In September 2001, the Journal of Reproductive Medicine weighed in on the healing power of God. A Columbia University research group reported that patients at a fertility clinic in Seoul were twice as likely to get pregnant when Christians prayed for them. Within a month, the study was in the New York Times science section and on Good Morning America, where the medical editor for ABC News called it "very well done" and opined that "getting pregnant involves a lot of biological, psychological, maybe even spiritual factors that we don't yet understand."
The prayer study has since fallen from grace. Scientists around the world wrote angry letters to the journal attacking the methodology, and the research-protections office of the Department of Health and Human Services looked into whether the subjects had properly given consent. Last year, the study's senior author removed his name from the paper, saying that he hadn't directly participated in the research. The real lead author will not discuss the work, and the third author -- a parapsychologist, lawyer, and convicted con man -- is now serving time in a federal prison (for an unrelated charge of fraud)...
Wednesday, April 6, 2005
Slate magazine's explainer section is often of interest. An article by Daniel Engber criticizes (of all things) peer review: