Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

I know my reaction to this story may be considered offensive to some religious people, but I think this is %$@#& hilarious :

The largest study of the medical power of prayer found secret prayers on patients’ behalf didn’t reduce complications in heart surgery and there was a 14 percent higher chance of problems when patients were aware of the prayers.

The research, appearing in the April issue of the American Heart Journal, followed 1,802 patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery at six hospitals. Of those, one-third weren’t prayed for, another third were prayed for without their knowledge by three U.S. Christian congregations, and the rest knew they were the subject of prayers by the church members.

The researchers, led by Herbert Benson and Jeffery A. Dusek of Harvard Medical School and Mind/Body Institute, found that people who knew they received intercessory prayers had the highest chance of complications of the three groups, 59 percent. Among patients who didn’t know whether they were the subject of secret prayers, complications occurred in 52 percent of those who were prayed for and 51 percent of those who weren’t.

The death rates for 30 days after surgery were similar across all the groups, the two-year study showed.

In other news, placebos aren’t as effective as medicine. Who knew?!

Seeing as this is an article critical of religion written in America, I expected this bit of backtracking at the end of the article :

Patients in the three groups had similar religious profiles and most believed family and friends would be praying for them. The researchers didn’t attempt to curtail those or the subjects’ own prayers.

“With so many individuals receiving prayer from friends and family, as well as personal prayer, it may be impossible to disentangle the effects of study prayer from background prayer,” co-author Manoj Jain, from Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, said in a statement released by Columbia University Medical Center yesterday.

Prayers from stragers don’t work, but prayers from friends and family might…yeah, that’s it. The closer to you are to the person praying, the more effective it is. Think of it as “six degrees of Jesus”.

There have been enough studies like this with different sample sizes and methodologies to pretty much please anyone, but it’s kinda sad to think that a study like this is required to temper its findings with a disclaimer to protect the feelings of those who might be upset by the results. Granted, when you’re studying prayer, the prayers of family and friends are an unknown quantity, but it’s not like this are factors “impossible” to measure.