The Instigator
Bob_Gneu
Con (against)
Losing
18 Points
The Contender
bluesteel
Pro (for)
Winning
21 Points

Faith Healing is Effective

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/28/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 5,081 times Debate No: 16192
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (31)
Votes (9)

 

Bob_Gneu

Con

Faith healing is a subject that has been in the news a lot lately, but there has not been any data put forth about this matter. This debate is about the merits of faith healing and ultimately how effective it is in achieving the goal of healing.

Lets give it a go.

Definitions:
Faith Healing - Healing achieved by religious belief and prayer, rather than by medical treatment.

Effective - Adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result.


bluesteel

Pro

I stipulate that faith healing is not a proven treatment for anything all by itself. However, coupled with sound medical science, faith healing can aid in a patient's recovery.

A meta-study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reviewed 16 different studies, over a 30 year period, on patients' attitudes after surgery. The study found that, "In each case the better a patient's expectations about how they would do after surgery or some health procedure, the better they did." http://abcnews.go.com...

If a patient both believes in God and prays for a better health outcome, that patient then expects a better health outcome after surgery. 16 studies show that patients with better expectations about their health outcomes do, in fact, achieve better health outcomes.

The power of positive thinking is evident in all of the medical literature. The placebo effect comes from the power of positive thinking - merely thinking that a pill will make you healthier actually does make you heathier. A study at Carnegie Melon found that people with positive thinking live longer. http://www.wisebrain.org... Stress hormones have a very negative effect on the body and thus on surgical recovery. Prayer and faith healing, by contributing to a positive attitude in the patient, has been empirically proven to be effective.

Affirmed.
Debate Round No. 1
Bob_Gneu

Con

In the opening salvo my opponent has shifted the goal post around, arguing that “coupled with sound medical science, faith healing can aid in a patient's recovery.” This is not at all the topic of this debate and all of his discussion is on the topic of positive thinking and its effect on recovery. My opponent may have a differing idea of what faith healing is, but the topic is how effective it is in attaining the goal of healing a patient in lieu of medical treatment, not in parallel.

Examples of the claims of Faith Healing:
“A woman with MS came into the Bethel Healing Rooms Saturday morning, October 31. She was only able to move one arm and a few fingers. After receiving fifteen minutes of prayer, she was dancing around praising Jesus, pushing her own wheelchair!” [1]

“A woman in Huntington Beach had her left lung removed over 30 yrs ago. She was not able to breathe deep or hold her breath. After receiving prayer she started taking deep breaths and holding her breath! She also had a broken bone in her hand. When God touched her all the pain left. Jesus is ALIVE today!!” [2]

These are clearly not discussions about people who have been going to their doctors for decades with ailments that are already in remission and healing, they are miracle stories of people with MS, AIDS, Scoliosis, Vision problems, and a heap of further amazing claims. These people are claiming that going to this church and being prayed for is enough to make even the most persistent of problems become painless and or non-existent.

The question is, can someone actually anticipate this to be the case. Clearly there are morally offensive topics that are not being broached (why does god not heal amputees – He does, well actually no he doesn’t but that doesn’t stop us from trying! [3][6]; why does god heal these people when so many more are suffering elsewhere?) Many of the concepts involved in the process of being a faith healer were exposed in a recent piece by Derren Brown – Miracles for Sale [4], and it is quite close to what I had expected. People are “healed” with the catch 22 that if they don’t get healed they have sin within their lives, or they have not accepted Jesus or something like “you’ll never see them grow if you don’t start praying for them.” [3] Unfortunately only one case of an amputee being healed has ever been documented, but it was shown to be dubious at best. [5]

What happens when healings are studied?
In the comments an interesting sentiment was shared, regarding science reaching into the faith healing ministries. There is a Non-Overlapping Magisteria position that is pushed occasionally that seems to be agreed to by the faithful, but there is a problem. Faith healing is supposed to have an effect within reality – people who were sick previously are no longer sick. They will have to have been sick previously and being prayed over, accepting Jesus and praying for themselves, they will be shown to be not sick.

