on at all hours of the day and night on a variety of different channels. The ones that I can remember seeing her on are Fox, UPN, and the TV Guide Channel.

Of course, the chances of getting Miss Cleo personally are pretty effing slim, from what I hear. One of the local news outlets here (Charleston, SC) did a story on it.

Post No Bills


[ Parent ]
This could be profitable (4.00 / 3) (#8)
by Tatarigami on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 07:36:09 PM EST

You mean, through the decline of monolithic religious institutions there's now an excess of belief looking for a new way to express itself?

Sounds like an untapped natural resource just waiting to be exploited. I smell money!


[ Parent ]
Sure, just look at pharmacuticals! (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by anansi on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 09:04:56 PM EST

At the turn of last century, cocain and opium were the foundations of a huge quack industry of medicine. Does that make today's pharmacutical industry less scientifically valid?

Granted, the politics of today's pharmacutical industry stink, but this is about science and reality, isn't it?

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Another way to look at it.... (4.25 / 4) (#11)
by anansi on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 08:48:23 PM EST

Reading about the "God Module" in the human brain, has got me to thinking about intuition/faith/esp/religion as a valid method for asking deeper questions of ourselves. But because the human mind is the only 'instrument' for making observations, religion evolves at a glacial pace.

Science, OTO, is less suited to ask questions about people's personalities except in a vague, statistical sence. This is why psychiatry finds itself at odds with religion so often. Science is well suited to ask questions about the world outside our own minds.

Being a scientist and a wiccan, I see no conflict between science and religion. They are simply asking questions of a different logical type.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

I don't quite understand (2.00 / 1) (#12)
by SIGFPE on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 08:59:39 PM EST

I see no conflict between science and religion. They are simply asking questions of a different logical type
That has a certain plausibility to it but I'd like to understand precisely what you mean. Can you actually give some examples questions of these different logical types? I'm not so interested in questions like "why are we here?" but things related to your previous paragraph. For example what questions about personalities can religion answer in a sense that isn't vague or statistical?
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
logical type (none / 0) (#37)
by anansi on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 06:32:08 PM EST

This comes from the work of Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead, who developed a comprehensive logical justifiaction for mathematics. Along came Kurt Godel (of Godel,Escher,Bach fame) who proved that any system of logic can be either complete, or self constistant, but never both. To try and work around this fly in the ointment, Russell invented the idea of logical type, which more or less boils down to the notion that some truths are more profound than others. This was the sense of the phrase I was trying to borrow.

As for your second question, the best example I can think of would be the meaning of dreams. A statistical analysis of thousands of dream journals might tell you that your dream is normally associated with money issues... but it can't tell you what, if anything, your subconscious is trying to say to you.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

more data required (3.00 / 1) (#20)
by vla1den on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 10:34:02 PM EST

I think it would be interesting to look at different aspects of American culture simultaneously. How many are superstitious, how many attend church, how many have some kind of scientific degree, how mach are educational spendings, etc... And how it's all changing over time. That would put the question in the interesting light.

...what the next best thing is going to be?
[ Parent ]
If you look more closely at the link... (2.00 / 1) (#22)
by SIGFPE on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 12:42:30 AM EST

...you'll find much of the information you're asking for!
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
About the Tarot (none / 0) (#42)
by CrayDrygu on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 01:30:27 AM EST

Your comment on Miss Cleo prompted me to write this post...a little off-topic from where you were going, but I feel like sharing, and this is as good a place as any.

I have a weird mix of beliefs. I am, most of the time, a very logical, rational person in terms of what I do and don't buy into. Not entirely, though. I'm not religious, but I am spiritual. I'm not superstitious, but I avoid walking under ladders and breaking mirrors anyway. Basically, I don't believe many "non-scientific" things, but I don't discredit them either.

Well, a while ago, I decided to pick up a tarot deck and a book on how to read the cards. Not really having anyone else to practice with, I've done numerous readings for myself. Most of them turned out fairly accurate, but I credited that mostly on the fact that, since I know myself so well, it's easy to read things into the cards that otherwise might not be obvious. It didn't help that I refuse to ask myself meaningful questions (things like where my relationship is headed, or job advice) because I firmly believe in self-fulfilling prophecies.

Since then, though, I've done a few readings for other people, and every time they've been eerily accurate in one way or another. Once, I even gave someone a reading who already had one done by someone else on the same question, and out of 78 cards in 10 possible positions, I got the same card in the same (rather important) position in the layout, and read the same meaning into it. And no, I hadn't known of the previous reading until after I did mine.

