A lucid and stimulating explanation of how the body's natural healing mechanisms work - and how they can be triggered in non-chemical ways via the `placebo effect'.
Can we really cure ourselves of disease by the power of thought alone? Faith healers and alternative therapists are convinced that we can, but what does science say?
Contrary to public perception, orthodox medical opinion is remarkably confident about the healing powers of the mind. For the past fifty years, doctors have been taught that placebos such as sugar pills and water injections can relieve virtually any kind of medical condition. Yet placebos only work if you believe they work, so the medical confidence in the power of the placebo effect has provided scientific legitimacy to popular claims about the healing powers of the mind.
In this intriguing exploration, Dylan Evans exposes the flaws in the scientific research into the placebo effect and reveals the limits of what can and cannot be cured by thought alone. Drawing on new ideas in immunology and evolutionary biology, Evans proposes a new theory about how placebos work, and asks some searching questions about our concepts of health and disease.
`Should prove fascinating and stimulating to expert and ordinary readers alike' Marek Kohn, Evening Standard
`Persuasive, elegant and challenging.' Michael Bywater, Daily Telegraph
`The placebo effect is fundamental to medical treatment, and this book brilliantly explores the scientific evidence in an accessible and gripping manner.' Lewis Wolpert
`The placebo effect, of such huge importance in our lives, is an effect which according to conventional scientific wisdom ought not to exist. Now, out of left field, springs a modern-day philosopher with challenging - and persuasive - ideas about what the effect amounts to and why.' Nicholas Humphrey
Dylan Evans is currently Research Officer in Evolutionary Robotics at the University of Bath. Previously he was a Research Fellow in the Philosophy Department at King's College London, where he was involved in a project on the evolution of the emotions. His previous books include Emotion: The Science of Sentiment and Introducing Evolutionary Psychology. He contributes regularly to the Guardian, and broadcasts frequently.