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Prayer Does Not Help Heart Patients

Hemos posted about 8 years ago | from the oh-noes-time-to-stop-smoking dept.

1156

mu22le writes "A recent study conducted by the Duke University Medical Center on 700 patients, found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery. Researchers emphasized their work does not address whether God exists or answers prayers made on another's behalf. This result seems to contradict a previous study by the same authors that reported "cardiac patients who received intercessory prayer in addition to coronary stenting appeared to have better clinical outcomes than those treated with standard stenting therapy alone"."

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1156 comments

No point to this study (4, Insightful)

suso (153703) | about 8 years ago | (#15050078)

What is the point of this study? Its not like it is going to convince the millions of people who don't like mixing science with their religion that they shouldn't waste time praying for their loved ones. Those people can trust science to make more fuel efficient SUVs, better bombs for Iraq and cure diseases. But when it proves that the earth is round, that the universe is 13-15 billion years old and that prayer doesn't really do anything, they think its hogwash.

And the people who scientifically minded already think that this fact is just plain obvious.

So while a study like this may be a amuzing anecdote, in the end its completely pointless.

Re:No point to this study (5, Insightful)

the_humeister (922869) | about 8 years ago | (#15050122)

The issue is to debunk pseudoscience and other mystic entities. If it actually takes a funded scientific study to finally convince people, then so be it. Remember, we live in a society where "psychics" such as Miss Cleo actually make money for their "services".

Re:No point to this study (1)

suso (153703) | about 8 years ago | (#15050151)

Ok, so you mean like all the other studies to debunk pseudoscience and other mystic entities. This has been going on for years.

Miss Cleo (2, Funny)

dpilot (134227) | about 8 years ago | (#15050580)

A friend of ours has the ultimate rejoinder to telephone psychics:

"If they were really psychic, they'd call you!"

Several years back, when I knew this friend was coming over for dinner, I arranged with a female co-worker to call her at our house, and begin with, "Hello (name), I'm a psychic, and you're having a problem with..." (I filled the co-worker in with a not-too-personal problem.) Something came up, and the whole thing fell through. Darn.

Re:No point to this study (3, Interesting)

aktzin (882293) | about 8 years ago | (#15050143)

This comic strip is a great illustration of the kind of people you mentioned:

http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.ht ml?uc_full_date=20051218 [doonesbury.com]

Re:No point to this study (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050494)

Actually it's a really lousy illustration. Most creationists believe in "microevolution" - that diseases will change over time to become immune to drugs.

However, they do not believe that evolution is sufficient to create multi-cellular organisms or other specifies - in other words, they don't accept that evolution can actually have evolved humans.

So a creationist is quite likely to accept that TB has evolved to become immune to old drugs. That's (unfortunately) not enough to "prove" that humans evolved.

Re:No point to this study (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050173)

You're a tit.

Re:No point to this study (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050193)

I hate to break this to you but a majority (I would venture to say the vast majority) of Christians really do believe that the Earth is round. And some of us believe the bit about a 13 billion year old universe. Yes, some people really do believe in prayer.

Re:No point to this study (3, Insightful)

milamber3 (173273) | about 8 years ago | (#15050430)

But then you also must believe in some things that fly in the face of science. (i.e. the earth being created in 7 days, adam & eve, a boat that holds 2 of every kind of life, etc.) Whether or not you accept some science I think the point he was making is that you still must have some beliefs based in faith, which generally makes them unsound scientifically and that when science starts questioning those things you will fight it tooth and nail.

Think of it as a psycology experiment (2, Insightful)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | about 8 years ago | (#15050197)

Remember that there were different results when the patient was told they were being prayed for. Once that's done, it introduces an interesting twist:

They're praying for me? Oh, crap, I must be a goner.

Sure enough, those who were told they were being prayed for had more complications than those who weren't told.

On a more serious note, I think it's important to do this as a counter to the other "experiments" that showed that prayer helped people. Science is about reproducing results. If a scientist claims something is true, it's the obligation of others to prove them wrong or back up the findings.

A point here: (0, Flamebait)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 8 years ago | (#15050446)

Disclaimer: tasteless quip follows:

I read a couple of days ago that the Pope and all his toadies were supposed to have been praying for the safe deliverance of that 17-month-old baby that got kidnapped (and subsequently killed).