Of course, that's hardly typical -- it's only happened to me once. I find that most of the tarot readings I do are really a combination of skills. One is, of course, being able to pick out the meanings of the cards as they apply to what's being asked, and what they mean when looked at as a whole. Another is something that I was already good at before I started reading the cards -- knowing how to listen, and how to craft advice. A lot of the "answers" I've come up with in readings are nothing I couldn't have come up with on my own, just sage advice, but I find having the cards as a starting point helps me immensely. And of course, if the person you're reading for puts a lot of faith in "what the cards say," they're more likely to take that advice, for better or for worse.

Incidentally, I still need practice, and I'm willing to do readings for people...don't just ask simple little things, though. I don't like doing readings for people without knowing anything about them or the situation they're in, so if you can't type up a decent paragraph about it, don't ask. And of course, if I give you advice, and something bad comes of it, don't blame me. I'm a novice at this, remember =)

[ Parent ]
One has to wonder... (3.66 / 3) (#3)
by Xeriar on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 06:53:39 PM EST

About the witch question. I know two female Wiccans (making them 'witches') and I most certainly believe they exist, however I don't exactly think of them as supernatural entities.

Generally, I think it would be nice if this had some more religious data included (though that would need a larger sample size). Americans tend to be more religious then other democratic nations... I wonder what the people over there think.

----
When I'm feeling blue, I start breathing again.

That's a good point. (3.50 / 2) (#5)
by SIGFPE on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 07:01:27 PM EST

Although I am very sceptical of people who call themselves witches today. As far as I can see Wiccan belief is a modern belief that has nothing to do with what a 17th century person, say, would call Witchcraft. Nonetheless, if a large enough group decide to call themselves something and enough other people go along with it then the poll creators should have taken that into account in their wording.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Explaining the top choices (4.75 / 4) (#9)
by mattw on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 07:57:22 PM EST

It seems as though almost everyone is aware of psychosomatic illnesses; proof positive that the mind can cause harm to the body. If the mind can hurt, it seems intuitive that it can heal as well.

As for ESP, I'd like to see the question(s) as asked. A while ago, I read an article about how people strongly believe they get "feelings" about things around them, such as when someone is looking at them. The percentage of people who thought they could "feel a stare" was pretty high, but when those people were put into a laboratory condition, people only could determine that someone was looking the tiniest shred over what would be expected by random chance (and within a standard deviation for pure luck). If people were thinking of that sort of phenomena, it wouldn't be surprising. If the question were, "Do you believe that there are people with the power to accurately and consistently read another person's mind?", I'd expect the results to be a great deal lower.


[Scrapbooking Supplies]
Yes and no. (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by SIGFPE on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 08:20:02 PM EST

If the question were, "Do you believe that there are people with the power to accurately and consistently read another person's mind?", I'd expect the results to be a great deal lower.
That is probably a correct statement but I don't think it would be a good question to ask. Many people believe ESP is a supernatural connection between people's minds but that it is inherently unreliable for various reasons (eg. you need to be trained, you need to have faith, you need to not be observed by a sceptical scientist). Your question would rule out such beliefs which are quite different from those of a sceptic.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
ESP huh (3.00 / 2) (#23)
by a clockwork llama on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 03:06:52 AM EST

you need to be trained, you need to have faith, you need to not be observed by a sceptical scientist

Reminds me of that character in Mystery Men who has the power to become invisible whenever no one is looking at him.



[ Parent ]
Speaking of which... (none / 0) (#32)
by SIGFPE on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 01:07:14 PM EST

One of the lecturers where I did my PhD was the physicist John Taylor (not the pyramidologist of the same name). He went round with Uri Geller for a few years. He was convinced that he had supernatural powers. He believed that many kids had spoon bending powers too. He saw some kind of parallel with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle which meant that supernatural powers were less efficacious when observed. He researched these telekinetic (or whatever) kids who could bend spoons when they weren't watched. He toured round giving radio and TV interviews abut this stuff. One day someone installed a secret video camera to watch these kids. They actually bent the spoons using the edge of the table or their shoes. John Taylor jumped off the supernature bandwagon soon after that! Martin Gardner though that John Taylor was such a fake he wrote a whole chapter on him in one of his books.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Ah yes... (none / 0) (#36)
by a clockwork llama on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 05:59:25 PM EST

James Randi wrote an amusing and educational article on Taylor's psychokinetic kids... The Terrible Taylor Tubes!

