A great new drug called “placebo”

This reminds me of an old Steve Martin routine, when he played a “wild and crazy guy” in a white suit with a fake arrow through his head.  He was going on about how he found this new drug that gave a mind-blowing high.  It’s called “placebo.”

Imagine your doctor gives you fake medication and tells you it’s nothing more than a sugar pill. Would it still work?

Incredibly, according to a new study of patients with irritable bowel syndrome, the placebo effect, even when patients were in on the secret, worked almost as well as the leading medication on the market.

It’s also a lot cheaper. And the best part about placebo – no side effects.

“I didn’t think it would work,” said senior author and Harvard Medical School associate professor of medicine at Anthony Lembo in a statement. “I felt awkward asking patients to literally take a placebo. But to my surprise, it seemed to work for many of them.”

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School’s Osher Research Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center split 80 patients into two groups. One group was given placebos and informed of it. The other group was given nothing.

“Not only did we make it absolutely clear that these pills had no active ingredient and were made from inert substances, but we actually had ‘placebo’ printed on the bottle,” said Harvard Medical School associate professor of medicine Ted Kaptchuk. “We told the patients that they didn’t have to even believe in the placebo effect. Just take the pills.”

After three weeks. the placebo group reported adequate symptom relief at double the rate of the group told to do nothing (59 percent vs. 35 percent). And those results are about as good as the leading irritable bowel syndrome drugs on the market.

Researchers sounded the usual cautionary notes. The study was small. It’s not clear what it would mean for other conditions and more research is needed.

via Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Placebo Works Even if Patients Know – Health Blog – CBS News.

Somebody should–quick–manufacture sugar pills under the brand name “Placebo” and market them as treatments for all diseases.

Anybody have any theories that would explain these results?  I’d be curious about a theory that explains the placebo effect in any event–how is it that a mental belief can affect a physical ailment?  Second, how can a mental belief affect a physical ailment when it isn’t a mental belief?

China will bail out Europe

Towards the Chinese Century and world domination:

China has said it is willing to bail out debt-ridden countries in the euro zone using its $2.7trillion overseas investment fund.

In a fresh humiliation for Europe, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu said it was one of the most important areas for China’s foreign exchange investments.

The country has already approached struggling European countries with financial aid, including offering to buy Greece’s debt in October and promising to buy $4billion of Portuguese government debt.

‘To have any discernible effect China will have to buy a lot more than 5billion euros if they expect to have any impact on the negative sentiment surrounding Europe,’ said Michael Hewson, currency analyst at CMC Markets.

China’s astonishing economic growth has put it on track to overtake America as the world’s economic powerhouse within two years, a recent report claimed.

But experts believed still be some years before America’s leadership role is really challenged – largely because Beijing has given no indication it is ready to take on the responsibility of shepherding the world’ economy.

This foray into the future of the euro could be a signal from Beijing that it is ready to change that perception.

via Fresh humiliation for euro zone as China says it will bail out debt-ridden nations | Mail Online.

A serious Christmas

We’ve been shaken by the death of our former colleague Kristine Luken. I’ve known lots of people who have died–by disease, by accidents–but I can’t think of anyone I’ve known who has been murdered. And as a missionary at the hands of terrorists of whatever variety. Also strange has been the “international incident” dimension, so that I’m reading about this in newspapers from all over the world.

Now we’ve learned that the father-in-law of my brother Jimmy (who has been making appearances on this blog) is dying of cancer. He’s in the hospital in critical condition and probably won’t make it to Christmas. I didn’t really know him, but I’m sad for my sister-in-law and the whole family. (Please pray for them in this hour of extremity and need.)

And yet, all this bad news by no means is taking away the joy of Christmas. It is just making my feelings more complex. The combination of soberness and joy is fitting, maybe making my Christmas more meaningful than usual. The tinsel sentimentality and nostalgia are stripped away, and I am reminded more powerfully why the Christ child came, to deliver us from precisely these maladies that are troubling me; namely, sin and death.

So I wish you a merry Christmas. Also, a serious Christmas, such as the one that I am having, only without the tragedies.