Looks like his hotline to God must be running through a dodgy telco...

*ducks*

Re:No point to this study (2, Insightful)

thePig (964303) | about 8 years ago | (#15050208)

The study is deemed to have *no* point at all, SINCE the result came as negative.
Correct, since this might not change any one who actually believes in praying for a relative.

But suppose the result was positive, that the study proved (under rigorous scietific scrutiny) that the prayers had effect?

In that case, quite a bit of people (who doesnt pray now for the ill) would have changed. Not that all atheists will start beleiveing in God or anything, but at least some will start praying for the relatives etc ..

So, I guess you cant say that this study has *no* point at all.

Re:No point to this study (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 8 years ago | (#15050526)

The study is deemed to have *no* point at all, SINCE the result came as negative.

Err, no. If it is a proper scientific study, a binary true/false answer is exactly what is sought.

A resounding "No" is perfectly acceptable and useful. It is not the purpose of any properly planned experiment to second-guess any subjective criteria the reader might entertain.

Re:No point to this study (1)

thePig (964303) | about 8 years ago | (#15050594)

I do understand.
I just mentioned this as a reason why the parent was considering this as having
no point.

Re:No point to this study (2, Informative)

Gulthek (12570) | about 8 years ago | (#15050290)

To debunk a popularly quoted study [cnn.com] which found that prayer does help hospital patients.

Re:No point to this study (1)

moro_666 (414422) | about 8 years ago | (#15050434)

what exactly do you expect cnn to write ? most of their listeners/watchers are at least to some level christians or have an idea how much the christianity means to their fellow victims. they can't say "hey prayer doesn't help one bit".

the same as in iraqi papers you can't right now write "americans are bad and have killed tens of thousands of our civilians". it's been censored also, but on different reasons.

let them pray and enjoy their bliss, at least they die happy.

Re: No point to this study (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 8 years ago | (#15050498)

> To debunk a popularly quoted study which found that prayer does help hospital patients.

From the article:
Half received daily prayer for four weeks from five volunteers who believed in God and in the healing power of prayer. The other half received no prayer in conjunction with the study.
So how did they control for unauthorized prayers? Did they have little badges like radiation detectors, to ensure that the control group wasn't getting some unauthorized prayers?

Re:No point to this study (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050321)

I agree. What is the point of this study? You can't prove God with science--why would you be able to prove prayer?

Re:No point to this study (2, Interesting)

oni (41625) | about 8 years ago | (#15050371)

What is the point of this study?

Well, given that we are a social species, and given that for the last few 10's of millions of years of our history we have lived in groups, I would actually expect some kind of relationship between "good wishes from a group" and general health. I would actually expect this sort of thing to evolve as a way of encouraging social behaviour and group membership.

What is the problem that you have with trying to study it? I actually think that you are closing your mind to something that is entirely possible and well within the realm of science. They aren't studying "god" they are studying "what effect does belief in god have on a sick person."

the "scientific" idiocy strikes again (3, Insightful)

theStorminMormon (883615) | about 8 years ago | (#15050416)

I don't know how many flamewars I'm going to have to go through before the message starts sinking in, but because I'm an obstinate fellow I always seem to be good for at least one more. There are two main points: 1 - You can be devoutly religious and also logical/rational/scientific. 2 - Some "scientific" and anti-religious people are just as bigotted, and illogical as the religious nuts.

1 - Devoutly Religious and Also Scientific

Where's the big surprise here? Take a look at the Jesuits. In other surveys, the level of activity a Mormon has in his or her religion is actually positively correlated to the level of education. There are tons of religious doctors, lawyers, physicists, etc. I'm a statistician moving into systems engineering - and I have no trouble at all distinguishing between religious beliefs and scientific beliefs. This point is so obvious I shouldn't even have to bother restating it.

2 - The "Scientific" Bigots

It's pretty simple. You can be religious and you can be bigot (or not). You can be a scientist and you can be a bigot (or not). Anyone that thinks that being a scientist somehow frees people from their biases and prejudices needs to do a little research into things like eugenice. Hell, even setting aside nasty racism and such there's the simple fact that scientists, mathematicians, etc. are people. They have egos. They like to be right. And a lot of the time they don't care whether they're stating their opinion based on research or based on personal bias. They should - but they don't.

