Sunday, 16 June 2013

godandscience VIII

This time up the godandscience post I want to debunk is simply titled Prayer for Healing: What Does Science Say?

The article is in reference to a study published in the Southern Medical Journal entitled "Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer (STEPP) on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Rural Mozambique". Which is a horrible study to say the least and has been shown to be flawed by others. Before I point out a few simple flaws in the actual publication, let us take a look at what the author has to say about it.

In the introduction the author points out that skeptics have never said that healings from prayer are made up as we would get laughed at. So lets just say bullshit! Where has this guy been hiding? Skeptics are pointing out all the time that prayer does not work. But it gets worse the author then goes on to say that these healing are said by skeptics to be "Instead, they attributed the healings to the power of Satan."Does this author even know what a skeptic is?

If a skeptic does not believe prayer attributed to the Christian god is going to work, then why would a skeptic believe that Satan is doing the miracles. Why Why Why, as I smash my head against the wall pleading for reason with this fool.

The author then points out that he was healed from an incurable disease when he was not a Christian. Please realise that the author is a "scientist" and so surely he should know that this is not verifiable when it is just what you say. Personal experience is not scientific proof. But I digress lets get to the publication.

So who are the authors of this study and what are their affiliations. This is always important as we want to make sure that there is no bias.

The list of Authors is as follows:
  • The lead author is Candy Gunther Brown who is an associate professor of religious studies.
  • Stephen C. Mory (is an MD)
  • Rebecca Williams (is an MD)
  • Michael J McClymond is an associate professor of theological studies.
Additionally the authors non biased associations are:
  • Department of Religious Studies, Indiana University 
  • Department of Theological Studies, Saint Louis University.
The authors funding comes from the following organisations:

So I am just going to go out on a limb here and say maybe this paper is going to be biased as every organisation and author is heavily involved in the Church.

The participants in this study were actual members or attendees at the church meeting where they were recruited. So again they could have bias or experience a placebo effect. Additionally the hearing tests where done with time constraints and so were probably not accurate. 
"Due to time constraints, hearing thresholds were measured for all subjects only at 3 kHz in each ear separately instead of across the whole frequency spectrum; we took additional measurements as time allowed."
Interestingly, the authors found a greater improvement in hearing improvement than visual improvement. Makes you wonder if the method was time constrained and not accurate........

Lastly, the authors use the dreaded p factor. And show us readers that there is a 1 in 333 chance (p = 0.003) that the hearing improvement could have been up to chance. Maybe the authors should realise this value makes no sense statistically especially when the subset you are using is 18 ears of 11 subjects..... What? 18 ears of 11 subjects? Why does that not make any sense, maybe the data gets skewed the other way when all 22 ears are present.

For the full manuscript see the link below.

Full Article Here
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