Friday, March 31, 2006

Prayer by strangers harmful to inpatients

Prayers for recovery offered by strangers was found to cause a 40% increase in major complications among patients receiving coronary byapss surgery:
Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer - New York Times

.... The study also found that more patients in the uninformed prayer group, 18 percent, suffered major complications, like heart attack or stroke, compared with 13 percent in the group that did not receive prayers.
Does praying for a stranger anger God? Does all prayer annoy Him, or just Christian prayer? Perhaps multiple deities are involved...

Or perhaps the effect is only a statistical fluke, as many scientists and theologians, as well as all atheists, would expect. Catholics, for example, allow for miracles, but I think among mainstream catholic theologians prayer is thought to be about asking for wisdom and the strength to bear what comes, not a plea to a mercenary deity.

Personally I find the result disquieting, but I'm betting the P value is not significant. Note, however, a harmful result is just as suggestive of supernatural intervention as a beneficial result would have been. Both outcomes are a matter for contemplation.

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