Last week, the newspapers reported on a study which showed that prayer didn't help recovering heart patients. The Wall Street Journal has a brief three paragraph editorial that I don't get:
April 3, 2006; Page A16
If you had a glass or two of red wine over the weekend or managed to fit in a 30-minute workout, chances are you were responding, at least in part, to medical advice based on scientific research about how to maintain a healthy heart.
Now along comes a new study on cardiac health that even its authors caution against making too much of. The research, released last week, found that heart-surgery patients showed no benefit when strangers prayed for their recovery. Patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications -- perhaps because they were alarmed that they were ill enough to be in anyone's prayers.
We don't presume to know what this study proves, other than perhaps that science is not an especially effective means by which to study God. Other research -- not to mention the everyday experience of just about every medical professional -- has shown that prayer can be beneficial for the sick. In any event, no scientific study is likely to stop people from praying for those who are ill, or stop the sick from offering up prayers for their own good health. To which we say, Amen.
I thought the study was pretty interesting. People are putting in a lot of effort to pray for people, and they believe their prayers are helping. This proves that prayer has no measurable effect. People should know when what they are doing is useless. Why should a whole realm of human activity, religion, be somehow off limits to scientific investigation?
Has anyone considered that they were praying to the wrong god? Maybe Hindu, Taoist, or Jewish prayers would have worked? There are many religions in the world, and for the most part they conflict with each other such that only one religion can be correct. Maybe science can figure out which religion is the true religion and which ones are false.