Archive for Placebo

Taxpayer Dollars to Promote Prayer..? You Better Believe it.

Posted in Atheism, Religion, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2010 by neandergal

When the emergency technician is about to apply CPR, nobody says: “Wait! Let’s pray first.” exclaims a quote from the Skeptic Dictionary

Well it turns out this may actually be the case in some instances. Biologist and science blogger PZ Myers reports on his blog post how the US government is funding metaphysical methods for promoting health and well being. It is hard to believe that a state department is advocating metaphysical baloney, but the evidence is loudly and clearly displayed on the US Department of Health and Human Services’ website.  

The Healthfinder.gov website content includes an article, Can Hands-on Prayer Help Heal? The article cites a bogus peer-reviewed study published in the September issue of the Southern Medical Journal. The peer reviewed study on “proximal intercessory prayer (PIP)” is the epitome of bad science at its worse. Proximal Intercessory Prayer is a euphemism for “abracadabra” and is a made-up term to describe incantations to the almighty for favors. The study on hearing and sight impaired subjects in Mozambique is bogus because it violated at least three basic scientific method protocols rendering it scientifically flawed. Miraculously, the study passed the peer-review process. 

A scientific experiment requires subjects to be randomized groups that include a control group and measurable variables.  The study was suppose to test the power of prayer on 23 non-randomized sight and, or hearing impaired subjects.  The so called improvements that resulted in prayer were anecdotal rather than empirically based. Anecdotal is testimonial and therefore subjective. 

The article on healthfinder.gov states, “And while they don’t discount that much of the results may stem from a placebo effect, benefits did seem to occur in some individuals.” The placebo effect is what clinical trials of treatments test for and compares it with the real drug for true effectiveness. Just because the placebo effect may work in some cases, does not make it effective treatment for all or anywhere near most individuals.

In the words of Richard Dawkins, “There are all sorts of things that would be comforting. I expect an injection of morphine would be comforting… But to say that something is comforting is not to say that it’s true.”

Sources:

PZ Myers: Pharyngula – Our Government at Work

PZ Myers – Pharyngula

Southern Medical Journal