Grey Thoughts
26.7.06
 
Signs of Bias
Scientific American magazine again has it's writers show their true colours. This time, it is about the power of prayer. The author, Michael Shermer, tells us that
Folk science gets it wrong because we evolved in a radically different environment.
After mentioning lots of paganistic ideas and how now we know better, he goes on to talk about the real purpose of his article
The April issue of the American Heart Journal published a comprehensive study directed by Harvard Medical School cardiologist Herbert Benson on the effects of intercessory prayer on the health and recovery of patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery. The 1,802 patients were divided into three groups, two of which were prayed for by members of three religious congregations. Prayers began the night before the surgery and continued daily for two weeks after. Half the prayer recipients were told that they were being prayed for, whereas the other half were told that they might or might not receive prayers. Results showed that prayer itself had no statistically significant effect on recovery. Case closed.
Case closed? Wow. You have to wonder why Michael didn't declare case closed on the numerous previous studies that found a statistically significant effect on recovery.
(E.g. Byrd RC. Positive therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer in a coronary care unit population. South Med J 1988;81:826-9.
Leibovici L. Effects of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients with bloodstream infection: randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2001;323:1450-1. PMID 11751349.)

But give Michael a single paper that agree's with his bias and he is triumpant. This aint science or being 'open-minded', it is just a religious zealot peddling his trade.
Comments:
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Some other trials that support that prayer can help. There is even one that was conducted retroactively.

1. Harris WS, Gowda M, Kolb JW, Strychacz CP, Vacek JL, Jones PG, et al. A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit. Arch Intern Med 1999; 159: 2273-2278.

http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/con
tent/abstract/159/19/2273?ijkey=68b6
03124a1cf0ae16703a5e982bafca2c0be44a
&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

------------------------------------------------
2. Byrd RC. Positive therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer in a coronary care unit population. South Med J 1988; 81: 826-829.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/q
uery.fcgi?cmd=retrieve&db=pubmed&lis
t_uids=3393937&dopt=Abstract

------------------------------------------------
3. Astin JA, Harkness E, Ernst E MD. The efficacy of "distant healing": a systematic review of randomized trials. Ann Intern Med 2000; 132: 903-910

http://www.annals.org/cgi/content/ab
stract/132/11/903?ijkey=307bae7d1f28
51964c07b147245741180a5e50bc&keytype
2=tf_ipsecsha

------------------------------------------------
4. Leibovici L. Effects of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients with bloodstream infection: randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2001; 323: 1450-1451

http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/conte
nt/full/323/7327/1450
 
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