Science news image representing altered state

Science News: Can Altered Human Consciousness Change ‘Objective’ Reality?

Today’s science news features a scholar who has researched the nature of human consciousness and its effect on how people either perceive or change reality. Michael Grosso, Ph.D., author of The Man Who Could Fly, is a former professor of the humanities and philosophy, and has written a provocative essay related to studies of the placebo effect in recent science news, and how human belief could apparently eliminate cancer in one fascinating case. In the National Geographic December, 2016, issue, researchers argue that belief is a powerful tool in human healing. Grosso takes that discussion further, probing the limits of how one experiences reality through oneself.

“Scientists who study the placebo seem a bit shy about the mental power of the phenomenon. Beliefs trigger expectations that trigger healing responses via certain brain processes, etc. However, what happens in the brain is initiated by the mind. Expectation itself is a mental state. The root of this mysterious potential is clearly coming from our unknown inner selves.”

To deconstruct that critique of science a bit further, Grosso is arguing that the scientists are beginning their queries somewhere in the middle of the event line to the conclusion, and ignoring the provenance of the healing power they observe. In simpler terms, it is the science equivalent of thanking the rope that is dangling from the helicopter for saving you from the flood waters. A complex process that initiated deep within the consciousness of the patient ultimately established the ontological foundation, completely independent of facts or science, on which a belief then functioned as a physical healing agent. The belief is the medicine, the self, or consciousness, is the “science” that heals.

Placebo pills in science news.
The placebo effect has been a subject of science news for decades. [Image by maogg/iStock]

While science news is filled with stories about the placebo effect, and a mountain of general data has accumulated over the course of many science experiments into this phenomenon, Grosso points out how the phenomenon manifests in reality even through science news itself. He cites a case in which a cancer patient, Mr. Wright, was taking an experimental cancer drug he had seen in the news, and the results were tragic, but in no way related to the drug Wright was taking, nor standard science models.

“Wright took the Krebiozen and, amazingly, the doctor states that the ‘tumor masses had melted like snowballs on a hot stove.’ In a short time, restored to health, Wright left the hospital and for two months enjoyed life, indulging his hobby of flying planes. He then read reports damning Krebiozen as a sham drug, and lost his faith. The cancer returned and he was back at death’s door. Dr. West persuaded his patient to try a purer version of the drug. Wright, believing it would work, took the ‘drug’—it was distilled water—and again the tumors melted away and he went back to flying and enjoying his life. But after a couple of months once more he learned that the AMA pronounced Krebiozen a worthless drug. In a short time, Mr. Wright was dead.”

This case is similar to many more reported in the science news, where a patient directly influences his or her outcome with nothing more than belief alone, even if it is in something as small as a news report. Wright achieved the same outcome both with and without the medication. The only commonality between the two instances of treatment was the belief that science created an experimental cancer medication that was a cure for his illness, and the news debunked it. Once that belief was removed, the cancer ultimately led to his death, science or no science.

Wright’s case argues that by the alteration of his own consciousness, in that his mind shifted all of its energy into focusing on the healing power of one medication, he actually healed his own cancer, regardless of science and medical breakthroughs, until that belief was broken by the same news that built it. Psilocybin researchers tested the chemical from a mushroom to determine its efficacy in treating addiction. It’s important to note that psilocybin is a potential medicine that is not completely understood, but it affects how the brain perceives reality. Those science researchers reported an 80 percent success rate in the cessation of smoking according to the National Institutes of Health, which is certainly worthy of news coverage.

A woman practicing yoga can create a placebo effect, according to today's science news.
Michael Grosso argues that altering consciousness can heal in today’s science news. [Image by Petrunjela/iStock]

It is also important to note that the science study above was tiny. Nevertheless, an 80 percent success rate certainly merits broader study of the potential healing power of psilocybin, and since that science study cited, several more science studies in the news, including one by Johns Hopkins, have confirmed the awesome potential of altering consciousness with it. As the science becomes clearer, perhaps one day a chemical connection will be established that would allow humans to fully maximize the power of their consciousness to affect healing.

Whether or not science can prove that human consciousness could create a flying friar is another matter altogether. But science objectively observed the healing power of the human consciousness, and also watched as a news report altered that consciousness, ultimately defeating the placebo effect. But Grosso does ask legitimate scientific questions about reality, and how human consciousness can influence it, as demonstrated in that example. This science subject is certainly fertile for further study until the science fills in the gaps.

[Featured Image by wildpixel/iStock]