“Is there any evidence that faith healing works? The first step in approaching this question is to specify what should be considered proof that an ailment has been healed by a supernatural method. In my opinion, three criteria must be met: (1) the ailment must be one that normally doesn't recover without treatment; (2) there must not have been any medical treatment that would be expected to influence the ailment; and (3) both diagnosis and recovery must be demonstrable by detailed medical evidence.” [7]

These three criteria are what are considered scientific controls and allow for the repeatability and reliability of a therapy to be found. I would like to say that if a therapy is not repeatable or reliable it cannot be considered effective.

The short answer to this sub question is – they fail to be shown to be efficacious. Studies have been formulated on intercessory prayer, faith healing and the like – all fall quite short of the bar. My opponent has pointed to a meta study of 16 studies on positive thinking and has offered up the ABC News quote of “"In each case the better a patient's expectations about how they would do after surgery or some health procedure, the better they did." [Pro] The ABC News link provided did not have the actual study cited so I could not look into it further, i would like to have a direct link to it when my opponent responds. Needless to say, this meta study sounds vaguely familiar to previous studies I’ve read about.

Meta-analysis is a tough route to take when trying to gain information from a group of studies. The problem is that as a study of prayers effects on health is evolved and better controlled for and its numbers are expanded it proves to be little more than noise if any effect at all. Doing a meta study on a group of smaller and less well controlled studies does not allow a researcher to draw new conclusions, necessarily. If you have horrible studies that are the basis of your meta study you are not going to be able to draw a conclusion of any importance out. Meta-analysis is strictly useless if the studies are looking at differing populations, outcomes controls and so forth. It is only useful if you are looking at a number of studies that were all conducted in similar ways and with similar goals.

There was one such study that was conducted at Arizona State University by David Hodge brought together 17 studies in a meta-analysis and it fell apart out of the gate. [8] There was a larger definitive trial conducted during his analysis that blows his study away, actually suggesting that prayer led to complications – “CONCLUSIONS: Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.” [9] Clearly this is a problem in that even if my opponent is able to find another meta study that points to positive results, it would be great if there were more definitive results to be pointed to.

1. http://healingherald.org... << many more
2. http://www.ibethel.org... << many more
3. http://healingherald.org...
4. http://derrenbrown.co.uk...
5. http://skeptoid.com...
6. http://whywontgodhealamputees.com...
7. http://www.quackwatch.org...
8. http://www.sagepub.com...
9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...
bluesteel

Pro

Thanks for the response bob.

==Rebuttal==

Topic

My opponent does a good job of trying to define me out of the debate round. I hadn't initially realized that his definition of faith healing was so restrictive, since the additional "healing" from faith post-op comes from prayer and not any Western medicine. But we should examine how an actual dictionary defines faith healing, not just a definition picked from thin air.

Merriam Webster's Medical Dictionary defines faith healing as a method of treatment by prayer. Nowhere does it say to the exclusion of any other interventions.

Many other types of "alternative medicines" exist that rely on spiritual, "natural," or non-Western medicine, or hypnosis, or energy healing (acupuncture). However, each of these alternative systems acknowledge that there is a time and place for their treatments. My opponent essentially expects me to win that if someone is bleeding to death, that person can be cured through prayer rather than through a blood transfusion and clipping the artery at the bleed site. No system of alternative medicine could ever meet this burden of proof.

Examples of Faith healing

My opponent offers two examples of faith healing without refuting them, so I guess I win. There are now two unrefuted examples of faith healing in the debate round.

Here are also three examples of spontaneous cancer remission through prayer and positive thinking. [1] Examples of spontaneous cancer remission are widespread, even outside the faith healing literature. [2] Cancer is a disease that can most definitely be influenced by visualization and positive thinking, even in the absence of other treatments.

Regarding the Derren Brown piece, I really like Derren Brown but I shouldn't have to defend every crackpot faith healer that claims he can cure everything. There are a lot of crazies out there that Darren Brown debunks, like people who think they can speak to the dead. All I should have to defend is that faith healing can be an effective treatment.

