Just take this and you’ll feel better…
I came across an atheistic blog recently that linked to an article that explained, biologically, how the placebo effect worked. However, while we can show that the placebo effect has biological effects–and it most certainly should, its statistical effect is huge–that does absolutely nothing to show why it works if naturalism is true. I don’t think the blogger grasped this.
I think part of the reason that the placebo effect doesn’t get more publicity from dualists is the variety of misconceptions about it, specifically about how well it works. I want to publicize it here with a short entry. On naturalism, consciousness is usually held to be a semantic epiphenomenon. For those who haven’t head that term before, it basically means consciousness is an experience that arises from our brains that has little actual relation to the structures that give rise to it; it’s somewhat of a hologram. On this view, the mind has no actual control over the body. Any control that we feel we have is due to our left hemisphere, which rationalizes the world in a not-necessarily-true way in order to keep us sane. This is reinforced by the idea that we are entirely matter, and matter is necessarily bound to deterministic physical laws (this doesn’t include quantum mechanics, but as soon as you’re above the subatomic level, everything operates in a deterministic fashion. Since the brain is not a subatomic particle, all of the atoms inside of it operate according to their predetermined laws).
So why, on naturalism, does the placebo effect work? And work so well, at that? There is no chemical in those placebo pills working on specific neurotransmitter systems to promote pain relief, cure depression, and even help something like Parkinson’s disease. If consciousness is based upon matter, by definition, it’s deterministic. So believing something will help won’t change the fact that there is no chemical affecting any physical system in your body. The placebo effect, in my opinion, is one of the strongest confirmations of dualism.