Anyone that believes in "blind faith" - the type of faith that essentially amounts to wishful thinking - is a religious nut in my opinion. There's no logical basis for this type of theology, but it is nonetheless extremely prevalent in American society. But there are also those who believe that faith should be reasonable or who at least make an interesting case for blind faith. Existentalist philosophy, for example, was started by Christian theologians like Kierkegaard.

In short, I'm sick of this tired old bullshit: Those people can trust science to make more fuel efficient SUVs, better bombs for Iraq and cure diseases. But when it proves that the earth is round, that the universe is 13-15 billion years old and that prayer doesn't really do anything, they think its hogwash. Those nutjobs are a SUBSET of religious people. A proper subset, if you want to get technical.

Meanwhile: And the people who scientifically minded already think that this fact is just plain obvious. is just plain wrong. Plenty of scientifically minded people believe in the efficacy (under certain conditions) of prayer. The types of people who think it's "obvious" that prayer does nothing are (again) a proper subset of scientifically-minded people. And if they think it's obvious, I'm inclined to say they're not really any different, in terms of their fanatic dogmaticism, than the religious nuts they criticize.

It comes to this: I don't care if you're religious or an atheist. All I want to see is that you're not a knee-jerk adherent of whatever worldview you subscribe too. It's the reason that people believe - more than the object they believe in - that really matters. As long as you believe rationally and honestly - you're always in a position to be proved wrong, admit mistakes, and develop improvements to your own worldview. But if you are dogmatic in your belief system then you are doomed to perpetual, slavish obedicance to concepts you never question or challenge. I don't care of those concepts are Newtonian physics, Einsteinian physics, quantum physics, or the 10 Commandments. It's the slavish obediance itself that I find most reprehensible and dangerous.

-storrmin

There *is* a point, you just miss it (4, Insightful)

tgeller (10260) | about 8 years ago | (#15050485)

Science's task is to test hypotheses.

The belief that prayer has beneficial medical effects is a widlely-held hypothesis that can be tested.

The results of such a test could improve treatment and life in general. Therefore, it's a worthwhile pursuit.

That *you* think it's silly doesn't change anything. Much sillier theories have been put to the test -- and gotten unexpected results.

Re:No point to this study (5, Insightful)

Ibix (600618) | about 8 years ago | (#15050488)

So while a study like this may be a amuzing anecdote, in the end its completely pointless.

It's worse than that. The bible has built-in defences against this kind of thing: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God (Matthew 4:7, according to bible-kjv). You're sunk either way - if God doesn't exist then prayer has no effect (except maybe the placebo effect). If he does exist he'll hide his hand so that you can't make him do stuff...

Also, you can't control for how-many-million Christians in the world praying for "all the sick and infirm of this world", some of them adding "particularly John Smith, member of our church". If you don't control for it, you're implicitly assuming it has no effect.

Note: I'm an atheist. I'm also a scientist. This experiment doesn't convince me...

I

Re:No point to this study--Controlled??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050577)

From the article: "The researchers noted 89 percent of the patients in this study also knew of someone praying for them outside of the study protocol altogether."

So much for control!!! The study is invalid on this alone.

Queue Religion Flamewar (1, Insightful)

Ravenscall (12240) | about 8 years ago | (#15050094)

In 3....2....1.....

Re:Queue Religion Flamewar (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050140)

In 3....2....1.....

Aaah, the old 3....2....1....

As funny as soviet russia, but a fark meme.

Truly, we are lucky to have original comedians such as yourself on slashdot.

News flash! (4, Funny)

spaztik (917859) | about 8 years ago | (#15050099)

In other news... wishing upon a star will not make dreams come true. Details at 11.

Re:News flash! (1)

meringuoid (568297) | about 8 years ago | (#15050427)

wishing upon a star will not make dreams come true.

Counterexample: I had this dream once where I wished upon a star, and nothing happened...

Re:News flash! (1)

dpilot (134227) | about 8 years ago | (#15050610)

Read "Stardust" by Neil Gaiman.

Did you ever consider the consequences to the star, when you wish upon it?

Not what Tony was told. (-1, Offtopic)

dave-tx (684169) | about 8 years ago | (#15050108)

Article is contrary to what they said on The Sopranos [hbo.com] last night. Too bad Aaron Aarkaway didn't have one of his narcoleptic episodes while he was standing there. That would have been funny.