My opponent says, In my opinion, three criteria must be met: (1) the ailment must be one that normally doesn't recover without treatment; (2) there must not have been any medical treatment that would be expected to influence the ailment; and (3) both diagnosis and recovery must be demonstrable by detailed medical evidence."
The second two criteria are acceptable, but the first is ridiculous. Theoretically, we can recover from most illnesses and problems without treatment. Our immune system is pretty incredible. My opponent essentially wants me to have to defend that prayer could prevent someone from bleeding to death. No alternative medicine system could meet this burden of proof.

The meta-study

My opponent's ONLY refutations here are 1) I don't provide a link to the actual meta-study and 2) all meta-studies are potentially flawed.

Let's address #1. I apologize to my opponent that I do not have a subscription to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and I could not locate an online abstract for the study, but this is not some bogus study. It is the definitive study on the power of positive thinking. Here is a WebMD link to the same study to show I'm not pulling some obscure bogus study off the ABC Website. [3]

Addressing the #2. Sure, any study can be wrong, but meta-studies are not inherently worse than regular studies. In fact, a meta-study is BETTER than a regular study because by examining multiple studies, it ensures that factors that bias the results of individual studies will disappear when we look at more data points. 15 of the 16 studies done on this issue found that patients who expected and visualized positive health outcomes were more likely to achieve positive health outcomes than a control group. All 16 studies had control groups, as any good study would have. My opponent's generic criticism of all meta-studies fails and is antithetical to the very idea of a meta-study as being more accurate than a single study.

So remember, by praying and through faith in God, people come to believe that they will recover, and a meta-study proves that believing you will recover makes you more likely to recover. Positive thinking is not some bogus idea. It is proven by studies on the placebo effect. It is proven by spouses or pets who die faster when their loved one passes away.

Intercessory prayer

Intercessory prayer is prayer on another person's behalf – something my opponent doesn't bother explaining. He tries to use studies on intercessory prayer to disprove my meta-study that PERSONAL prayer leads to better health outcomes.

Of course, a congregation of people praying on your behalf is not going to make you recover faster.
My opponent's study by David Hodge, that people who are prayed for by others actually had WORSE health outcomes is also most definitely true. But it does not prove that intercessory prayer is bad for your health, as Hodge tries to conclude. The study tries to conclude that A causes B, but B actually causes A, a simple correlation/causation fallacy. People in worse health are more likely to be prayed for. The pastor does not rouse his congregation to pray for someone when that person had a quick and easy recovery and is already out of the hospital. The pastor rouses his congregation to pray for someone whose recovery is ALREADY not going well.

So at the end of the day, I agree that having OTHER PEOPLE pray for you will not achieve better health outcomes, but it has been unrefuted in this debate that PERSONAL prayer and belief in God DOES lead to better health outcomes. I have thus proven that faith healing can be an effective treatment, but we must be aware of the contexts where it may be useful (post-op recovery, cancer remission, etc) and where it is not useful (stopping blood loss). As with any alternative medicine, faith healing can be extremely effective, as long as we use it in the right situations.

Affirmed.

[1] http://tinyurl.com...
[2] http://tinyurl.com...
[3] http://www.webmd.com...
Debate Round No. 2
Bob_Gneu

Con

This is an odd route to take for a debate on the merits of faith healing, but here goes.

Re: Cancer Remission, correlation v. causation

Given that cancer can spontaneously go into remission, what is the significance of faith healing? It is odd that my opponent would draw out an issue with correlation and causation when he would bring this forward in support of your position. If I happen to turn on a light and a ball to spontaneously moves accelerates past me, I cannot draw a causal relationship between the light and the ball accelerating.

Re: Definition of Faith Healing

The definition that I provided initially was pulled off of a Google definition search. [1] My opponent then offers up a definition and simply asserts that since it doesn’t “[exclude] any other medical conventions” it should be expanded upon. It doesn’t exclude ducks either, but I cannot add them in to please my own needs.

Re: My opponent’s burden

“My opponent essentially expects me to win that if someone is bleeding to death, that person can be cured through prayer rather than through a blood transfusion and clipping the artery at the bleed site.”

“My opponent essentially wants me to have to defend that prayer could prevent someone from bleeding to death.”

