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Can Prayers Heal? Critics Say Studies Go Past Science's Reach

  1. Oct 10, 2004 #1
    The New York Times published this article today, raising a controversial question:

    Should NIH be funding such studies? In the interest of open-mindedness, some say that such studies should be funded. If the results are positive, what should the conclusion be? Worse, if the results are negative, what should the conclusion be? Does prayer have a placebo effect?


  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2004 #2


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    It's a placebo effect. It doesn't matter if you pray to a potato or a rock as long as you believe it will help you and are susceptible to this type of thing.

    We don't allow religious discussions. As long as this remains a discussion of the placebo effect, self hypnosis, auto suggestion, etc.. I will leave it open.
  4. Oct 10, 2004 #3
    Well... since one cannot prove or disprove the existence of God...

    It really doesn't matter in the end why it is, just finding out if the phenomenon is real and how real is important.

    I don't like the goverment funding 2.3 million dollars in general. I think it should be private, but if Government is going to do it, then it should do it with searching for the truth in mind.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2004
  5. Oct 10, 2004 #4


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    The government funding is only to look at whether some form of focused thinking has placebo effects. I agree, we should not be spending money on this. I think it is fairly accepted that people can trick themselves into believing all kinds of things. This would be a waste of taxpayer's dollars.

    There is no consistent effect. It has to do with the individual's belief and level of susceptibility.
  6. Oct 11, 2004 #5
    Actually, I've heard of studies done where groups of people were asked to pray for certian sick individulas and not for others. The study concluded that the sick people who were being prayed for recovered more quickly than the ones who werent. Also, the sick people had no idea people were praying for them.

    I don't have a link to the study. Perhaps I'll find one after I wake up.
  7. Oct 11, 2004 #6


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    How many people were prayed for that got worse or died? More than got better I'll guarantee.

    It just doesn't work. You can't say "oh look, two people got better". I think over the thousands of years of people praying to their gods that if you could simply get a group of people together to pray and heal people and it worked consistantly, we wouldn't be wondering if there is anything to it.
  8. Oct 11, 2004 #7


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    Still, the title of the article is a misnomer - if you can study it scientificaly (and this can be - fraud notwithstanding), then it certainly does qualify as science.

    I don't know about this particular study, but I know studies have shown the healing power of positive thinking (prayer or otherwise). I'm not sure I'd call that the placebo effect though...
  9. Oct 11, 2004 #8


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    All the studies of the effects of prayer that I'm aware of were later found to be seriously flawed in design. One of the ones that was actually a blind trial (the people being prayed for didn't know it), surprised the authors when there were no effects found for the parameter they originally measured (not such a surprise to the rest of us), so they went digging through all the results doing post-hoc analyses to see if they could find any parameter that was significant. They found one, but the flaw was that they didn't adjust the requirement for significance to take into account the post-hoc nature of the analysis (you have to have a much lower p-value to be considered significant when you do your analysis post-hoc rather than testing an a priori hypothesis). No matter how much they try to make the studies appear unbiased, each of those experiments has a systematic bias to it, at least all the ones I'm aware of. Some are more blatantly unethical than others, such as non-random assignment of subjects to prayer vs no prayer groups (those with an initially better prognosis were assigned to the prayer group), or breaking the codes before the study was completed, so it was no longer blind, even though initially reported the subjects were blind to whether they got prayer or not.

    I just don't think the people doing these studies have demonstrated their own ability to overcome experimenter bias. So, I can't even say it's a placebo effect.
  10. Oct 11, 2004 #9
    The reciever must be as ready as the giver. The two work in unison and the result is healing. You can no more heal any individual than you can teach or make someone understand. If you could make someone understand, the world would be enlightened or the world could be destroyed. There was once an individual who lived not so long ago named Padre Pio, you might want to view some information on him. You will see 50 documented years of physical manifestation of what the human spirit is capable of.
  11. Oct 11, 2004 #10
    Uh, was this what's being studied? Or is it the personal faith of the afflicted?
  12. Oct 11, 2004 #11
    What about those crazy cajun women.. Sa ju's or whatever there called. There suposed to work mircles through prayer.
  13. Oct 11, 2004 #12
    it's not prayer- it's the neuro-dynamism of belief that causes an increase in systemic regeneration- the nature of the religion involved is irrelevent other than the subject has an accute psychological dependence on the memes that allow faith and belief to transcend all other imperitaves- group dynamics amplify/resonate this quality- these are the same processes that Visualization utilizes in a more targetted/guided fashion-
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2004
  14. Oct 11, 2004 #13
    Do you have a URL link for those crazy Cajun women?
  15. Oct 11, 2004 #14
    When a born again chistian meets others in a meeting and they speak of god and the room begins to viibrate and energy begins to crackle. When an amerian indian does the great dance around the fire and dances until he drops. The voodo relgion of hati. dancing until overcome by the spirits. The sufi of the middle east whriling until they drop. One could go on. They are all the same. They effect is all the same. If you live on the surface you are bounced and bumped. If you dive, you find not only your depth, but the depth of others. Find the truth, find yourself.
  16. Oct 11, 2004 #15
    This sounds like faith-based funding. It should be studied, but not to promote supernatural claims. It should be studied to understand the affect of psychological theories upon human health. But really, how much should go into that?

    Prayer is simply a person talking to themselves. If they think about negative things, they get negative thoughts. If they think about positive things, they get positive thoughts. Negative or positive feeling usually follow. Since praying is really a mental disorder and a type of insanity, it often brings false expectations about the world, which the person sees but goes deeper into denial because of their obsession with fear of not belonging to the deity that is a product of their imagination.
  17. Oct 11, 2004 #16
    Really? By whom? I can only think of one:

  18. Oct 11, 2004 #17
    Agreed. Whatever government offical approved that needs to be fired.
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