Friday, March 24, 2006

More nonsense from the Washington Post....and it's Buddhist nonsense, too!

I bet you didn't know it, but Buddhism "believes in prayer for healing." I didn't know it. I didn't know dharmas had the capability of being credulous.

Yes, the Washington Post that respectable enough publication to give serial plagiarists like Ben Domenech a forum has now taken on prayer...and it's what you'd expect:

The outpouring of spiritual healing has inspired a small group of researchers to attempt to use the tools of modern science to test the power of prayer to cure others.

I had to look up "outpouring." There has to be something poured out. "Healing" assumes some kind of actual benefit.

Fair and balanced?

You decide...

Skeptics say the work is a deeply flawed and misguided waste of money that irresponsibly attempts to validate the supernatural with science....

As one might have divined from what I've already written, my apprehension of the dharma doesn't admit a supernatural as distinct from a natural that behaves as we expect it to behave. You can't cheat mother nature, and you can't cheat karma. Sickeness and medicine do heal each other, and all the world's medicine, yeah. But that's not anything that's not from one's "self."

The dharma's not some kind of ATM; it's about practice.

But you can also guess... the Washington Post's article is classic "he said, she said" journalism...

Proponents, however, maintain the research is valuable, given the large numbers of people who believe in the power of prayer to influence health. Surveys have found that perhaps half of Americans regularly pray for their own health, and at least a quarter have others pray for them.

The real science that's been done is good science; unfortunately for the argumentum ad numerum afficionados, it also shows that this stuff doesn't work in practice. That's good science.

Many studies done over the years indicate that the devout tend to be healthier. But the reasons remain far from clear. Healthy people may be more likely to join churches. The pious may lead more wholesome lifestyles. Churches, synagogues and mosques may help people take better care of themselves. The quiet meditation and incantations of praying, or the comfort of being prayed for, appears to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, slow the heart rate and have other potentially beneficial effects.

Well yes and no. It'd take me time to dig it up, but there are differences. Buddhists and atheists stay married longer, and Baptists tend to be overweight.

And then there's the "war effect," - a study undone: is there a correlation between war and religious belief, which would make some systems more toxic than others? Not that Buddhism's summum bonum here would always be long life; there was that Vietnamese monk who burned himself to death...

And this stuff makes me cringe:

"Yesterday's science fiction often becomes tomorrow's science," said John A. Astin of the California Pacific Medical Center.

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,"
[Mitchell W. Krucoff of Duke University] said. "That's at least one very theoretical model that might support notions of distant prayer or distant healing."

This is pretty embarassing. Quantum effects happen of course, but you like, you know have to have a theoretical model that supports it. This stuff is just parapsychological gook.

Bad science, bad dharma.

No comments: