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Vexen Crabtree 2015


Vexen Crabtree's Live Journal

Sociology, Theology, Anti-Religion and Exploration: Forcing Humanity Forwards

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Vexen Crabtree 2015

Think Before you Pray... and Anger God, and Harm Patients!

I've added quotes on The Great Prayer Experiment to my page "Prayer: Scientific Studies of Prayer". The results come after this nifty little quote from Prof. Richard Dawkins:

"Darwin's cousin Francis Galton was the first to analyse scientifically whether praying for people is efficacious. He noted that every Sunday, in churches throughout Britain, entire congregations prayed publicly for the health of the royal family. Shouldn't they, therefore, be unusually fit, compared with the rest of us, who are prayed for only by our nearest and dearest? Galton looked into it, and found no statistical difference. His intention may, in any case, have been satirical, as also when he prayed over randomized plots of land to see if the plants would grow any faster (they didn't)."

Anyway, the results of the 1800-patient scientific double-blind study, was: (the patients were divided into 3 groups):

  • Group 1: Received prayers, but were not told about them. This tests if prayers helped them recover more than normal patients. Their recovery was average.

  • Group 2: Received no prayers, and were not told so. This tested if there was something about the experiment that was affecting the results. Their recovery was also average.

  • Group 3: Received prayers and were told so. This tested the psychosomatic effects of knowing that one is being prayed for. This group "suffered significantly more complications".</p>
What amazing results! The rest of my page on Prayer is my normal blunt arsenal of stark truths!

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Shouldn't there have been a Fourth group where they didn't receive prayers, but were told they were being prayed for?

I would expect some kind of ethical concern kicked in... the aim of patient-based research must be to see how you can improve health in different conditions, you'd never set out to see what you could do to reduce it (not since the Inquisition, anyway!). Also, Group 4 as you say would be testing a psychosomatic effect; which was already partially covered by group 3.

No, group 3 only covers it if you're already working on the assumption that prayer does nothing at all, which negates the point of doing the test in the first place.
While I don't beleive prayer does have anything more than a psychosomatic effect, running a test in this manner is fundementaly unscientific.

If the reason for not doing it as it should have been done was a worry that telling them they were being prayed for and not being might cause them harm, where does that stand against praying for them and not telling them they're getting this extra spiritual "medicine"? Surely that's even more unethical, as people can been given placebos, but to medicate people without telling them is a crime.

All were told that they might be prayed for, so it wasn't unethical that one group wasn't told for definate whether they were or not. Only group 3 was told, specifically that it was.

The first two groups tested the effectiveness of prayer, and the difference between group 3 and 1 was merely the fact of being told they were being prayed for. Group 3 was an extra group to test for additional psychosomatic effects, but wasn't required for testing of the main hypothesis (that prayer is effective).

there is a prayer that works its called action.

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