Why December 25 is Christmas

As I keep posting about, Christmas on December 25 is NOT due to there being a pagan holiday on that day.  Repeat:  Christmas is NOT based on the Roman festival of Sol Invictus.  Substantial scholarship has shot down that theory, but we keep hearing it–in the press, in books that try to debunk Christianity, in churches that oppose following the church year, and even in some comments on this blog.

Now the authoritative Biblical Archaeology Review weighs in, citing more evidence debunking the pagan origin of Christmas myth, showing how it got started, and–most interestingly–tracing how the December 25 date did get set aside as the date of Jesus’s birth.

To put it simply, the date is nine months after the Feast of the Annunciation, celebrating the appearance of the angel to the Virgin Mary announcing her conception by the Holy Spirit.  That date is March 25.  The reason for that date is the belief that great prophets died on the date of their conception.  We do know historically the date when Jesus died, since it is tied to the Jewish passover.   The church determined that date to be March 25, before Good Friday and Easter became floating holidays that always fall on the weekends.  The article in BAR cites how widely the attested in Jewish and rabbinic literature is the association between conception date and death date, and how this was also well known in the early church.

Please join me in correcting the myth of the pagan origins of Christmas whenever you hear it.

HT: Joe Carter

A Christmas Sermon From Luther (sort of)

Hear the estimable Rod Rosenbladt preach a Christmas sermon that consists of Luther’s writings on the subject, as constructed by Luther scholar Roland Bainton: Dad Rod Thursdays – A Christmas Sermon From Luther – White Horse Inn Blog.

HT:  Justin Taylor

Christmas tree as a “dangerous, rash act”

North Korea has backed off of its military threats, after shelling South Korean territory, but the South Koreans are still angry and defiant.  In addition to mobilizing their military, the South Koreans have resumed a practice that had been halted for seven years out of deference to the North’s sensibilities.  The South Koreans have allowed the lighting of a giant Christmas tree within sight of  communist territory.  The atheist regime is outraged.

As troops stood guard and a choir sang carols Tuesday, South Koreans lit a massive steel Christmas tree that overlooks the world’s most heavily armed border and is within sight of atheist North Korea.

The lighting of the tree after a seven-year hiatus marked a pointed return to a tradition condemned in Pyongyang as propaganda. The provocative ceremony – which needs government permission – was also a sign that President Lee Myung-bak’s administration is serious about countering the North’s aggression with measures of its own in the wake of an artillery attack that killed four South Koreans last month. . . .

Although the North has made some conciliatory gestures in recent days – indicating to a visiting U.S. governor that it might allow international inspections of its nuclear programs – Seoul appears unmoved.

Pyongyang has used a combination of aggression and reconciliation before to extract concessions from the international community, and the resurrection of the tree lighting at Aegibong is a signal that the South is ready to play hardball until it sees real change from the North. . . .

On Aegibong Peak, about a mile from the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula, marines toting rifles circled the Christmas tree as more than 100,000 twinkling lights blinked on. The brightly lit tree – topped with a cross – stood in stark relief to North Korea, where electricity is limited.

Choir members in white robes trimmed in blue and wearing red scarves and Santa Claus hats gathered beneath the steel structure draped with multicolored lights, illuminated stars and snowflakes. An audience of about 200 listened as they sang “Joy to the World” and other Christmas carols.

“I hope that Christ’s love and peace will spread to the North Korean people,” said Lee Young-hoon, a pastor of the Seoul church that organized the lighting ceremony. About 30 percent of South Koreans are Christian.

The 100-foot steel tree sits on a peak high enough for North Koreans in border towns to see it and well within reach of their country’s artillery. Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said an attack from North Korea was certainly possible but unlikely.

North Korea, officially atheist and with only a handful of sanctioned churches in Pyongyang with services for foreigners, warned that lighting the tree would constitute a “dangerous, rash act” with the potential to trigger a war.

As a precaution, dozens of armed troops took up position around the site during the lighting ceremony. Ambulances and fire trucks were parked nearby. Instructions placed on chairs at the ceremony advised participants to take cover in case of an attack.

“The danger of the enemy’s threat still exists,” the leaflet read, suggesting that participants hide behind concrete walls, crouch between chairs and move quickly to shelters in case of an attack.

The event took place uninterrupted.

via South Korean Christmas tree sign of new propaganda war | Tulsa World.


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