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No. 16: Summer 1981

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Belief Systems And Health

Can one's mind-set affect one's immunity to disease? Lenard explores (in popular style) the roles of mental attitude, visualization techniques, and placebos in fighting and preventing cancer and other ailments. Placebos are nothing new. Most doctors admit they sometimes work for some people. Why, they don't know. Placebo action seems closely allied to a person's mental attitude. Many doctors will also allow that a positive attitude helps a lot in fighting illness and that depression aggravates it.

Visualization techniques, though, are hotly debated. Will cancer cells be destroyed, or at least stop growing, if the patient visualized them as weak things that are vulnerable to the body's killer cells? Proponents of visualization recom-mend that a cancer patient visualize his killer cells as protecting knights in armor that swoop down and skewer the enemy cancer cells. In a visualization session, one focuses one's mind on such images and, in essence, wills his body to fight back. There is some evidence that visualization helps.

(Lenard, Lane; "Visions That Vanquish Cancer," Science Digest, 89:59, March 1981.)

Comment. The crucial scientific question in all the above methods is: How does a belief system mobilize biological systems?

From Science Frontiers #16, Summer 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987