And Cellphones do/dont cause cancer.. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050130)

I could give a shit what this study says as any positive focused thoughts such as prayer & meditation absolutely do help. Does this mean its based on some godly force? Heck no, it is just the power of positive thinking.

Giving people a reason to think good thoughts about others is what we should be doing, not shooting down another avenue for people to feel good.

indeed (1)

weierstrass (669421) | about 8 years ago | (#15050205)

'positive thinking' and other techniques of 'focused thought' can even allow people to convince themselves beyond all doubt of things which they want to believe, but which are patently untrue..

Re:And Cellphones do/dont cause cancer.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050424)

"I could give a shit what this study says as any positive focused thoughts such as prayer & meditation absolutely do help."

Yes! Down with pesky facts! Let us cleave to things we know must be true and ignore contrary data!

Realistically, there are all *kinds* of ways that prayer could hurt people. For example, if they patients know that they're being prayed for, it might convince them that they're in really bad shape. Or it could make them more willing to let go, thinking that they've got somewhere better to go.

But you already have the Truth, so what do you care?

How the GOP Became God's Own Party (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050141)

Washington Post: Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush's conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic le/2006/04/01/AR2006040100004.html?sub=AR [washingtonpost.com]

Job Security (5, Funny)

trongey (21550) | about 8 years ago | (#15050146)

Now that they have two conflicting results they'll need a new grant to conduct another study so they can conclude which of their first two studies was correct. Yay! 5 more years of research funding.

Re:Job Security (1)

hey! (33014) | about 8 years ago | (#15050373)

But... 5% of the time, prayer shows a statistically significant effect.

Re:Job Security (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | about 8 years ago | (#15050597)

This would be accurate if the neither patients nor anyone involved in the operation knew of the praying being done. So, if you said "5% of the time, knowing that someone prays on one's behalf shows a statistically significant effect.", then i'd be more willing to agree assuming it could be backed up with studies.

I am unreligious...but what harm is praying? (3, Insightful)

ip_freely_2000 (577249) | about 8 years ago | (#15050180)

Praying for loved ones may not physically help a loved one, but certainly helps the mental state of the patient and their family. I don't think anyone ever expects a miracle, but if it helps any one, in any manner, then more power to them.

btw, I dare ANY body who's watched a loved one suffer to deny that they said a few words to God 'Just in case'. It certainly can't hurt. I'm not religious, but I've been there.

Re:I am unreligious...but what harm is praying? (1)

Aidski (875851) | about 8 years ago | (#15050241)

It's so refreshing to see some sense in slashdot. I'm not religious either, but when my loved ones who are religious are sick, it really does give them hope. So get off your athiest high horses already.

Re:I am unreligious...but what harm is praying? (5, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | about 8 years ago | (#15050263)

Praying for loved ones may not physically help a loved one, but certainly helps the mental state of the patient and their family.

Thought experiment: Replace 'God' with 'The King of the Potato People'. We'd call someone sending messages to the King of the Potato People to help their loved ones 'delusional', and put them on medication, and possibly in a padded cell.

Are you sure prayer is indicative of a healthy mental state? If so, explain how 'God' is different to 'The King of the Potato People', and why belief in one is delusional and psychiatrically treatable while the other is not.

Re:I am unreligious...but what harm is praying? (1)

ip_freely_2000 (577249) | about 8 years ago | (#15050308)

What difference does a name make? 'God', 'Allah', 'King of the Potato People' would all be the same to the believers. The net effect is the same. I don't call someone delusional just because they worship 'Mother Nature' or belong to the Jedi Order.

I may not agree with their belief, I may even privately think it's dumb, but I don't disrespect a belief.

Re:I am unreligious...but what harm is praying? (3, Interesting)

DesireCampbell (923687) | about 8 years ago | (#15050409)

But it is important to 'disrespect' a belief if that belief is false.

If someone said that they believed that the Earth was only a few thousand years old I couldn't disagree with them without 'disrespecting' their beliefs.

We shouldn't let people be stupid just so they don't feel bad about themselves.

If someone says "praying helps" then they are wrong. I'm sorry they're wrong, I'm not trying to be mean, but it's not true.

