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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Laughter's Still the Best Medicine

I caught this from The Age:

NEXT time you're sick consider asking your loved ones not to pray for you.

A study of more than 1800 patients who underwent heart bypass surgery has failed to show that prayers said for their recovery had any impact. In fact, some of the patients who knew they were being prayed for did worse than others who were only told they might be prayed for.


So, should you pray for someone to get worse? This would be one of those 'so why pay to prove the obvious?' stories, if it weren't for prior studies that showed the opposite. So, what's the deal?

The earlier studies were both biased and flawed. In 1988, a study of AIDS patients showed positive effects of intercessory prayer. However, the Consumer Health Digest reported in 2002 that 'when the data showed no difference between the prayer and control groups, the researchers conducted a chart review that was not properly blinded, looked for other differences, and reported that several were statistically significant.' In other words, they cherrypicked the data. A 2002 study of prayer effects in in-vitro fertilization were found to be flat out fraudulent, as reported by The Guardian.

Expect the religious right to scream over this new study. They'll claim that real science is part of the War on Christians Tom DeLay whined about. But the power of intercessory prayer is now in its proper place - next to creationism and flood geology in the junk drawer of crackpot theories...

(Keywords: religion, science, medicine, research )