Faith Healing

by Siegfried Othmer | April 21st, 2017

By Siegfried Othmer, PhD


The Los Angeles Times today (4/19/17) focused on the issue of faith healing and its sanctioning under the law in Idaho. Leading off was the story of a mother who had lost four children. Yes, she confessed to some anger at God at the loss of her four children, but matters were in His hands, and State law did not allow for interference by medical or other State agencies.

What struck me immediately is the parallelism with what prevails in the field of medicine, which also has its belief in faith healing. Only they call it the placebo. And this placebo is an exceedingly powerful thing. In the medical perspective, credit for all the benefits attributed to neurofeedback (the cessation of seizures and migraines, recovery from M/S, the shedding of an autism diagnosis, acquisition of color vision, reversal of laterality, major increases in IQ score, recovery from diabetes, addictions, and suicidality) are instead mere demonstrations of the power of healing by faith alone.

So the medical belief in faith healing is evidently almost as immense and unbounded as the belief in faith healing by the Followers of Christ community in Idaho. There is apparently nothing that we can accomplish with neurofeedback that cannot be explained by the mysterious power of faith.

The parallelism continues. Just as the Follower of Christ community disdains the resort to medical care for its children because of their belief in faith healing, the medical community by and large disdains the resort to neurofeedback by their own patients for the very same reason—their belief in faith healing.

Each community is quite comfortable in its own belief system, and each demands a certain allegiance. The Follower of Christ community sees a threat in contravening God’s will, and the field of medicine tends to disparage methods that lie outside of its pantheon because a threat is perceived to the hegemony of the medical model. The belief in the power of faith healing is the singular anomaly in the intellectual edifice of medicine.

But if faith-based healing has sufficient ‘power’ to explain all the benefits of neurofeedback, would it not also have sufficient power to sustain the faith of the Followers of Christ community? And in that case, is not the one community just as entitled to its belief as the other?

Something is amiss here. So now let’s get real, shall we? The medical community doesn’t really leave much room for the power of faith—as embodied in the placebo model. It is being exaggerated for the singular purpose of militancy against neurofeedback as a threat to medical hegemony. The argument has no intrinsic merit, and everyone knows it.

The proof is ready to hand. All one has to do is to ‘admit’—strictly for the sake of argument, you understand—that neurofeedback is nothing more than the placebo cloaked in expensive and time-consuming garb. The answer would come back: “Then you have nothing.” That’s the whole point: reduce neurofeedback to a placebo, which can then be dismissed because it doesn’t really amount to anything. At bottom, there is no faith in faith within medicine. There is no real belief in the omnipotent placebo. That disposes of the placebo argument, which in turn makes neurofeedback very real indeed.

We are presently losing over twenty veterans a day to suicide because of the absurd denial of neurofeedback at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Meanwhile, our success in recovering people from suicidality is close to one hundred percent—and we have never lost anyone to suicide. This is a far bigger issue than the small community of faith in Idaho, and it is naked scandal.

Siegfried Othmer, PhD

Leave a Reply