March 31, 2006


Dang nabbit, those pesky scientists keep trying to find evidence that God exists, and can never find a gosh darn thing.

Distant prayer has no effect on patients

'BOSTON, March 30 (UPI) -- A U.S. study of heart bypass patients finds that distant prayer had no measurable effect on their recovery.

In the study, 1,800 patients having surgery at six hospitals were divided into three groups. One group was told they would be prayed for, while the other two were told they might be, The Washington Post reported.

Groups of Catholics and Protestants were recruited to pray for the group of patients who had been told they would be the beneficiaries of prayers and for one of the other groups, mentioning the patients specifically by first name and last initial. There was no measurable difference between the groups who were not sure, while the patients who knew they were prayer targets had a slightly higher complication rate.

The study was published in the American Heart Journal.'
Those who knew they were being prayed for had a higher incidence of complications. Was the pressure of knowing they were being prayed for hard on the heart? Did they scoff and the treatment knowing that they had cheerleaders praying for them? Why would God let this happen at a time when more and more people are doubting him, and some are even laughing their asses off at him, and his flock of believers?

Maybe God doesn't do heart disease.
Maybe the John Templeton Foundation can spend another 2.4 million dollars to see if prayer to God can make amputees grow back limbs. I'd be betting on a zero % growth rate, and I'm sure even the most hardcore Fundies would be expecting that too. But if God is up there, he should be able to make at least one limb grow back. C'mon, it's God. God can do anything.......................if he existed.

How the study was performed.

Thanks to Rubin for the heads up. I'll also give credit to those who posted this story ahead of me: SerandEz, Tammy Bruce, NoGodBlog,
and Boing Boing who adds "maybe they were praying to the wrong God."


  1. If I knew someone was praying for me, it might stress me out; causing complications.

  2. I quite liked knowing my mother prayed for me. Mothers and daughters are Ok but anyone else is a bit creepy.

  3. I always considered praying to be insulting for a God... If I was good nothing would piss me off more than nagging little humans praying for total strangers, opposing my will...but thats just me..


  4. I've heard that many priests find that praying is a good way to get an altar boy on his knees.

  5. BEAJ-

    Here's the best analysis of the study I've seen so far.

    Via Pharyngula:

  6. Did you read the follow-up to the study? It seems that while the prayers weren't answered, all of the spoons in the hospital cafeteria were mysteriously bent.

  7. On prayer:

    "If there is a God that has special plans for humans, then He has taken very great pains to hide His concern for us. To me it would seem impolite if not impious to bother such a God with our prayers."
    -- Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory

  8. I'm always amazed when people actually believe that talking to oneself (praying) will have some kind of effect on the real world. What about wishing upon a star? What about crossing your fingers or knocking on wood? The degree to which people are superstitious makes me embarrassed on their behalf. I really wish I could stop saying "God Bless You" when people sneeze, but I don't want to be taken for rude. However, it pains me to say it since I know from where the expression came. In olden times, people thought the soul might escape the body during a sneeze. Therefore, saying "God Bless You" would cause God to secure the soul during the sneeze. But, try as I might to not say it, I end up getting dirty looks.

  9. What I found surprising is that time was found so that a study like that one could be done. Prayer is a perfect example of a concrete process of thought. Lack of logic and of abstract reasoning. Everything is possible. A lightning can strike what we do not like, money can fall from the sky. Healing, of course, that is easy.

  10. BEAJ, Here is a wonderful cartoon to open a discussion:

  11. TP, thanks but Atheists of Silicon Valley are on my blogroll already. They have lots of great links there.

  12. I think I am probably the most religiously minded atheist here. I still wince a little when I hear people take God’s name in vain for instance. Yet I can’t break my habit of believing in things like karma. Sometimes I wont do something because I believe, somehow, there will be bad consequences. An extreme example would be encouraging someone to have an abortion. I wouldn’t do this because I would fear that sometime down the track I would have a handicapped child or something. On rare occasions when I give something away I console myself by thinking that in the future I will get more back because of my generosity (cast your bread upon the waters). Religious folk link these types of things to a controlling deity yet could there be a more rational explanation? Having an abortion at a younger age and then having children when older could increase the likelihood of birth effects. Being a generous person could open up more opportunities.

    The powerful aspect of some religious belief is that it does appear to work in a sense. I maintain that the ancient writings are colourful ways of explaining why bad shit happens when you do bad shit and good things happen when you do good things

  13. AA, I think the mind is capable of many things that we haven't explored yet.
    Yes, it wouldn't surprise me if psychic powers between people exist. And I do believe in mind over matter in some instances, and maybe some of us are more genetically inclined to be able to "fix" ourselves than others. I could be wrong, but I allow for the possiblity.

    Of course, this has nothing to do with God. This is based on biology.

    It is amazing the sixth sense dogs somewhat appear to have. Of course they have a better sense of smell and sound than us humanoids, and some of what we think of doggy ESP could just be a reaction to us, that maybe a really good poker player could pick up on.

  14. I love the cat I wonder if he is a Bhuddist?

  15. It's simple. God does not like to be tested. The power of prayer has been proven to the faithful time and again. The power of prayer can never be proven through skepticism. If you have to prove the necessity of faith, then it would no longer be called faith.