Re: Scientific study of the effects of prayer

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Tue Oct 02 2001 - 23:22:46 MDT

At 08:06 PM 10/2/01 -0700, Spike wrote:

>Those doing the praying were also secretly
>copulating with the young matrons, thus boosting their probability
>of pregnancy.

Calm down, pal. Go out and shoot some planes.

BTW, I just carelessly emailed a huge post to the list providing copious
journal refs to previous claims in this area. I realized the moment I'd
sent it that what I *should* have done was invite those few people (if any)
who were interested to ask me to send the bibliography offlist, rather than
clog everyone's pipes. Since that post hasn't appeared yet, maybe a list
filter stopped it going out. If not, my apologies for thoughtlessness. If
it *was* blocked, here's my short comment again, and interested bods should
ask me for more offline.

At 07:30 PM 10/2/01 -0400, Rafal Smigrodzki, MD-PhD wrote:

>### But the prayed-for and their doctors
>reportedly didn't know somebody was praying for them. How can that be
>explained by placebo?

The moment you open the psi/paranormal jar, all kinds of hopeful monsters
fly out. Forget God as an explanation for the moment (it's rather
disgusting, isn't it, to imagine that the creator of the universe reaches
down and modifies natural processes for a few while allowing other
innocents to suffer). The default assumption seems to be that *the
intention to heal* somehow directly modifies the state description of the
foetus or the mother. But that sounds like a rather more complicated and
improbable process than activating whatever pre-existing physiological
systems a placebo state activates (reduced cortisol, etc). So how could a
paranormal effect initiate placebo if the Ss don't know they're targets of
beneficent intentions? Via a paranormal information channel, silly. They
*sense unconsciously* the loving vibes that are bathing them, and respond
by, you know, relaxing their toes and turning their faces to the sunlight.

One vector is as unlikely as the other, but I kinda prefer cognitive
paranormality (information tweaks in a chaotic neural system) than kinetic
ones (non-local but precisely targeted energy transmission).

>it feels to me more like fraud
>or silliness, after all. But I will still be looking forward to more news
>on this subject.

There's a vast amount of published studies of the alleged efficacy of
prayer, not to mention `therapeutic touch', etc.

If anyone's really interested in trawling for decently conducted studies,
here's a list of refs, plus a short article on the topic, that a guy sent
me recently (now you're all sorry you asked; and no, I don't believe in the
Tooth Fairy and have no inclination to believe in this stuff either):



Damien Broderick

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