The Power Of Light Works
July 2019
LightSail 2 is changing its orbit using only the power of sunlight. The Planetary Society announced this week that their LightSail 2 solar sail is working well, and actually raising the orbit of the spacecraft as it travels around the Earth. According to mission managers, they've been able to raise the orbit of the spacecraft by about 2 kilometers at the high point of its orbit. Unfortunately, they'll only be able to go for about a month before the sail dips into the atmosphere at the low point of its orbit and it crashes.
Sci-Fi Writers Include Religion
October 2018
At his appearance at the American Writers Museum in Chicago, John Scalzi said that it is important that science fiction writers include religion in their universes, "When 5 billion people out of 7 billion very strongly have professed religious belief of some sort or another, to ignore it, minimize it or just say it doesn't matter is foolish," he said.
Faith Healing
James C. Rocks
When I am ill, I go to a doctor because they are more qualified than I am in areas relating to my health. Of course, nothing about that does (or should) stop me trying to find out more about what ails me. That allows for a more thoughtful exchange of information with my doctor in the time they have available to deal with me. It helps that my degree, though as old as the hills, is relevant to medicine, meaning I should understand enough to understand more than the average patient. That I often don't is probably down to laziness as much as any other factor. Whatever, I regard the doctor as the specialist. That I understand means I can review the diagnosis, there being both good and not so good doctors. That said, my experience of medical care at my current medical practice is almost uniformly excellent.

There exist many alternative medicines or therapies and, by choice, I remain open-minded; over time, many have been shown to work. Many, however, remain not merely unproven but espousing mechanisms that are nonsense, e.g. homoeopathy. So, I understand the potential value of "alternative" therapies and welcome the medical profession's cautious acceptance of some. I understand that there might be potential value in alternative therapy and, while I welcome the medical profession's cautious approach to some complementary and alternative treatments, I still consider the medical profession the authoritative guide to medicine. A qualified medical doctor is always my first point of contact in the event of illness.

Faith Healing Enter the faith healer.

A faith healer is one who claims to use the power of god(s) or some other non-demonstrable entity to be able to cure ills without medical intervention. The illnesses they claim to heal may be ones that the medical profession cannot presently cure but are often ones for which there is a known treatment. Still, many people around the world believe in spiritual cures such as visiting shrines, sprinkling holy water, performing spells and that visiting faith healers will heal them.

Perhaps it doesn't matter overmuch with those who are considered incurable. Maybe such "cures" will give them peace of mind and allow them to pass from this life more peacefully. I could even accept that a positive frame of mind (such as might be generated by a faith healer) might positively affect some conditions.

However, it does matter if people get persuaded that a faith healer will heal them when there is a recognised cure for their illness. If the faith healers are right and they can cure the ills of a given individual then they can do no harm but if they cannot then they stand to do a great deal of harm to an individual as that person may not then seek the aid of a conventional medic and perhaps increase then damage the illness is doing to them.

There are reasons to be sceptical of such claims:

  • Firstly, that a force or person, invisible to us and undetectable to science is capable of materially affecting us or our universe. Some things are invisible to us, perhaps even undetectable, but such forces are explicable and a necessary part of some explanation for a given phenomenon.
  • Secondly, faith healers often gain out of administering their cures. By that, I mean they gain money, goods or status. In that respect, my scepticism is little different than it is to the cynicism I have for private health services or systems. Why? Because I cannot verify that a suggested treatment works best for me or the financial health of the individual/company concerned.
  • Thirdly, every faith-based or magical cure I am aware of has been unverifiable. I have watched documentaries on faith healing where "healers" pull bloody tissue from a person with no puncture in that person's skin. I have listened to healers claim they "felt" a tumour shrink beneath their hands as they prayed over a person and laid their hands upon them. I have heard astounding, though unverifiable, stories of cancer remission. I have seen footage of people who use wheelchairs who then stand, throw their crutches and walk. However, I have never, ever seen a visible wound or disfigurement healed in front of my eyes and, call me cynical if you will, but that is a problem for me.
  • Fourth and finally, every time faith healing falls under the spotlight, it is found to be flawed or fraudulent.

So, does God have something against amputees? Why does it never seem to happen (even in a fictional setting) that a priest lays their hands on someone missing both legs and say "in the name of Jesus, heal thyself?" Jesus is supposed to be the son of God, and his daddy created the universe, right? So why is the regeneration of missing limbs so problematic? Imagine for a moment a one-legged man wearing shorts and using a Zimmer-frame hobbling up to a podium upon which a minister is preaching; the preacher does his faith healing, and the man throws away his frame and starts dancing around on a brand new leg, would that not be amazing? Would that not show the real power of God almighty? However, the simple fact is that it never happens and that leads me to suspect foul play.

Imagine what such miracle healing could do for Siamese twins. What about for bald men? Or those poor people with faces disfigured by fire or a horrific car accident? Faith healers seem to want to assure us they are carrying out their amazing crafts for God and out of God's love for us. If their claims were genuine, why don't they ride in ambulances, get staff positions in the A&E departments of hospitals or even in other specialist units? If it only worked a few per cent of the times they tried, would that not be amazing?

The answer, of course, is obvious. The practitioners of these strange cult healing sessions know as well as I do that that faith healing is bogus. They are carrying out the deception for an ulterior motive, be that money, new followers or for some other gain. They know as well as I do that they will never allow their "crafts" to be validated. If a faith healer were to put themselves to the test each day of the week I suspect, by the end of it, their claims would be starting to look a little less credible.

Despite this, many still give testament to their belief that their god healed them. That, even though few of those same people can account for why he let them get sick in the first place. Likewise, they still claim it despite having sought and gained professional medical help. Indeed it is claimed that in the US that eighty per cent of people pray when they are ill, justifying their beliefs in faith-healing. Still, people of faith turn to their doctors when they are sick.

If such cures worked, many of our scientists could turn their attentions to other areas of research. That would allow committees to concentrate on which particular sequence of words in a prayer worked. They could analyse prayers to establish whether varying those words changed the effectiveness of a treatment or if a given religion cured a specific condition better than another. Pharmaceutical companies would go out of business overnight.

Faith healers claim to be able to heal a patient, often one who appears to be past hope when it comes to conventional medicine. In many cases, such "healers" persuade people away from conventional medicine, offering the only treatments shown to work and can result in deaths involving considerable pain and often profoundly impacting those around them.

No faith-healer has ever verifiably healed an amputee so one has to wonder why that might be leading one to wonder if the gods have something against amputees. Imagine a one-legged man throwing his Zimmer aside and crying, "Glory be! I'm healed!" would that not be amazing? Only it doesn't happen! It NEVER happens! Moreover, the simple fact that it doesn't lead me to suspect that something is awry, that someone is not honest and that things are not really as they are claimed to be.

If these people could do what they claim they can, why won't they subject themselves to scientific scrutiny? Arguably better still, why won't they offer their miraculous services to a major city hospital? Would that not be the noble, honourable and genuinely human thing to do if you possess such power? Of course, it would.

However, they don't, and I know why! I strongly suspect you do too! Because faith-healing DOES NOT work except as a placebo. Faith healers are fakes and frauds! Faith healers are charlatans!

  • "Trying to Make a Case for Faith Healing," Kevin Courcey, RN
  • "Touched by a Feeling and High on Believing," Kevin Courcey, RN
  • "Does Jesus Dislike Amputees?" Lazy Philosopher

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No doubt some of your cousins and great-uncles died in childhood, but not a single one of your ancestors did. Ancestors just don't die young!
Richard Dawkins