This is not at all correct. The pro position has to show that faith healing is effective in healing through faith. Since my opponent has chosen to point to positive thinking within recovery after medical treatments have been applied, one can assume that he accepts that faith healing cannot do anything beyond that. Unfortunately the definition of faith healing does not include “by means of increasing positive thinking so they should still go to a doctor and get the correct medical treatment as well,” but I guess that can be added in to my opponents definition as well.

Re: Alternative Medicine

Since alt med has not been shown to be efficacious it only clouds the issue. When alt med is actually studied, as study sizes grow, and are better controlled they are shown to be ineffective. [2][3][4]

Re: Meta Studies

I am afraid that my opponents understanding of meta studies and their relevance is incorrect. Since my opponent is unable to refer me to the actual study and the two links he has provided are saying about the same thing, one thing is clear – the study information that my opponent has makes no reference to faith healing or even prayer. The only thing we can draw out is that thinking positively has positive effects, but that is far from the topic. We can say little else about the studies, so the tie to faith/prayer is tenuous at best.

Meta studies have a purpose, but the purpose is not to be able to pick a sample of studies and draw out a conclusion when the waters around those studies are murky. My discussion on the relevance of a meta study is still quite applicable.

Re: Intercessory Prayer Example

This example was put forward as an example of the problem of meta studies and how difficult they are, not to disprove anything about personal prayer or faith healing. Within the response my opponent did not read the study very well and attributed things incorrectly, the details are still in my previous post so I won’t go into the corrections. My opponent does need to, however, re read the methods section of the study though.

“METHODS: Patients at 6 US hospitals were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: 604 received intercessory prayer after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; 597 did not receive intercessory prayer also after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; and 601 received intercessory prayer after being informed they would receive prayer. Intercessory prayer was provided for 14 days, starting the night before CABG. The primary outcome was presence of any complication within 30 days of CABG. Secondary outcomes were any major event and mortality.” [5]

Re: Examples of faith healing

My opponent opens by saying that I offered up two examples of faith healing, but there was a word left out of that statement – claims. The examples I put forth were claims of faith healing, and as such far from accepted.

Re: Criteria for Faith Healing

Although I am quoted, this is misattributed to me, they are in fact from a quote that I provided that I happen to agree with. Stephen Barrett’s argument can be simplified into - If faith healing works, it should be shown to work on something that does not cure itself, have no medical treatment applied and have documentation of the process. My opponent has qualms with the first requirement, but I am not sure why. If faith healing were applied to something like sneezing, athlete’s foot or a common cold which goes away after a week, which it usually does anyway what purpose did faith healing serve? The goal is the show that it is efficacious in healing and if it is unable to be applied to anything incurable (MS, Scoliosis, AIDS/HIV, Graves Disease) or even diseases that are “curable” (Strep, Meningitis, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Many Cancers), what good could it be? The entire purpose of the first requirement is to make sure that the faith healing is the cause and not a spontaneous event that happens regardless of the circumstances.

Conclusion

My opponent has brought a number of elements into this discussion which have not been tied to faith healing. Unfortunately he has not argued in favor of faith’s ability to heal anything, only that it can be useful to have positive thinking when in recovery after a medical treatment has been applied. On the contrary, I have pointed to the claims of faith healers, how they have been debunked, and even to a definitive study on the effects of intercessory prayer being negligible at best.

1. http://lmgtfy.com...
2. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org...
3. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org...
4. http://www.doctoroz.com...
5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...
bluesteel

Pro

I thank my opponent for a great debate; he's clearly a very capable debater.

I'm just going to summarize the main points of the debate, since everything has already been covered in the previous round.

Topic:

My opponent sets out to create a topic interpretation that he cannot possibly lose: Resolved: prayer can supplant all other treatments. Obviously, no pro can win that faith healing is going to stop someone from bleeding to death. You have to understand the correct contexts for faith healing, as with any other alternative medicine.

