There’s a game where the price for goods that you produce is determined by a god called “Theoi”. Participants have the option of contributing some of their goods to Theoi in the hope of ‘pacifying him’ and becoming more successful.
Recently a group of players were part of a research study conducted at the University of Queensland. Researchers found that there was a belief among both believers (that Theoi made a difference to the outcome) and non-believers that expenditure and sacrifice might somehow reap rewards, even when there was no effect on outcomes. “There seems to be a default belief that people can bargain with the unknown, and they need a lot of evidence to the contrary before it fades away”, researcher Professor Paul Fritjers said. Even when witnessing hundreds of occasions where it made no difference, they kept sacrificing large portions of their income to the perceived source of the problem, Theoi.
Have you accepted the necessary sacrifice to the poker machine, Blackjack, cards or Keno god – hoping for that big win? Have you ever done another half hour of exercise in the effort to ‘make up’ for the perceived sins of overeating? Or maybe added a handful of vitamins or laxatives, just to be sure? Some of us even use prayer or tithing as a kind of ‘safety valve’ for our mistakes, sometimes blindly believing that the divine Being is a punishing god.
It seems that neither believers nor atheists are immune to this phenomenon.
To date, there’s been considerable research showing that many medications have little medicinal worth other than their placebo value. Yet we still want to ‘cover all the bases’ by bowing to the status quo or sacrificing to a perceived unseen power.
‘Covering all bases’ might now include genetic testing and eugenics.
It’s now possible through genetic testing to calculate the risks of developing certain diseases. However, a major concern with such tests is that they begin a path toward over-diagnosis and over-treatment, when nothing whatsoever is wrong. “This process doesn’t promote health; it promotes disease”, says Gilbert Welch, professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.
One of the articles now running on The Conversation series, the Over-diagnosis Epidemic, warns that during genetic testing it’s sometimes likely we’ll learn that we are pre- a disease: ‘pre-hypertension’, ‘pre-diabetes’ or pre-osteoporosis’. Over-diagnosis based on their genetics can confirm people’s fears that something may be wrong, and they may also feel morally culpable for any ill-health should they decide to do nothing. These diagnoses are exposing tens of millions of people to powerful, costly and sometimes lifelong treatments that may do them more harm than good.
You can’t help seeing the similarity between the fears and behaviours of the Theoi players, and the fears and behaviours of many of us today.
Although I’m not suggesting that we leave our health to chance, when developing a healthy lifestyle is clearly normal and necessary, there are many alternatives to just going down the medical path. Many people are now including a spiritual perspective when experiencing health issues, and it is making a difference to health outcomes.
As people adopt a spiritual perspective every aspect of wellbeing is affected. Infertility has been turned around, unborn children have moved into place, turning from breech to normal delivery, wounds have healed quickly and even organic disease has been cured, to name just a few of the benefits that my family has experienced. These outcomes have happened as a result of prayer or meditation, and the associated changes in thought.
Many are coming to realise that “man and the universe (are not) the football of chance” …and “we make our own fate”. The author of these spiritual ideas was Mary Baker Eddy, an early investigator into the effects of spirituality on health, and later the founder of Christian Science. We can “…change the notion of chance to the proper sense of God’s unerring direction and thus bring out harmony”, she explains in her primary work, Science and Health.
So, what about the seeming roulette wheel of procreation? The huge debate currently underway and reported in the media questions the validity of gene selection for our offspring. Geneticist, Julian Savulescu, is making headlines in Australia by stating that we should be creating designer babies with just the right proclivities to altruism, empathy, intelligence, wisdom and cooperation inherent in certain genes. A worthy aim, he also believes that this would move us away from the current ‘natural lottery’ method of procreation.
Is life a lottery? While I’m pretty sure that I’m stuck with brown eyes and short stature, the question for me is, are an individual’s traits like altruism, empathy, intelligence, wisdom and cooperation personal dispositions found in particular genes, or are they universal spiritual qualities that we each possess already as God’s ideas or children? “There are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit” we are told by St Paul, a practitioner of the spiritual methodology taught by the greatest health practice change agent the world has known.
Clinical research into the effects of spirituality on health is now somewhat validating my experience, which tells me that no-one is stuck with a genetic cocktail that includes unkindness, hate, stupidity, criticism and selfishness. They can be changed through prayer, spiritual understanding and growth, as can physical imperfections and disease.
The world is watching closely developments in the field of genetics, as advances in this science force us to think again. Minds are opening to the possibilities that spirituality brings to health and wellbeing for ourselves and our community, within the practice of medicine and alternative therapies, and as a focus for research.
We’re being urged to leave behind our superstitions, health bargaining and belief in fate or a natural lottery, and break through the current barriers to health by utilising a spiritual perspective. You just know it’s time!