The Economist has a short article on how researchers have observed that people’s brains emit more endorphins when given a placebo and told it will counteract pain. The article starts with this:
The placebo effect, long considered nothing more than psychological suggestibility, does now appear to be genuine.
It’s hard for me to imagine the worldview necessary for that sentence to make any sense. If you believe (as I do) that the mind is fully implemented by our biology then you wouldn’t at all be surprised that there’s a biological cause for the observed decrease in subjective pain. On the other hand, if you still put Descartes before the horse and believe in a kind of soul or other mind/body dualism then the idea that a non-physical “psychological suggestibility” isn’t genuine (even though it stops the equally non-physical pain) is ludicrous.
It seems to me that The Economist and probably a majority of Westerners want to walk a middle road, accepting only the physical, observable, and scientific world as “genuine” while at the same time refusing to accept that a direct corollary of that belief is that our own minds must be a part of that physical, observable world. It’s no wonder we have such difficulty dealing with issues like mental illness in this culture…