In *The God Delusion* Richard Dawkins Mentioned a Prayer Experiment


In *The God Delusion* Richard Dawkins Mentioned a Prayer Experiment

6 August 2008 at 12:05:15 PM

.. with the question of whether praying for (or over) people is scientifically efficacious. You can read the full details of the double blind experiment in the book or from this scientific website. From p 87

Prayers were delivered by the congregation of three churches, one in Minnesota, one in Massachusetts, and one inf Missouri, all distant from the three hospitals. The praying individuals, as explained, were given onlyt he first name and initial letter of the surname of each patient for whom they were to pray. It is good experimental practice to standardize as far as possible and they were all, accordingly, told to include in their prayers the phrase "for a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications".

Here's from the article at Live Science.

NEW YORK (AP)—In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery. In fact, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications.

Researchers emphasized that their work can't address whether God exists or answers prayers made on another's behalf. The study can only look for an effect from prayers offered as part of the research, they said.

They also said they had no explanation for the higher complication rate in patients who knew they were being prayed for, in comparison to patients who only knew it was possible prayers were being said for them.

Critics said the question of God's reaction to prayers simply can't be explored by scientific study.

From David Myers

In the intervening nine years, while we awaited the results from this unprecedented mother of all prayer experiments, other prayer experiments surfaced:

  • A 1997 experiment on “Intercessory Prayer in the Treatment of Alcohol Abuse and Dependence” found no measurable effect of intercessory prayer.

  • A 1998 experiment with arthritis patients reported that no significant effect from distant prayer was found.

  • A 1999 study of 990 coronary care patients—who were unaware of the study—reported about 10 percent fewer complications for the half who received prayers “for a speedy recovery with no complications.” But there was no difference in specific major complications such as cardiac arrest, hypertension and pneumonia, with the median hospital stay the same 4.0 days for both groups.

  • A 2001 Mayo Clinic study of 799 coronary care patients offered a simple result: “As delivered in this study, intercessory prayer had no significant effect on medical outcomes,” the study said.

  • A 2005 Duke University study of 848 coronary patients found no significant difference in clinical outcomes between those prayed for and those not.

Amid these negative results, one stunning result challenged my prediction. “Prayer works,” said a headline in The New York Times magazine after a 2001 Journal of Reproductive Medicine article reported that prayed-for women undergoing in vitro fertilization experienced a 50 percent pregnancy rate—double the 26 percent rate among those not receiving experimental intercessory prayers. When suspicions about the study emerged, one of the study’s authors pleaded guilty to criminal business fraud and was sentenced to prison. The article’s Columbia University co-author removed his name from the “study,” with which it turned out he had no direct involvement.

Climaxing this string of negative or discredited results comes what may be the coup de grace for intercessory prayer experiments: intercessory prayer in the STEP experiment had no effect on recovery from bypass surgery. If these had been clinical tests of a new drug, the pharmaceutical industry would surely, at this point, say “enough.”

Comment from eskeptic.

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