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March 31, 2006

Prayer Worthless!

No fooling. We now have a study.The New York Times :

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.

Surprised? How about this:

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.

Is this not further evidence -- sorry Ms. Bunting, sorry Mr. Archbishop of Canterbury -- that science ain't healthy for faith? Is it also a sign, and this is a bit surprising, that faith ain't healthy? (Thanks to Bret and Lauren.)

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at March 31, 2006 1:55 AM


i'd be surprised if the increased complications amounted to anything more than randomness (it wasn't statistically significant). i'm actually somewhat surprised that knowing you're being prayed for didn't have positive effects -- my intuition is that, with a very large sample, it would have a slightly positive effect, too small to pick up with this effect ... they also should have asked people whether they were religious and seen if the effect of knowing you're being prayed for differed based on religion.
overall, though, i really can't get over that a "science" study actually looked at the effect of someone's praying for you, independent of your knowing it's happening ... and that this is such a big news story.

Posted by: seth at March 31, 2006 1:55 PM

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