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Friday, March 31, 2006

Owen Meany, you're on your own

Posted by: Jambo / 4:39 PM

This was in today's NYT:

Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer

Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery, a large and long-awaited study has found.

And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, the researchers suggested.

Because it is the most scientifically rigorous investigation of whether prayer can heal illness, the study, begun almost a decade ago and involving more than 1,800 patients, has for years been the subject of speculation.

The question has been a contentious one among researchers. Proponents have argued that prayer is perhaps the most deeply human response to disease, and that it may relieve suffering by some mechanism that is not yet understood. Skeptics have contended that studying prayer is a waste of money and that it presupposes supernatural intervention, putting it by definition beyond the reach of science.

Two quick points. One, isn't there a bit of pro-prayer spin going on in the headline? The study doesn't simply question the power of prayer, it shows pretty conclusively that, at least in this case, it has absolutely no positive effect. And two, while supernatural events themselves aren't subject to scientific scrutiny (and of course to some of us there's no such thing as "supernatural", it's either present in the universe or it isn't) the claims that they have some real world effect are completely within the realm of science. Even if science could not explain how prayer works it's a pretty simple study to determine if it works. That study appears to have been done and the answer is in. It doesn't.


What struck me is they spent $2.4 million on this nonsense. Hell, I'da told them the answer for half of that!

By Blogger Joey de Vivre, at 4:50 PM  

they obviously forgot to ask the christian science pharmacist.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:59 PM  

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