I offered two contexts where it has been proven extremely effective: recovery from a medical operation and spontaneous cancer remission. I offer a link to Discovery Magazine that shows that positive thinking and thus prayer contribute in a MAJOR way to spontaneous cancer remission. I offer a meta-study of 16 studies proving that people who come to expect better health outcomes actually achieve better health outcomes. People who pray and have faith in God, believe that God will heal them and thus achieve better health outcomes by expecting better health outcomes.

So in a reasonable interpretation of the resolution: "can prayer have a positive effect on health outcomes," I have clearly proven that it has a positive effect.

My opponent takes issue with my involving psychology into this debate. Here is the most important thing: faith healing is defined as "faith in God" having a healing effect. Faith healing does not assume that God miraculously cures the person, but that FAITH, meaning the psychological effects of believing in God, has a positive effect on health outcomes. The positive thinking associated with faith is central to this debate. My opponent never refutes my study, so I've proven faith, through the psychological effects it has, can have a healing effect on the body. This upholds the resolution.

Lastly, remember intercessory prayer, meaning someone else praying on your behalf, is not an example of faith healing, so disproving its effects proves nothing.

Having upheld a reasonable interpretation of the resolution, as opposed to an un-debatable interpretation, I urge a pro vote.
Debate Round No. 3
31 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by AF 1 year ago
AF
I think several people assume that that faith healing and medicine for ailment is mutually exclusive. I feel as if the people that have the opposing sides do not consider whether God can work through medicine, for example through the doctors in an operating theatre. The evidence in support of the opposing side seems to have more proof. For the side in support of the pros, much of the evidence seems anecdotal which isn't always reliable as people"s opinions are subjective. A valid argument was raised to say that to be "effective treatment" the process (that is faith healing) must be able to be reproduced. Yet this may pose a problem as God does not work within scientific means so a miracle may or may not be repeated. It depends on what God does. All in all the two sides have fairly strong arguments.
Posted by Kinesis 3 years ago
Kinesis
lol @ the reasons for voting decisions.
Posted by Bob_Gneu 3 years ago
Bob_Gneu
If that is your opinion you shouldn't have taken the debate up.
Posted by bluesteel 3 years ago
bluesteel
Absolutely, challenge me to a debate that actually has two sides.

It's just a debate. Get over it. I took the only possible defensible position on this topic.
Posted by Bob_Gneu 3 years ago
Bob_Gneu
It would be great if we could actually argue about the topic in the debate as well. Maybe the next time we have one you will stay on topic.
Posted by bluesteel 3 years ago
bluesteel
lol, 3 votes, congrats => feel validated

you can say whatever you want in the debate, but I don't agree with arguing in the comments section
Posted by Bob_Gneu 3 years ago
Bob_Gneu
@bluesteel
The problem with your post was not that i didn't understand it, it is that the post was not on topic, was incorrectly attributing positive thinking to thinking that god had a role in the matter, and applying that to faith healing which is an entirely different beast.

To suggest that I am arguing for votes when you ended each of your responses with "Affirmed," or "Urge a Pro Vote" is a bit silly, considering you didn't actually argue for the topic.

Your study has only been cited secondarily, and neither of them attributed the contents of the study to faith, faith healing or prayer. You simply asserted it, because you feel positive thinking and a personal god's support are synonymous.

And clearly from the votes i am not the only one to feel you didn't plead your case well.
Posted by bluesteel 3 years ago
bluesteel
bob, if you don't get my arguments from the debate, having an argument in the comments section is useless

you failed to refute my study; pointing that a meta-study CAN be flawed, doesn't show that mine is

it's not positive thinking that was studied directly in the meta-study, it was whether the belief that one will achieve positive health outcomes actually causes those outcomes to materialize. People who believe in God's power to heal them are more likely to believe they will recover.

and disproving intercessory prayer is not enough to disprove faith healing.

Congrats, you've proven everything that is wrong with this site. People arguing for votes in the comments section.
Posted by Bob_Gneu 3 years ago
Bob_Gneu
=
@bluesteel
Your response at the end did not address any of my points.

How is "can prayer have a positive effect on health outcomes" a reasonable interpretation of "the merits of faith healing and ultimately how effective it is in achieving the goal of healing."

How is "the merits of faith healing and ultimately how effective it is in achieving the goal of healing" an indefensible position? All you would need to do is show that it can be shown to have a positive effect.

