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[escepticos] el poder curativo de la oración

Hola a todos,

No se si habreis tenido ocasión de leer acerca de un trabajo publicado en el British Medical Journal que parece demostrar el poder de la oración (y la que se hizo hace más de cuatro años!!) en la curación más rápida de un infección.

Lo que adjunto es un artículo comentado ese trabajo, que he recogido de biomednet.com:

The Power of Prayer Posted February 15, 2002 · Issue 120

by Gavin E. Jarvis
Gavin E. Jarvis is currently doing postdoctoral research in the Department of Pharmacology at Oxford University. He qualified as a veterinary surgeon in 1992 from Cambridge Veterinary School, and spent four years at AstraZeneca R&D working on novel anti-thrombotic agents.

In a fascinating article, Leibovici [1 ] appears to have demonstrated, using a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, that a prayer said for individuals with bloodstream infection 4-10 years previously can significantly effect the duration of fever and the length of stay in hospital.

He randomized 3,393 patients who had suffered from a bloodstream infection between 1990 and 1996 into either an intervention prayer group or a control group. Assessment of the baseline characteristics of the patients indicated that the randomization had been effective, yet, following the intervention, made in July 2000, there was a significant beneficial effect on the prayer group 4-10 years previously. Leibovici concludes that "remote, retroactive intercessory prayer . . . should be considered for use in clinical practice."

On the face of it, the study appears to have been methodogically sound and acceptance of the conclusions perhaps ought to follow on naturally. However, what those conclusions are remains unclear.

Does the study prove the existence of God, or the existence of type I errors? The two significant values obtained were P=0.01 and P=0.04. These may seem only "marginally" significant, but it would be disingenuous to dismiss them for this reason alone - after all, drugs have been granted product licenses on equally "marginal" data. That type I errors occur is, a priori, true - we do not know this, a posteriori , on the basis of scientific evidence. However, we can only dismiss particular P values as statistical errors with certainty if we make some prior assumptions.

The obvious prior assumption here is that God does not exist, in which case, the study proves nothing, since the explanation for the results is already clear to us, and the hypothesis that God does exist clearly cannot be tested under such an assumption. Perhaps the lack of any mechanism to explain the effect could be given as reason to dismiss the results. Such a deficit is, however, recognizable a priori, and if genuinely fatal to subsequent interpretation, should prevent any experiment without a potential mechanistic explanation from ever being performed. Which comes first, hypothesis or data?

It is not unreasonable to suppose that an Absolute Being would be able to act unhindered by the constraints of time. The same cannot be said however, for the methodology of randomized controlled trials. The assumption of cause and effect in time underpins the validity of this and all other scientific tools, thereby making them unsuitable for investigating "Acts of God." This can be appreciated by considering the likely outcome of the ethical obligation to apply the "proven" intervention to the control group!

A further concern is that of publication bias. Might only "significant" studies make it into the editor's in-tray? Perhaps scientists and editors inadvertently introduce bias into the presentation of data on the grounds of so-called "novelty." Ought a study be published primarily because the results are novel or because the methodology is sound?

If, however, the study does prove the existence of God, it is remarkable that He has evaded scientific detection for so long, or that He has allowed Himself to be so simplistically revealed. Such a God does not easily fit with the job description of the one omniscient, omnipotent, divine Being of most religious traditions. God may not play dice, but I am sure He is a more than capable statistician. And does prayer work? If so, then it cannot be understood simply as a mechanistically obscure form of magic, otherwise it would just be magic.

Leibovici's study raises important philosophical and methodological questions for scientists of whatever religious persuasion, but perhaps one important lesson is that there are dimensions to human existence that are impervious to experimental science. To acknowledge this with humility may itself be a form of prayer. Amen.

1. Leibovici, L. 2001. Effects of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients with bloodstream infection: randomised controlled trial. British Medical Journal, 323, 1450-1451.

F. Perfectti                     fperfect en supercable.es