[ Parent ]
Hrm (4.00 / 2) (#14)
by regeya on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 09:31:58 PM EST

It would have been better if you had linked to this document rather than the standard wire-service drivel you linked to. :-)

As it stands, there's certainly evidence that supports the theory that an increased belief in the supernatural may be due to the influence of mass-media, but it's hardly conclusive, despite the author's obvious anti-media bias. It'd be hard to pin, say, the Spanish Inquisition on television, for example.

I found it amusing that the author seems to find evidence, somehow, that Y2K paranoia was due to poor education (please tell me I'm reading that wrong.) Hrm, okay. Skepticism about what I see on a news broadcast, skepticism about official government reports, having creationist beliefs, and a sense of anxiety about pre-Y2K preparations are a sign of low intelligence, eh? Mmm'kay!

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]

ESP, an explanation (3.33 / 3) (#15)
by Signal 11 on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 09:36:48 PM EST

ESP, imo, is just another way of classifying things we can't readily explain. People say they "know" when when someone is looking at them, and maybe that isn't true, but there's a good deal of things a laboratory can't explain...

Laboratories can't explain things as complex as social interactions. They can try, but they never get the full picture. Emotions, by their very nature, cause people to do seemingly irrational acts, and even stranger, when pressed have no justification for it. Science depends on rational thought, but there's a good deal of things that rational and logical thought are ill equipped to deal with. It is an effective tool for some tasks, but not all. Remember that the scientific community has never refuted, for example, the existance of God. They simply said the evidence doesn't bear out His presence. Some food for thought! I am so tempted to bring up the paradox of the raven here, but I don't want to have Kuro5hin go nuclear... hehehe...

ESP probably doesn't exist, but in the absence of a scientific and/or rational explanation of things which obviously are not pure chance, what else do you expect people to say?

Case in point - try having science explain me. $20 to the first person to come up with a working theory about how my brain works. I've had 13 psych evals, and I've gotten 14 seperate personalities out of it. Yes, one psychologist thought I had multi-personality disorder... fortunately he thought I only had two. :)


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

Irrational (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by SIGFPE on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 10:10:12 PM EST

Remember that the scientific community has never refuted, for example, the existance of God. They simply said the evidence doesn't bear out His presence
I think you just made this up. Would you like to point out a paper in which scientists publish the result that "the evidence doesn't bear out His presence"? If you're not referring to published papers then I can only assume that "[the scientific community] ... said the evidence doesn't bear out ..." is a reference to the unpublished personal opinions of scientists. Well scientists are ordinary people. Some think that science can be used to disprove the existence of a god. Some think that the very fact that science works is itself proof of the existence of a god.

Emotions, by their very nature, cause people to do seemingly irrational acts...but there's a good deal of things that rational and logical thought are ill equipped to deal with
I'd like to list this sentence as one of the products of the irrational behaviour you describe. You're basically saying that science is not a good tool for studying irrationality because science depends on reason. Your argument seems to consist of putting the words 'rational' and 'irrational' near each other and hoping that people will therefore see a contradiction. But you need to explain just why we can conclude "science is no good for studying the opposite of X" follows from "science depends on X". It doesn't follow if we substitute many other words for X.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Knowing when someone is looking (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by Cameleon on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 07:02:54 AM EST

ESP, imo, is just another way of classifying things we can't readily explain. People say they "know" when when someone is looking at them, and maybe that isn't true, but there's a good deal of things a laboratory can't explain...

The fact that people seem to know when someone is looking at them (when they can't see that person) could actually just be an illusion. Consider this: people know that sometimes other people look at them, and want to see who does. So occasionally, they check to see if anyone is, in fact, looking at them. When they see noone, they say nothing. Similarly, if someone is looking, but they do not notice, they say nothing either. So only this 'remarkable' event where they 'know' someone is looking at them is reported, making it seem as if it is extraordinary, when it might not be.

[ Parent ]

Practical example (none / 0) (#41)
by Elendale on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 12:46:15 AM EST

Back in my QW days (and to a lesser extent, now with my CPMA and QW days) i've experienced something that might fall under "ESP". After a few minutes of play vs. a serious opponent, i can usually tell where on the map that person is- even if they are being totally silent and sneaking around. Its not that i am conciously thinking about it- that would be too slow to be practical- but i still know where they are. Logically, this is merely my knowledge of the map and the flow of the game giving me intuitive knowledge of where someone is hiding at but doesn't this fall under ESP?

