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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Prayer-cebo?

I've heard about placebos, obviously, but I had never heard that they often work even if you *know* they are a placebo? I recently heard this in this video and then again in an essay by Ramachandran. This paragraph really jumped out for me:


Her ability to hold mutually inconsistent beliefs seems bizarre to us but in fact we all do this from time to time. I have known many an eminent theoretical physicist who prays to a personal God; an old guy watching him from somewhere up there in the sky. I might mention that I have long known that prayer was a placebo; but upon learning recently of a study that showed that a drug works even when you know it is a placebo, I immediately started praying. There are two Ramachandrans—one an arch skeptic and the other a devout believer. Fortunately I enjoy this ambiguous state of mind, unlike Darwin who was tormented by it. It is not unlike my enjoyment of an Escher engraving.


If it's good enough for Ramachandran, then it's good enough for me. So I think I'll try an experiment and pray to Placebo Jesus for a month and see if it works or not. Here is a sample prayer:


Dear Placebo Jesus,

I know you don't exist and if you did it's not clear why you would be listening to my thoughts and care about my needs, but any hoo, please make me smart, give me good health, keep my family safe, send some extra cash my way, and generally make life awesome for me.

If there's anything I can do for you, just let me know.

Ramen (oops, I mean Amen, of course)

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