Friday, March 24, 2006

Researchers Look at Prayer and Healing

Researchers Look at Prayer and Healing:
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Conclusions and Premises Debated as Big Study's Release Nears

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 24, 2006; Page A01

"At the Fairfax Community Church in Virginia, the faithful regularly pray for ailing strangers. Same goes at the Adas Israel synagogue in Washington and the Islamic Center of Maryland in Gaithersburg.

In churches, mosques, ashrams, "healing rooms," prayer groups and homes nationwide, millions of Americans offer prayers daily to heal themselves, family, friends, co-workers and even people found through the Internet. Fueled by the upsurge in religious expression in the United States, prayer is the most common complement to mainstream medicine, far outpacing acupuncture, herbs, vitamins and other alternative remedies...."
Research that attempts to explain how the supernatural and the medical profession interact tends to elicit opinions. The topic of prayer and healing has drawn fire from people that think that "...the work is a deeply flawed and misguided waste of money that irresponsibly attempts to validate the supernatural with science." It has also drawn comments from believers who "...say it is pointless to try to divine the workings of God with experiments devised by mortals." Others see the demonstrably large number of people who pray for themslves or others, and believe that such research is desirable and may address questions that need to be answered.

It is already accepted that devout believers tend to be healthier, but there is no way of knowing whether the healthy are more more likely to join churches, if if they may take care of themselves better as a consequence of their beliefs.

Two new studies are slated for publication that are said to conclude that prayer has no effect on healing, but not all the people quoted in this article think this will definitively answer the question.

What it may distill down to is the fact that the supernatural is, by nature, not amenable to study using the methods of science. And the the type of experimental designs needed to answer such questions are not easy to get approved.

And perhaps most significant -- the 50% of the people who regularly pray for themselves or others will continue to do so.

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