-Elendale
---

When free speech is outlawed, only criminals will complain.


[ Parent ]
Experience? (3.00 / 3) (#16)
by xriso on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 09:52:34 PM EST

It is rather foolish for the general public to just believe this stuff they have never seen (X-files told me so! ;-) ). However, some people claim that they have been influenced directly by the supernatural. See here for example.

I'd say the closest I've been to a supernatural event (or several) was when a Christian healer visited. Some people were definitely healed, but what appealed to me was that it wasn't a big glitzy thing like you see on TV. Heck, the speaker seemed almost as shy as me!

I know that there was no mass hallucination going on, and I highly doubt the mind-over-matter explaination. I also find it rather silly for any faking to be going on. I can't say that they are making any profit off the donations they recieved, although the gymnasium that the event was in probably didn't cost too much.

The only reasonable explaination I can see is that there are supernatural things that happen.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)

And you learnt that by observing human behaviour? (4.50 / 2) (#19)
by SIGFPE on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 10:20:54 PM EST

I also find it rather silly for any faking to be going on
And people are never silly. I mean, look at the whole of recorded human history. Nobody was ever silly. So that proves it then.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Mind over matter less probable than what ? (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by neuneu2K on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 05:53:51 AM EST

The mass hallucination theory is quite ridiculous I agree, I agreee too that a lot of "faith healers" are not faking (ie : they really believe in what they do).

But what makes you conclude that mind cannot influence matter (especially when the "mind" and the matter are in the same body :-)).

Moreover, does saying "supernatural things" gives you any information about what happened, I mean what IS "supernatural things", God intervention, ghosts and spirits, the power of cristals, exorcism of devils ???


- "And machine code, which lies beneath systems ? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic..." - Umberto Eco
[ Parent ]
ok ok (none / 0) (#38)
by xriso on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 07:27:09 PM EST

Well, I do believe that the "mind over matter" situation exists, but I cannot attribute the healings to it, because of the speed. Some of these people were not healed right there on the spot, but, others were instantaneous! (The guy was also saying that he had raised people from death, after the hospitals had given up on them. Unfortunately, no corpses were brought to the meeting I was at ;-) )

But yeah, I do think it's God. Before I went, I was thinking "I believe Christianity is true, but miracles can't happen anymore." However, now I believe that it is the same now as in the apostles' time. If I ever get some sort of fatal wound, I believe that God would heal it, and I'd try to get some medical records as evidence.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]

well, immediacity is not a problem for me... (none / 0) (#43)
by neuneu2K on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 06:09:56 AM EST

While I was NOT there and do not know in detail what happened, I still think that the mind over matter explication is the good one.

In my experience, "mind-healing" or even more impressive (but less good !)in my opinion "mind-wounding" (real wound-like marks appear !) can happen in seconds if the subject is well prepared.

It does not follow that it is not God will that these people were cured, even if no "supernatural" experience happened, their faith was certainly instrumental to their cure...

As of your behaviour if you ever get a fatal wound (or a fatal illness), pray as you wish, see this faith-healer if you think him honest... But please do not rely on it, God may very well want you to get cured in "normal" ways !


- "And machine code, which lies beneath systems ? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic..." - Umberto Eco
[ Parent ]
fatal (none / 0) (#44)
by xriso on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 09:58:56 PM EST

Well, I suppose I meant "pretty much screwed". One of those injuries that will inevitably lead to death. And yes, some people were going to doctors around the time they were healed.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]
So what's the trend for belief in human progress? (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by marlowe on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 09:55:54 PM EST

How about the inevitable triumph of reason over superstition? I'm old enough to remember when even learned folk took that notion seriously. Four out of five doctors said so.



-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
I guess I'm superstitious too (2.00 / 3) (#21)
by John Milton on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 11:33:13 PM EST

I believe that there may be extrasensory perception. I also believe in ghosts and an assortment of other things. So I guess I'm a superstitious.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


get a dictionary, man. (1.00 / 4) (#31)
by majcher on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 01:01:33 PM EST

I guess I'm a superstitious.

You spelled "dumbass" wrong.


--
http://www.majcher.com/
Wrestling pigs since 1988!
[ Parent ]
Paranormal ? (3.66 / 3) (#26)
by Eivind on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 06:07:09 AM EST

I noticed there was only one thing highly educated people are more likely to believe than uneducated ones. Namely that the mind is capable of healing the body. ("Psychic healing").

