Saturday, April 12, 2008

IS IT REAL? Miracle Cures

National Geographic Channel - Original Air Date: 2005-7

People all over the world believe in faith healing and other miracle cures, but are these things real?  This show examines cases from Lourdes to the US to Brazil and beyond, and features interviews with people who believe they have been cured miraculously.  The show also looks into TV evangelists like Leroy Jenkins, who makes amazing healing claims.  Clips from his show indicate there is a lot of money to be made here, even by selling tap water.  Though Jenkins says his bottled water is nothing special (the healing comes from God), believers buy it up eagerly.  A Brazilian faith healer claims to perform magical surgeries while in a trance; he even has an assistant who lived through a "fatal" brain tumor and attributes his recovery to his boss.  Certainly, there is a history of miracle cures throughout the world.  The Catholic Church even has a system to certify miracles -- and has certified that several have taken place at Lourdes.  Despite the hundreds of thousands of people who've been to Lourdes, though, very few (under a hundred) have been certified as miracle cures.  Other faith healers perform surgery, without ever having been to medical school -- though they claim the real healing is performed by God.  Skeptics say that the desire to be healed makes people put aside their critical faculties, and accept the claims of these "healers."  But is there any evidence that faith heals?  Not according to the studies done at the time of this show; groups prayed for showed no better outcomes than groups who were not.  The placebo effect, however, is well known; people who believe they will be cured, by faith healers or medicine, experience better outcomes.  "The power of suggestion is potent at a healing site," one skeptic notes.  Skeptics also prove that the cutting done in these "surgeries" is not medically significant.  So, while miracles can't be entirely ruled out, ordinary remissions, the placebo effect, and scientific medicine seem a better bet for explaining miraculous recoveries.

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