Saturday, April 01, 2006

Jesus hates you...or is it the observer effect?

jc by Trappist.
A recent study of the effects of prayer on illness indicates that prayer actually makes the illness worse.

If true, this could mean a lot of things. It could mean that God doesn't answer prayers. Or that they were praying to the wrong God...or Goddess.

Or that there is no God.

Perhaps there is a higher power, but the Gods have some greater purpose intended from your death.

Or maybe it's just a flawed study, as one of the study's authors points out:
"Here [the heart patients] are, facing the biggest challenge of their lives, just about to go into the operating suite, and don't know whether they're coming back or not," said Charles Bethea, of the Integris Baptist medical centre in Oklahoma City, a co-author of the study. "And then we have someone come in and introduce themselves as a study coordinator."

The arrival of the "prayer team" may have convinced those patients that their situation was particularly dire, heightening their anxiety, Dr Bethea speculated.|Guardian|

Update: The Chronicle of Higher Education |Sub'n Req'd| also has some coverage of this item. They quote Richard P. Sloan, a professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University whose forthcoming book is called Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine as saying: "Faith...doesn't require documentation and proof, and it shouldn't. It's not only bad science, it's a disservice to religion to conduct these kinds of studies." |CHE|

The $2.4 million study was financed by the John Templeton Foundation and the Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation.

It is interesting that some turn to science to attempt to prove or disprove the existence and actions of some higher spiritual power.

There's a larger point to be made about what counts as persuasive in our culture and how the most absurd claims will be entertained so long as they are couched in statistical form...but we no longer are persuaded by visions, dreams, miracles, or divine intervention.

Back when I was in college, I wondered aloud several times what I would do if a burning bush asked me to kill my roommate, similar to what happened to Abraham. Would I listen to the bush or would I write it off as an hallucination induced by too little sleep?

I'm sure my roommate wanted to know the answer to that question as well...

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