How is your study unrefuted, when i addressed it as a meta study, the contents of it not relating to this topic because you have not shown the tie from "positive thinking" to prayer or faith healing?

How is intercessory prayer not an example of faith healing while prayer is, in the context of your own arguments? This sounds a lot like special pleading.

Cancer remission can hardly be attributed to faith healing, prayer or soda drinking considering it happens without them. How can you simply assert that it is prayer causing it when only one of your sources refers to prayer and its an alt med source - thus dubious. all of your other sources only refer to positive thinking which you have not tied to faith.
Posted by Bob_Gneu 3 years ago
Bob_Gneu
@ReformedArsenal
I have challenged you to a debate on the NOMA concept and we will see where it goes. It appears, however that you don't have a very firm understanding of science, its goals, or its process and maybe our debate can clear things up.

Simply put - if something has an effect on reality it is testable within reality. I did not say "well, maybe it wasn't faith healing... you can't prove it was." and your willingness to put words in my mouth is quite frustrating. I did suggest that there is a problem with drawing a conclusion from positive thinking and applying it to faith healing because the tie has not been shown. These are not at all the same.

Earlier you made a statement:
"If observing an event is all that science requires... well, there are a lot of things that we can prove scientifically. Ice Cream sales increase in the summer, so does the crime rate... therefore Crime is caused by Ice Cream sales."

This is not only a correlation/causation issue it is silly. A better analogy would be This person is sick, I give them ice cream and they get better... i do that with 1800 other people, 1/3 of whom get ice cream (group A), 1/3 of whom get proper medication in the form of ice cream (group B) and 1/3 get soy ice cream (group C). I then look at the outcomes and compare the groups to see what the results say.

You are constructing an odd straw man of what science attempts to do and its really quite unnecessary.

Within this context it would be applicable to test faith healing in at least one way. Get 1800 people, divy them up between groups as we discussed. Group A goes into the church and is seen by a faith healer, B goes in and is seen by a non faith healer, C goes in and just sits in the pews. After the study we can look into the results and see if there is benefit to the faith healer in particular (A is positive), if its the fact they are spoken to (AB positive) or if its just the church (ABC all positive).
9 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Vote Placed by Chicken 1 year ago
Chicken
Bob_GneubluesteelTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Bluesteel upheld BOP, Con did not correctly address Bluesteel's point on Intercessory Prayer, which ultimately would end up winning the round for Bluesteel.
Vote Placed by Yep 1 year ago
Yep
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Bluesteel won this debate, arguments to pro BOP was fulfilled. Stephen Hawkins has the right idea (definition debate isn't a big deal) Interpretation by con is kind of abusive to me, so conduct to pro for pointing that out in the final round (Abusiveness loses conduct)
Vote Placed by Stephen_Hawkins 2 years ago
Stephen_Hawkins
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Reasons for voting decision: bluesteel's argument was most convincing from reading the actual debate. I don't take much care in the definition
Vote Placed by BlackVoid 3 years ago
BlackVoid
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Reasons for voting decision: askbob's point is legitimate.
Vote Placed by Lionheart 3 years ago
Lionheart
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Reasons for voting decision: countering askbob's cyber nazi behavior.
Vote Placed by askbob 3 years ago
askbob
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Reasons for voting decision: negating duckiejen23's vote she knows Bob_Gneu in real life and is a biased voter. She has been consistently votebombing in his favor
Vote Placed by duckiejen23 3 years ago
duckiejen23
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro seemed to change the resolution after it was defined and failed to cite his studies so a votes were unable to judge their merits.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 3 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
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Reasons for voting decision: "Healing achieved by religious belief and prayer, rather than by medical treatment." - I think this was clear, and Pro needed to press far harder to prove that cancer remission was caused by faith healing and not simply random chance.
Vote Placed by ReformedArsenal 3 years ago
ReformedArsenal
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro shifted the resolution AFTER it had already been defined, so he loses the conduct vote. Since he argued for his new definition of "Faith Healing" instead of what Con established as the definition he loses the argument.