From the Evangelical Atheist: News Flash: Distant Strangers Talking to Themselves Fail to Save Lives.

T.E.A. is discussing a Washington Post article on a study just published in the Lancet by Krucoff et al of Duke University Medical Center. (There is a summary on the Lancet‘s site; free registration is required. Another synopsis is available without restrictions on Duke University’s site.)

Here are the first three paras of the Post article:

Praying for sick strangers does not improve their prospects of recovering, according to a large, carefully designed study that casts doubt on the widely held belief that being prayed for can help a person heal.
The study of more than 700 heart patients, one of the most ambitious attempts to test the medicinal power of prayer, showed that those who had people praying for them from a distance, and without their knowledge, were no less likely to suffer a major complication, end up back in the hospital or die.
While skeptics of prayer welcomed the results, other researchers questioned the findings, and proponents of prayer maintained that God’s influence lies beyond the reach of scientific validation.

What? – skeptics like these results, but proponents don’t? This is science, not an opinion poll! Here are the results. It doesn’t matter how anyone wanted them to come out.

I do see one methodological problem in this study, though. “The mechanisms through which distant intercessory prayer might convey healing benefit are unknown,” the Lancet article stipulates. True enough, but you know what? We don’t know that prayer even exists. Has anyone recorded a specific activity, or a specific collection of activites, or a loosely-correlated family of activities that corresponds to this word? Of course not, because the very idea makes no sense. The most plausible reason that prayer has never been found to have measurable results is that there is nothing people do that can legitimately be called prayer – duh! I mean, doesn’t the fact that there is no god you can pray to kind of call into question the idea that prayer has any function at all? Of course it does.

Listen to me: Give it up. Let it go. Drop it, and let it lie. There are no gods, so no one has ever had and no one will ever have a conversation with any god. The “tools” we’ve been given to effect that communication – prayer, ceremonies, blessings, invocations, special words, beautiful costumes – these are tricks; figments; lies; games; scams. It’s all pretend, and it has to be entirely discredited and forgotten if we all want, some bright day, to be happy.

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