Your tax dollars at work: $2.2 million spent on studying “remote prayer healing.”

This is annoying. Despite most studies indicating there’s nothing to this nonsense—and a couple that did seem to indicate it works ended up being deeply flawed—the money keeps flowing into studies of the effect of prayer on distance healing:

The federal government has spent $2.2 million in the past five years on studies of distant healing, which have also drawn support from private foundations.

“I would like to see us stop wasting precious research dollars putting religious practices to the test of science,” Sloan said. “It’s a waste of money, and it trivializes the religious experience.”

Even some advocates of incorporating more prayer and spirituality into medicine agree.

“I don’t see how you could quantify prayer—either the results of it or the substance of it,” said the Rev. Raymond J. Lawrence of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. “God is beyond the reach of science. It’s absurd to think you could use it to examine God’s play.”

Perhaps most important, many scientists say, is that there is no rational explanation for how this kind of prayer might work.

“There’s nothing we know about the physical universe that could account for how the prayers of someone in Washington, D.C., could influence the health of a group of people in Iowa—nothing whatsoever,” Sloan said.

What’s really sad about this is reading some of the kooky attempts at coming up with a scientific basis for the possibility that remote praying might actually do something:

Proponents often cite a phenomenon from quantum physics, in which distant particles can affect each other’s behavior in mysterious ways.

“When quantum physics was emerging, Einstein wrote about spooky interactions between particles at a distance,” Krucoff said. “That’s at least one very theoretical model that might support notions of distant prayer or distant healing.”

This is one of the things that really bugs the shit out of me about a lot of True Believers™. When science doesn’t agree with their preconceptions (e.g. the Theory of Evolution) then there’s no end to the derision and belittling of science regardless of how much evidence there may be, but when they can use some esoteric aspect of science that they only have a meager grasp on to support their preconceptions then it may as well have been carved in stone as being true by the hand of God himself.

So prayer can heal people at a distance because of some “spooky” interaction between particles under Quantum Mechanics? Wow! That’s just such a great theory! It actually makes the Intelligent Design Theory seem somewhat well thought-out.

Give me a break. Pray all you want if it makes you feel better and keeps your dumb ass off the streets, but until you can come up with a reasonable theory on how it supposedly actually helps then stop wasting tax money.

22 thoughts on “Your tax dollars at work: $2.2 million spent on studying “remote prayer healing.”

  1. Hehe! -probably say’s a lot about me,but I could’nt stop playing with Little George! (not THAT little George wink  ) – all it needs are some bone-crunching sound effects

  2. Of course if its a quasi-study, it’ll be poor science and shouldn’t get the time of day.

    But, as an atheist, I very much support using real science to address questions from religion.  We atheists can’t very much crow about how there is no evidence for what theists believe and then complain when someone one attempt to OBJECTIVELY test whether it prayer, etc. works.  Theists might very well though since it opposes the concept of faith (don’t test God, etc.).

    My hypothesis is that they’ll find no correlation between distant prayer, esp. prayers unknown to the intended recipient, and so when found, it will support my position.  If instead a strong correlation is found, I will have to consider what possible explanations exist, quantum physics or otherwise.

    Finally, if prayer does help, who cares if God exists or not: it helps.  I’d start praying then if I thought it’d make a difference for the same reasons that people from centuries past did things that worked for reasons mysterious to them, only to later find the scientific, natural explanation.

    The application of methodical and objective science is worthwhile and brings a refreshing perspective on the hand waving that usually accompanies talk about religion.  Consider how much religion costs this country in wasted resources, a few million for a study to shine a light on it is a REASONable investment.

  3. I would go along and agree with RDNewman, that a few million dollars spent to disprove (or prove- got to keep an open mind here) the efficacy of “remote prayer healing” would be small potatoes, and money well spent, if it changed any minds (“hey, maybe we’re wrong about the Rapture too, and we’d better do something about global warming after all”, or “hey, God does exist after all- if I get my ticket to Heaven I don’t have to worry about anything else”).

    I will not hold my breath, however.  My favorite quote from the article:

    Two smaller, more recently completed studies illustrate yet another problem. Each involved about 150 patients with brain tumors or AIDS. Only some were targeted by “distant healing” and only some knew they were the recipients. But in addition to traditional prayers, many of the dozens of “healers” used other approaches, such as visualizing patients and sending a “healing intention” or “energy” or “light.” Both studies, which will be published later this year, did not show any effect. But neither of the researchers who led them is advocating giving up, saying their studies may have been doomed by including too many healing variations.

    I guess the “healing intention” prayers were slugging it out with the “traditional” prayers at the quantum level, and leaving the hapless patients in the lurch…

    Speaking of quantum mechanics- as Richard Feynmann said, anyone who thinks he understands it, doesn’t; and thus, it has turned into a dumping ground for all kinds of “mysteries”, such as why things are uncertain in our daily lives, and how there can be a connection between our non-physical soul and our physical brain.  Poor little quantum particles- they have their work cut out for them.  Not only do they have the fate of Schrödinger’s cat on their hands, but now they have to understand all Earthly languages and adjudicate disputes between competing prayers, and deliver health (or not) to distant recipients.  No wonder they’re trying to stay mysterious- they don’t want any more work.

  4. Well if the studies have already shown no correlation, then it doesn’t make sense to keep throwing money at it hoping the results will change.  Or are they praying for that, too?

    Retards.

  5. Remote prayer healing works. God is just not on their side.

    How about using the 2.2Mil to develop a bigger H-Bomb to blow up those stupid bastards?

  6. No, No, NO The real reason that these studies are flawed is that there is no negative control!  How do we know that the “unprayed for” group didn’t have prayers from some other source?  This would completely negate the study, since everyone would have been prayed for!