"I am unreligious...but what harm is praying?"
I am un-racist, but what harm is telling people about White Supremacy?
I am un-educated, but what harm is being ignorant?

Re:I am unreligious...but what harm is praying? (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | about 8 years ago | (#15050415)

explain how 'God' is different to 'The King of the Potato People'
Mabye in the way 2+2=4 is different from 2+2=3. I mean, for someone hasn't yet learnt to count, it's just a bunch of characters, but one of them is actually true while the other one is false.

That must be the 'new' math... (1)

DesireCampbell (923687) | about 8 years ago | (#15050453)

But we can PROVE that 2+2=4, you can't PROVE God exists.

Unless you can. And if you can, please do... I'll be waiting.

Re:I am unreligious...but what harm is praying? (2, Funny)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | about 8 years ago | (#15050431)

As a skeptic, I might have trouble with your conclusion that the King of the Potato People does not exist. You seem absolutely certain of this, as if we have more than some scattered anecdotal evidence that he does not.

Maybe it would be a good idea to turn down the control knob on your vehemence just a little. I'm far from what you would call some mystical, new age flake. And yet, I'd have a hard time refuting that there is something weird going on in the universe... and it's more than just a new exotic subatomic particle.

If the religious are delusional at all, it's that they somehow think that there is only one god. Why not five, or fifty? One is not a special number (though zero is *slightly* more special). And, if they could easily be so wrong about that one simple fact, then their own holy books end up being bunk. Funny, eh?

Re:I am unreligious...but what harm is praying? (0, Troll)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 8 years ago | (#15050586)

I don't know about you, but even if I was an ordained priest of pastafarianism, I think I would feel a bit silly addressing my prayers to The Great Spaghetti Monster.

Re:I am unreligious...but what harm is praying? (1)

eln (21727) | about 8 years ago | (#15050272)

Whatever you need to do to draw mental strength is fine. I guess what bothers people is when others pray, and then someone recovers, and then they claim that was some sort of miracle from God because they prayed so hard. And then there are those who claim the reason someone did not recover was because people didn't pray hard enough, which does nothing other than make people feel guilty about something they had no control over.

Really, I guess it boils down to praying or doing yoga or whatever else you want to do is fine. The problem comes in when you start to believe, or when you start to tell others, that praying (or lack thereof) can be directly responsible for whether a patient lives or dies.

Re:I am unreligious...but what harm is praying? (1)

muhgcee (188154) | about 8 years ago | (#15050307)

*raises hand*

I will take that dare. I haven't said a word to "God" in about 12 years or so.

Re:I am unreligious...but what harm is praying? (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 8 years ago | (#15050335)

The harm is somewhat subtle and has everything to do with emotional stability and perception of reality.

There are STILL people who believe that disease is the result of sin. STILL. There are people today who believe all the good things in their lives are the result of prayer and their alignment with righteousness. In short, this is where G.W.Bush gets his delusions.

Even if you are Christian, it actually states in Matthew (if I recall correctly) that people should not pray asking for anything. But since I'm atheist, I really don't care to seek the actual passage though I'm sure someone else will.

In my view, religion is dangerous simply because it leads people to experience things that would otherwise be considered imaginary. And if you claim to be religious, then ask yourself this: Why is it that any time you hear something about someone believing they have heard from god or angels or the like, that the assumption is that they are crazy? If you honestly fall into that category (and 99% of all Christians in the western world do) then you're not really religious... you just "want" to be religious or like the idea of being religious.

Re:I am unreligious...but what harm is praying? (1)

LordKazan (558383) | about 8 years ago | (#15050474)

Excuse me but your presumption and arrogance is astounding - I am not some weak minded fool who compromises my lack of belief in difficult and stressful situations and I would appreciate if you would refrain from such presumption and arrogance.

Hmm.. (5, Insightful)

jimmyCarter (56088) | about 8 years ago | (#15050183)

As summed up on BoingBoing.. Maybe they were praying to the wrong god?

Re:Hmm.. (1)

Eightyford (893696) | about 8 years ago | (#15050312)

As summed up on BoingBoing.. Maybe they were praying to the wrong god?
br. Exaclty, if only people would watch Southpark. Clearly, mormonism is the correct religion.

Re: Hmm.. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 8 years ago | (#15050532)

> As summed up on BoingBoing.. Maybe they were praying to the wrong god?

Thanks, but I'd rather leave Cthulhu sleeping.

Next step is obvious: (1)

ChiPHeaD23 (147491) | about 8 years ago | (#15050211)

The religious will just claim that God doesn't like working in a controlled environment.

Re:Next step is obvious: (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | about 8 years ago | (#15050247)

You can't prove God exists because without faith he is nothing and will promptly cease to exist in a puff logic (Thanks Mr Adams, brilliant analysis)

Of course not... (1)

meringuoid (568297) | about 8 years ago | (#15050303)

The religious will just claim that God doesn't like working in a controlled environment.

... after all, he's not a tame lion!

Re:Of course not... (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 8 years ago | (#15050463)

... after all, he's not a tame lion!

That actually would help explain a lot. How else could he vacillate between incidents of kindness and love and incidents of extreme cruelty, evil, and heartlessness?

-Eric

Optimism and Placebo (4, Insightful)

Distinguished Hero (618385) | about 8 years ago | (#15050216)

From the article:
The prayer portion of the randomization was double-blinded, meaning that patients and their care team did not know which patients were receiving intercessory prayer. Per Institutional Review Board policies governing clinical research, all patients were aware that they might be prayed for by people they did not know, from a variety of faiths.

While double-blind tests are generally a good idea, perhaps another study should be carried out in which the patients themselves know whether people are praying for them (perhaps including people they know, as well as people of the faith they request). The increased optimism and placebo effect may produce something desireable (not saying it will, but it might be worth a study by the same people who expended their resources on this one).

They did (1)

flimflam (21332) | about 8 years ago | (#15050475)

There was a group that was told that someone was praying for them. They actually did worse than everyone else. So much for desireable effects.
 

Re:They did (1)

Distinguished Hero (618385) | about 8 years ago | (#15050573)

There was a group that was told that someone was praying for them. They actually did worse than everyone else. So much for desireable effects.

Was that from the article? The part I found stated: "The prayer portion of the randomization was double-blinded, meaning that patients and their care team did not know which patients were receiving intercessory prayer" which seems to contradict your claim.

Re:Optimism and Placebo (1)

LunaticTippy (872397) | about 8 years ago | (#15050484)

The bogus non double-blind studies have already been done [1stholistic.com]

I'm glad to see some proper studies done regarding this, as I'm sick of listening to people quote the poorly formed studies.

They did doomohzz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050571)

-1 redundent

An yet another study says ... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050230)

And yet ... Weekly religious attendance nearly as effective as statins and exercise in extending life [scienceblog.com] , according to a story today at Science Blog [scienceblog.com] .

Re:An yet another study says ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050354)

Correlation not causation!

Re:An yet another study says ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050407)

Weekly religious attendance nearly as effective as statins and exercise in extending life

It's also effective at emptying your pocketbook.

Re:An yet another study says ... (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 8 years ago | (#15050513)

Well, yeah. Regular religious attendence coincides with healthier and safer lifestyles in general. Drug addicts, alchoholics, criminals, and others with dangerous lifestyles are generally not big chruch-goers. And is the guy who's bed-ridden with a terminal disease going to be able to check "Yes" in the box beside "attended church reglarly in the last month"?

-Eric

Prayer and medicine (5, Insightful)

thewiz (24994) | about 8 years ago | (#15050239)

As a heart patient myself, it always gave me a mental boost to know that others were taking time to pray for me when I had to go in for surgery. Even though prayer may not directly affect the outcome of a surgery, letting the patient know that there are people who care about them can make a big difference.

Re:Prayer and medicine (1)

Eightyford (893696) | about 8 years ago | (#15050342)

As a heart patient myself, it always gave me a mental boost to know that others were taking time to pray for me when I had to go in for surgery. Even though prayer may not directly affect the outcome of a surgery, letting the patient know that there are people who care about them can make a big difference.

I see your point, but obviously the people that pray aren't just saying that they care. They are trying to get god to intervene. (free will...?)

Well of course not.... (3, Insightful)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | about 8 years ago | (#15050244)

Prayer comes from the heart, and can't be done in a cold and scientific manner in the name of research. Or at least that's what I have come to think very religious people would probably think. This disregards what I consider to be the main way spirituality helps too. It gives people hope and strengthens them. Mind over matter isn't just a useless saying, it's a pretty significant tool in medical recovery as I understand.

