Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Healing Prayer at the University of Waterloo, Part III

Clifford Blake is a professor at my university, the University of Waterloo, who has been making some very strong but dubious claims that he has the power to "heal" people by touching them, praying for them, and anointing them with oil. He is giving a series of four lectures sponsored by the University of Waterloo Recreation Committee. In this post I summarize his third lecture. My comments are in red. For summaries of previous lectures, go here:

Part I
Part II

Session 3 took place on February 23 2007. There were about seven attendees. Professor Blake began by discussing his promise to provide some hard evidence for his claims. He had agreed to provide some "before" and "after" x-rays demonstrating that he really could heal people of serious afflictions, such as broken bones. Now, however, he admitted that he only has an "after" x-ray, not "before", so there is no way to check his claim. He excused this by saying that doctors don't want to give out x-rays. He knows his healing works because he has letters from patients - people know what they have experienced with him. People with an open mind allow themselves to receive healing. He once administered healing to a woman with a knee problem; afterwards her problem would solve. Doctors, said Blake, would ignore evidence of healings by just saying the original diagnosis was a misdiagnosis.

Claims of miraculous healings can only be substantiated by detailed evidence, something that Professor Blake has not been able to provide. Non-physicians are notoriously bad at assessing their own medical problems, and the placebo effect can account for many claims of healing. Misdiagnoses are another possibility. All these alternative explanations must be ruled out before we can accept faith healing claims.

Professor Blake then began the subject of his talk: the "healing virtue" and how to get it. According to 1st Corinthians, Chapter 12, Blake said, people get the "healing virtue" by gifts. He called attention to verse 4 (I think he meant verse 9), which says "to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit". Different people are endowed with different gifts. Those who pray believe there is a god and ask for healing.

How can the "healing virtue" be transmitted? According to Mark 5:21 (seems to be miscitation), healing virtue can be transmitted from one person to another. When one is performing healing, one is sensitive to what the other person is experiencing. The healee will feel a tingling or heat sensation.

The healing virtue can move out of an article of clothing (Acts 19:12, where Paul heals with handkerchiefs and aprons).

In response to a question, Professor Blake said that "life itself is energy", and stated that, like Paul, he heals with handkerchiefs.

According to Acts 5:12-15, even the shadow of Peter was enough to heal people.

There needs to be activity on the part of the person who wants healing. According to Mark 16:5 (I think he meant Mark 16:18), " if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." I'd really like to see that drinking deadly things stuff. I wonder if Professor Blake would quaff a glass of Drano to show he cannot be harmed.

Healing takes place in different religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., not just Christianity. It works by the laying on of hands and the use of anointing oil. This is similar to what naturopaths do (and just as effective, I'd wager).

Every illness has a herb that can cure it. No evidence provided for this strong claim. This is what pharmaceutical companies do, go to foreign countries and seek herbs. Once the active ingredient is extracted, it can be dangerous. Professor Blake says his sister had a supernatural gift, the "word of knowledge", that enabled her to find healing herbs.

In the Old Testament, Moses was instructed to make healing oil using olive oil, cinnamon, myrrh and calamus. (He seems to be talking about Exodus 30:22-25.) "I can tell you as a fact it is not symbolic. I give it to students -- a student who had difficulty remembering stuff - it has potency of its own. I use it in my meetings", Blake said.

In James it is said "anoint them with oil" (probably referring to James 5:14). You can use any oil but the potency will not be that of the oil of Moses.

Sometimes healing takes place and sometimes not, but only the right recipe will work. "The mixture itself has potency. I know it has potency," Blake said.

"I've had students -- Buddhists from Thailand - who came to me and afterwards, in a vision someone came to him and showed him the results he needed for his thesis. He was about to be kicked out of the Ph. D. program. Two weeks later he came in and said he was ready. 'I want your god', he said. He became a Christian in my office, right away," Blake claimed.

"Another student, a Hindu, ran out of class with panic attacks and anorexia. The student was supposed to go to a sanitorium. I advised her not to go. She eventually got well. 'I want your god', she said, and she accepted Christ. 'I would have died if I did not come to you.' Her parents gave me a big hug, saying 'So you're the professor who saved my daughter's life. Take her to church with you!' "

People can see the love God has for everybody. "I don't know the mechanics of how it [healing virtue] travels. Whether we have scientific proof, the proof is in you. When you walk without pain, there's the proof."

"Why is there so much resistance to it? Because we have been taught to accept scientific proof. If we can't measure it, it doesn't exist. There is no conflict between true science and faith. I've seen corroboration."

"People from different races come from one root. DNA confirms this, and it says this in Scriptures. Scripture says, somewhere in Iraq there was a dispersion. The genetic tree confirms this. In my lectures I show two maps, one from Scripture and one from scientists, and they agree."

Different truths, said Prof. Blake, will not collide. When it comes to faith, it's not something you can touch. If you are educated it becomes more difficult. Some people believe healing was only in the time of the Bible. But he knows it is happening now. When he began to use healing oil, he got more consistent results. Fasting intensifies healing gifts. Some people have been working with herbs to cure diseases doctors said were incurable.

In my opinion, this session was more of the same: lots of claims with no serious evidence to support them.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Psychics Fail Again

Ah, Britain! Land of reason. Charles Darwin. Bertrand Russell. Home of freethinkers. Richard Dawkins. Nicholas Humphrey. Those of us stuck in theocratic North America can only look to our comrades across the ocean with fondness.

Well, maybe not entirely. A report from the Daily Mail states that Britain's Ministry of Defence hired novice psychics and spent 18,000 pounds to try to find Osama Bin Laden using remote viewing. (Actually, the article reveals somewhat less: that an "Asian individual" was the target of the experiments.)

More tax money wasted, and another psychic failure.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Carnival of Mathematics

Recursivity is featured in the first Carnival of Mathematics. Enjoy!