Hello fellow atheists. I am writing to ask for some help. My parents aren't real religious but anytime we have talks about supernatural events my mom claims there 'has' to be more out there. She then inevitably references how there was a study where people prayed for bacteria growth and that it grew faster than the bacteria with no prayer. I ask for her source of the information and she said she thought Oprah had mentioned it.
Of course I have found Christian sites like (http://1stholistic.com/prayer/hol_prayer_proof.htmr) that reinforce my Mom's stance.
"Even more outrageous experiments in distance healing involve nonhuman subjects. In a survey of 131 controlled experiments on spiritual healing, it was found that prayed-for rye grass grew taller; prayed-for yeast resisted the toxic effects of cyanide; prayed-for test-tube bacteria grew faster. "I adore these experiments," says Larry Dossey, M.D., perhaps the world's most vocal expert on prayer and medicine. "Because they don't involve humans, you can run them with fanatical precision and you can run them hundreds of times. It's the best evidence of all that prayer can change the world. And it operates as strongly on the other side of the Earth as it does at the bedside."
How would you go about refuting these 'experiments'?
The key is in the (sorry for the unnecessarily big word) operationalization of the stories. The author clearly had a vested interest in this article showing the sucess of prayer so he / she worded each story to imply something that isnt really there. It is too numerous to go in to each one but, in general, look at the use of "including prayer" "along with prayer" "less (or more) likely" "integrating with prayer", etc. Every single one of them indicates that prayer was a tacked-on part of a larger, modern and scientifically sound treatment plan. Why not take the patients out of the cardiac-care unit and in to the hallway and pray until the heart attack stops? Because it would be unethical and nearly always fatal. (But when that one survives-glory to god!) It is easy to do something and include an obviously random variable and then later claim that the variable aided in the outcome. This exact same study could have been used to show that a good play book, sound coaching and a strong defensive line... along with giant foam #1 hands led to last sunday's victory by the Cincinnati Bengals. The article is dripping with correlation without causation and doesn't represent anything close to sound science. Oh, and one final complaint. None of the actual published papers are sited or posted for peer review.
I just did a Google search of Dr. Koening from Duke University (mentioned in the artilce) and found the following interview where he contradicts the study and states that he is not surprised that a recent study showed no correlation between prayed and health because God is not quantative. He then goes on to tout the social benefit of going to church. Absolute nonsense.
By the way, my favorite line of the article:
"The experiments showed that a simple "Thy will be done" approach was quantitatively more powerful than when specific results were held in mind."