Faith and Science

In a recent issue of the New York Sun, Prof. William Osler of Johns Hopkins University, had an interesting paper on the progress of medicine during the past century. The professor shows how faith enters into the practice of medicine in a much greater degree than physicians are generally willing to admit. He argues that the element of faith should not be ignored, but its power should be duly recognized and employed in the physician's efforts to heal the sick.

We make the following excerpt from the paper:—

"After all, faith is the great lever of life. Without it man can do nothing; with it, even with a fragment, as a gram of mustard seed, all things are possible to him. Faith in us, faith in our drugs and methods, is the great stock in trade of the profession. In one pan of the balance put the pharmacopoeias of the world, all the editions from Dioscorides to the last issue of the United States Dispensatory; heap them on the scales as did Euripides his books in the celebrated contest in the "Frogs;" in the other put the simple faith with which from the days of the Pharaohs until now the children of men have swallowed the mixtures these works describe, and the bulky tomes will kick the beam. It is aurum potabile, the touchstone of success in medicine. As Galen says, confidence and hope do more good than physic—'he cures most in whom most are confident.' That strange compound of charlata and philosopher, Paracelsus, encouraged his patients 'to have a good faith, a strong imagination, and they shall find the effects' (Burton). While we often overlook or are ignorant of our own faith cures, doctors are just a wee bit too sensitive about those performed outside our ranks. They have never had, and cannot expect to have, a monopoly in this panacea, which is open to all, free as the sun, and which may make of every one in certain cases, as was the Lacedaemon of Homer's day, 'a good physician out of nature's grace.' Faith in the gods or in the saints cures one, faith in little pills another, hypnotic suggestion a third, faith in a plain, common doctor a fourth. In all ages the prayer of faith has healed the sick, and the mental attitude of the suppliant seems to be of more consequence than the powers to which the prayer is addressed. The cures in the temples of Esculapius, the miracles of the saints, the remarkable cures of those noble men, the Jesuit missionaries, in this country, the modern miracles at Lourdes and at St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec, and the wonder workings of the so—called Christian Scientists, are often genuine, and must be considered in discussing the foundations of therapeutics. We physicians use the same power every day."

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Legislation in Arkansas
April 25, 1901

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