    The lack of proper controls (and not coincidentally, predictions) is a fundamental problem in studies like this.

    SG

  7. Science Goddess is right.  With all the people that pray for world peace, an end to suffering, etc, along with the nutjobs who pray that entire countries will sink into the ocean, how can you be sure somebody elsewhere isn’t fucking up your study? 

    Hey, maybe we should sell alumninum foil “Prayer Shields” to block the bad prayers from the extremists…

    Though they won’t work against the govt – foil hats were found to enhance two govt frequencies instead of reducing signal strength.

  8. It’s not that I’m opposed to having these studies done, it’s that I’m opposed to spending TAX DOLLARS on them. If you can land some private funding to support your prayer study then, by all means, study the living shit out of it, but don’t waste taxpayer dollars on this nonsense.

    There have already been quite a number of such studies in the past and the one that showed the most dramatic results also ended up being fraudulent.

  9. So what happens when you pray FOR God to be happy?  Is that masturbatory omnipotence or will you just run headlong into the problem of evil?

  10. From a scientific standpoint, since you can’t rigourously control if subjects are being prayed for outside tested conditions, you can statistically evaluate over a large enough population what a constant influence might be.  Then with a large enough pool of prayers directing their prayers to a subpopulation, you should be able to measure the increased effect were any to be present.  Treat the “uninvited” prayers as noise in the data.

    But what if the effect is negative?  Now there’s a topic that might generate some hate mail…

  11. Zilch: I would go along and agree with RDNewman, that a few million dollars spent to disprove (or prove- got to keep an open mind here) the efficacy of “remote prayer healing

  12. If innocence could keep us safe we’d all be saints – Travis McGee.
    I only threw that one in coz I like it.  grin

    Nothing Fails Like Prayer
    http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/index.html
    “ … is it not in a way arrogant for a theist to ask God to take some action? Is it not a claim that they know better than he does how things should be? After all, if God is omniscient and omnipotent, nothing can happen if he does not desire it to happen. Nothing can happen against his will. Therefore, whatever state of affairs a theist seeks to change through prayer must be God’s will, and by seeking to change it, they are in essence saying that what God has done already is not good enough, or just plain wrong.

  13. The lack of proper controls (and not coincidentally, predictions) is a fundamental problem in studies like this.

    You’ve hit the nail on the thumb, SG.  How do we know there isn’t some God hacker out there, some kid (maybe in Normal, Illinois) who at this very moment is praying fervently:  “Hey, God, You know all those studies about the power of remote prayer?  Of course You do.  Well, I pray that all the subjects not being prayed for stay just as healthy, or unhealthy, as those being prayed for.  If You answer my prayer, I’ll give you Satan’s eBay account number.”

    There are lots of likely reasons for such studies to fail.  The most obvious one is that the Devil is putting His twisted spin on them, either by directly manipulating the health of the subjects, or merely by causing the researchers to lie about positive results.  He put fossils in the Earth and gave us rock’n’roll and the Big Dead Fish of Reason to test our faith, so this would be peanuts for Him.

  14. The US Government has also spent about 10 times that amount to research remote-viewing, with good results.  The program were funded under the name SCANATE.  DARPA has has spent considerable capital in this area.

    Sometimes we don’t know all the *physical laws* to the Universe.  To assume we do, and flippantly dismiss opportunities, is silliness.

    China ain’t exactly a bastion of religious-based-science, and they spend even more on this stuff than American or the British combined.

    rob@egoz.org

  15. The US Government has also spent about 10 times that amount to research remote-viewing, with good results.

    Puthoff and Targ had a good result – they managed to get hold of tons of taxpayer’s cash to burn through.

    Rob, you seem a bit off your usual trolling game?

  16. Rob Adams writes…

    The US Government has also spent about 10 times that amount to research remote-viewing, with good results.  The program were funded under the name SCANATE.  DARPA has has spent considerable capital in this area.

    Sometimes we don’t know all the *physical laws* to the Universe.  To assume we do, and flippantly dismiss opportunities, is silliness.

    I’ve written about the government spending money on Remote Viewing studies previously and your claim that it provided good results is bullshit.

    Over the course of 20 years and $20 million a program called Star Gate originally started by the CIA in 1972 and bumped around to several different government agencies was shut down in 1995 at the recommendation of the American Institutes for Research (AIR) after it conducted an evaluation of the program at the government’s request. According to the CIA the program “has not been shown to have value in intelligence operations” and “remote viewings have never provided an adequate basis for ‘actionable’ intelligence operations-that is, information sufficiently valuable or compelling so that action was taken as a result.” In short, it was a waste of time and money. It’s just a shame it took 20 years for them to figure this out.

    In 1989 Major Ed Dames, who participated in the program during the time that the Army took it over, took it upon himself to found a private company devoted to remote viewing called PSI TECH. Ed Dames went on to acquire no small amount of notoriety on Art Bell’s Coast-to-Coast AM radio show as “Doctor Doom” for repeated announcements of impending disasters that never actually happened. He has since left PSI TECH after a protracted legal battle with his (now) ex-wife who controls the company to this day. To date no reputable studies of remote viewing have suggested that it’s a viable form of gathering accurate information.

    Remote viewing, like many purported psychic abilities, is still a pipe dream at best and bullshit at worst. My vote is on bullshit.

    China ain’t exactly a bastion of religious-based-science, and they spend even more on this stuff than American or the British combined.

    What China chooses to waste its money on is of little concern to me. Let them throw it away if they wish to do so as it’ll be less for them to spend on things like tanks and bombs.

  17. Remote viewing, like many purported psychic abilities, is still a pipe dream at best and bullshit at worst. My vote is on bullshit.

    Oh yeah, Mr. Smarty Pants?  The next thing you’ll say is that Uri Geller can’t really fix old watches over the television…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.