Warpath: skeptics tend to place little emphasis on the placebo effect. If they discuss, for example, homeopathy they zoom in on how homeopathic medicine is just very expensive water—a total scam. Yet the placebo effect is recognised by the same scientific position that skeptics endorse, and yet they do not want to talk about it too much. The placebo effect in short: to think it is the case can make it so. This is a simple statement, yet it has considerable implications. To think it is the case can make it so—almost sounds like magic to me.
Really, the placebo effect goes to the crux as regards every single thing skeptics question: for if even the most tacky and cynical acupuncturist relieves a cancer patient’s pain to the extent they need fewer interventions to reduce the pain it could well make them stronger for the next chemotherapy session and in turn increase the overall chance that they survive. If this is so, every skeptic objection to “psychic healers” so far as the notion that they “take money from the gullible and desperate and deliver nothing” goes evaporates, since there is a genuine effect—although, admittedly, not the advertised effect. Ultimately, this goes all the way up to ideas as regards a theistic God; for if your faith in that God—in miracles—confers actual advantages upon you then in what sense have you been gulled? On the contrary, the people who take away these benign illusions leave you weak and dependent upon drugs or the state—on malevolent humans, as it turns out.
As noted, the skeptics really have a problem with consciousness: the placebo effect is a difficulty for them because it is purely about consciousness. There is no material aspect to it, in the sense there is no test tube involved—or even a skeptical illusionist’s basic empirical investigation into, say, cold-reading techniques passed off as genuine psychic abilities. The placebo effect suggests that your perceptions can alter reality to some extent; and if perceptions can alter reality then flatfooted materialism cannot be true.
A solo climber suffers a long fall and finds himself alone in the mountains with a leg completely broken under him, a few shattered ribs, and an eye swollen shut from a blood-puffed bruise—nobody knows where he is, no help is in prospect. Men in such circumstances have survived, and they have often survived through pure will; for a start, they forced themselves to crawl over rocks at a painstaking pace for mile upon mile—and that was often only the start. The skeptic would presumably assess the situation, be sceptical as regards his chances, and lie down and die—if he really believed what he said. “He lost the will to live,” we have the expression because we know the will counts.
A person who has a leg amputated says, “I prayed to God that I would walk again and, truly a miracle, now I can walk.” They say this, but they move thanks to an artificial leg. The skeptic scoffs: “Well, your God didn’t give you back a whole biological leg, did he? More nonsense for the gullible!” Yet what the person means is that they focused very hard so that they willed themselves to engage with the physiotherapy and the artificial limb and to return to life; and if someone has lost a leg this is not necessarily an easy thing to do—and it is perfectly possible to remain inert and in bed in such circumstances, to sabotage the physiotherapy from resentment.
However, if you will yourself back to life then you will probably recover. Hence skeptics are nasty people who want to cripple others through pseudo-empiricism—so that you cannot use your consciousness and will to aid you. After all, we cannot easily examine your will and consciousness empirically and yet we know these have a vital effect on your life; and it is this effect skeptics wish to deprive you of.