Re:Well of course not.... (3, Insightful)

Eightyford (893696) | about 8 years ago | (#15050367)

Prayer comes from the heart, and can't be done in a cold and scientific manner in the name of research. Or at least that's what I have come to think very religious people would probably think. This disregards what I consider to be the main way spirituality helps too. It gives people hope and strengthens them. Mind over matter isn't just a useless saying, it's a pretty significant tool in medical recovery as I understand.

So prayer is just a placebo that only works when one is praying for one's self?

Re:Well of course not.... (4, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 8 years ago | (#15050546)

"Prayer comes from the heart, and can't be done in a cold and scientific manner in the name of research." (emphasis mine)

Well, obviously then, the reason the prayer didn't work is that the patients all had defective hearts.

Even as a heartless bastard, though, I can attest that at least some of my prayers to The One Who Lies Dead but Dreaming have been answered. Though not all those prayers involved positive thoughts.

Marshall Brain's "Why Won't God Heal Amputees?" (3, Interesting)

paulthomas (685756) | about 8 years ago | (#15050252)

Marshall Brain of How Stuff Works fame wrote a little book called Why Won't God Heal Amputees? (The Most Important Question We Can Ask about God).

Chapter Five [whydoesgod...putees.com] deals with the title question and is especially pertinent to this discussion. There are some minor flaws with the conclusions drawn, but I have written the author about these and he intends to address them; they don't really detract from the conclusion.

A highly recommended read. A little wordy at times, but that is because it is trying to be conversational with a potentially hostile audience (I think).

Re:Marshall Brain's "Why Won't God Heal Amputees?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050419)

When I need someone else to tell me what a crock religion is, maybe I will read it...

Re:Marshall Brain's "Why Won't God Heal Amputees?" (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | about 8 years ago | (#15050466)

the conclusion
C'mon, you forgot to include the conclusion! We don't really have time to read the text _now_, in the middle of a discussion.

Not new...REALLY not new (1)

Programmer_In_Traini (566499) | about 8 years ago | (#15050292)

come on, i mean...come on... i can understand that in the world you cant always be the first but showing this article that's 4 days old is making slashdot look like a retard.

This topic was actually covered last thursday on CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/03/30/prayer.study. ap/index.html/ [cnn.com]

which you can prove by looking at what fark.com (http://www.fark.com/ [fark.com] published last thursday (30/04/06). (looking at the date on the CNN article is also a proof).

Re:Not new...REALLY not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050450)

Heh. New here?

This is a juicy bit of ammo. Nothing like making fun of bible types. It was saved for Monday: more eyes.

Re:Not new...REALLY not new (1)

nb caffeine (448698) | about 8 years ago | (#15050467)

published last thursday (30/04/06)

Typing the right month would help your case. I'm just sayin...

Re:Not new...REALLY not new (1)

Programmer_In_Traini (566499) | about 8 years ago | (#15050565)

im my defense i will say that im french, our date format is dd/mm/yyyy. im not really aware of the date formats used elsewhere. I was pretty sure someone would point that the date format is incorrect because that's not the one you guys use. but the point is really that the article is really old. or i should say, after re-reading it, is a re-hash of what's was written last thursday.

Re:Not new...REALLY not new (1)

LunaticTippy (872397) | about 8 years ago | (#15050553)

You're complaining about something being posted on slashdot being tired and redundant.

This complaint itself is tired and redundant.

I don't think anyone reads slashdot for the latest news, they read so they can post and read comments. CNN doesn't listen to or publish readers views, and fark is, well, fark.

Prayer may not be for the patient (4, Insightful)

TheLoneCabbage (323135) | about 8 years ago | (#15050334)

Recently when my sister-inlaw was diagnosed with lukemia my wife and I were left stunned. We had chosen to live half way around the world, too expensive to travel when most of our family was still there to comfort her.

We instead decided to take our prayers to the Wester Wall (HaKotell), as jews have done for thousands of years. It's one incedent, and no basis for a conclusive "Prayer Works" post. But it did at least let us do something, other than sit and worry.

What is the alternative of a loved one to prayer? Nothing, nadda, zilch. Prayer may help, it may not. But if it's a choice between possibly useless prayer and definetly useless worrying, prayer makes more sense. (Pascals wager) If nothing else it makes you feel better.