But is that really controversial at all ? I mean, everyone who's had a basic level of education knows that placebo does work. That is, if you have two groups of patients with similar symptoms, then give half of them sugar-pills then that half will not only report feeling (on the average) better than their counterpart. But this will even include measurable indicators of disease that you'd normally not be able to control mentally, like your fever goes down faster if you're given sugar-pills.

Since the pills are ineffectual, doesn't that mean that any improvement seen, over that of the control-group, must be due to some process of the mind ? That is, the optimistical person convinced that he's getting good treatment and will get healthy in a jiffy will indeed get healthy faster than his depressed pessimistic counterpart.

Placebo Effect Called Into Question (2.00 / 1) (#28)
by Merk00 on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 08:00:44 AM EST

Recently, and I don't have a link to this unfortunately, the placebo effect was called into question. Basically, there was a study which seemed to suggest that there was no difference between giving someone a sugar pill and not giving them anything at all.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

"sugar pill" effect called into question (none / 0) (#30)
by neuneu2K on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:26:10 AM EST

How have they tested it ?
Sugar pills against nothing, I really do not see how you can get double blind control in this type of experiment...

Let me Imagine:

Doctor: You will be part of a group testing the placebo effect, you will either be given sugar pills or nothing... We want you to tell us if you feel better after this "treatment" !
Patient: Of course, I know the sugar pills will save me from death so if I take them, I will get better !


I know it must be presented more seriously then that - BUT - they cannot lie to the patients (especially if they are sick !)
Moreover, you realise do you that the placebo effect is much more subtle and potent if it is contained in a complete system of belief then when you KNOW you have 50% chance being given a placebo in test conditions in a laboratory
Indeed, placebo effect is the effect that works better when no scientist is watching (or when nobody knows a scientist is watching), this way there is less reason to doubt the effect and IT WORKS BETTER !

- "And machine code, which lies beneath systems ? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic..." - Umberto Eco
[ Parent ]
Doubting placebos (none / 0) (#33)
by SIGFPE on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 01:39:02 PM EST

The point of the recent article (whose URL I don't have either) is that it's very difficult to make any judgement about many types of chronic illness. You go through good phases and bad phases. A good phase can last months followed by a bad one that lasts months. If you seek treatment of any sort during a bad phase you'll eventually hit a good phase. As a result you might report an improvement that has nothing to do with the placebo or drug. (I know this from personal experience as someone who suffers from a illness. It's very hard for me to judge the efficacy of anything.)

So while it's hard to prove that a placebo is efficacious it's easier to call into question previous studies that say it is.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

It was a metastudy (none / 0) (#34)
by Otter on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 02:10:51 PM EST

How have they tested it ?

It was a metastudy -- they looked at existing studies where patients were given a drug, a placebo or nothing and concluded that there was no evidence that placebos gave different results from nothing.

Sugar pills against nothing, I really do not see how you can get double blind control in this type of experiment...

True, but the primary purpose of double-blinding is to control for the placebo effect! In this case, you want both patients who do and who don't think they're being treated. (Although another reason for double-blind is to ensure that the doctor recording the outcome is unbiased. You'd have to either keep the doctor ignorant as to who is receiving any pills or else rely on strongly objective tests, like sending blodd samples to an outside lab.)

By the way, as long as I'm posting, I think this study is measuring what people find it socially acceptable to say they believe in, not what they really "believe."

[ Parent ]

Link to placebo study (none / 0) (#40)
by perb on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 12:40:42 AM EST

The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine on May 24. The abstract is here: Is the Placebo Powerless?-- An Analysis of Clinical Trials Comparing Placebo with No Treatment.

And a couple of newspaper articles:



[ Parent ]
Why is religion seperate from the supernatural? (2.66 / 3) (#35)
by radio4all on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 03:48:22 PM EST

I think the fact that lots of people believe in gods and spirits is an even bigger problem than someone who belives in ESP.

People who believe in ESP don't go around killing or denouncing non-believers, but people who believe in gods and spirits do.

Belief in ESP is a harmless eccentricity, belief in gods can lead to murder and destruction.

So, what's all the fuss about those who want to believe in ESP? At least they aren't hurting anyone.

Umm... (none / 0) (#39)
by Elendale on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 12:39:26 AM EST

Now i'm a somewhat religious person, yet i also don't go around randomly killing people. I usually don't go around defending religion, but this is just silly.
Quit it.

-Elendale
---

When free speech is outlawed, only criminals will complain.


[ Parent ]
More Americans believe in the supernatural than 10 years ago... | 44 comments (44 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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