I would be curriuos to know if there is a difference in stress related illnesses between people who pray (in one form or another) and those who dont. I know for me the worst source of stress is to have a problem and no pragmatic way to affect it.

Expectations (5, Insightful)

captnitro (160231) | about 8 years ago | (#15050347)

I don't want to have to make this point, but I feel obligated in light of all the Smug that's about to enter the thread -- but this study isn't really useful for debunking anything except the previous "studies" that it did help patients. "Prayer is more about changing the person doing the praying, than about bringing changes to world events." "Even if all the things that people prayed for happened -- which they do not -- this would not prove what Christians mean by the efficacy of prayer. For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them. Invariable "success" in prayer would not prove the Christian doctrine at all. It would prove something more like magic -- a power in certain human beings to control, or compel, the course of nature." (C.S. Lewis) I'm not religious by any means, but I think Lewis has a fair point.

Re:Expectations (1)

meringuoid (568297) | about 8 years ago | (#15050533)

And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them. Invariable "success" in prayer would not prove the Christian doctrine at all. It would prove something more like magic -- a power in certain human beings to control, or compel, the course of nature."

Perhaps, but even sporadic success in prayer would show up in the statistics.

Imagine that you are the BOFH. Users email you incessantly with requests for more disk space. However, you do not always grant their prayers; you only grant greater disk space to those whose requests please you, those who catch you in a good mood, those who give good and just reason for their request... whatever your inscrutable policy may be.

Nonetheless, you do sometimes, however rarely, grant extra disk space. Then the users will be able to prove the existence of the BOFH, or at least the efficacy of emailing his account. For those who email will statistically have slightly more disk space than those who do not.

This won't be the case if you as BOFH also grant extra disk space to random users at your own initiative, in such a way that there is no statistical difference between those who mail you and those who do not. But in that case then it is statistically clear that mailing you makes no difference at all!

Summary not completely accurate (2)

Honorbound (521347) | about 8 years ago | (#15050411)

From the article:
"Patients treated with "two-tiered" prayer had absolute six-month death and re-hospitalization rates that were about 30 percent lower than control patients, statistically characterized as a suggestive trend."

"Six-month mortality was lower in patients assigned bedside MIT, with the lowest absolute death rates observed in patients treated with both prayer and bedside MIT."

So, prayer did have a statistically significant benefit, according to the study. Note that the entities prayed to were drawn from many religions, suggesting that the act of prayer is the important thing, not so much entity prayed to. So you should be fine praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

No wonder the prayers didn't help (4, Funny)

vertinox (846076) | about 8 years ago | (#15050414)

Cthulhu was displeased with the family's offerings.

Unfortunatley since they awoken the great Ancient one with their pleas for mercy, the heart patients and their family (and next of kin and family pets) will be eaten first and slowly.

What about the loved ones? (1)

RingDev (879105) | about 8 years ago | (#15050458)

Now me, I'm a confirmed Agnostic. And I'm not going to attempt to pester what ever supreme being there is out there to cure my ailing Grandpa (who has lead a long and rewarding life). But what effect does praying have on the participants in the study?

Anecdotally speeking, if two men go into the hospital for open heart surgeries, and one wive prays and the other doesn't, is there any statistical link between the praying wife and non-praying wife when it comes to their own health? Will praying for a loved one reduce stress or reduce depression?

-Rick

The Real Problem (5, Funny)

Eightyford (893696) | about 8 years ago | (#15050476)

Of course the real problem is that God is too busy helping rappers get their bling bling. This is obvious if you've ever watched a music awards show.

Re:The Real Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15050564)

I thought he was too busy blessing America. I mean Fuehrer Bush wouldn't lie, would he?

Does not help? (2, Insightful)

nasch (598556) | about 8 years ago | (#15050545)

Seems to me the summary doesn't match TFA (big surprise). Which makes me think all the smug "well, duh" respondents didn't RTFA. Another surprise.

"The researchers found no significant differences among the treatment groups in the primary composite endpoint. However, six-month mortality was lower in patients assigned bedside MIT, with the lowest absolute death rates observed in patients treated with both prayer and bedside MIT."

How is a decreased 6-month death rate not helpful?
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