To begin this post, I should put myself, as its writer, within context. I am a Christian Lutheran. I am white and have really only lived within Modernist American culture. I like science, and although philosophically I identify myself as Postmodern, scientifically, Modernist perspectives ring true for me. When I talk about faith and science, this is the place I speak from.
A recent study put out by the Brandeis University took a look at research studies conducted on the healing power of prayer from 1965 – 2009 and found that the studies actually had very little to say about whether or not prayer played a role in physical healing, but more to say about the role religion played in the researchers lives’ and the overall societal context at the time. For instance, the earliest studies only considered Protestant prayers and only recently have non-Christian intercessions been considered by the scientific community. When conducting the studies, the presence of some basic requirements of scientific experimentation have been lacking, such as true control groups. Brandeis’ study seems to say that extricating something like prayer from its’ web of social, religious, and expectation-based contexts is near impossible. There are some studies that say that prayer is correlated with the person’s health improving, as long as they know that they are the subjects of prayer. Other studies seem to say that being prayed for is actually associated with low rates of positive outcomes. I would venture to say that the effectiveness of prayer has more to do with the belief system of the person who is the subject of prayer and the relationship between the pray-er and the pray-ee. Like many things in science and culture, the larger context needs to be considered.
One of my favorite things about scientific research is how true research isn’t something to be argued about. All research considered fact remains simply not unproven, and if you have a problem with the standing research, go and do a study to disprove it and submit it to the scientific community. One of the things that bothers me to no end is when people say things like they “don’t believe in evolution.” Evolution isn’t a matter of belief. It is a matter of research, and current research most widely supported in the scientific community supports evolution. If you have a problem with it, take a look at the research. Or better yet, examine your own beliefs to see where the dissonance comes from. Is your religious beliefs dependant on research supporting them? From a Christian context, doesn’t Hebrews 11:1 read “For faith is the evidence of things unseen…”? Science, research doesn’t concern itself with things that are unquantifiable. Faith doesn’t need to be proved by the quantified. In the same way, scientific research doesn’t need to fall within ones’ own unquantifiable faith. From the article: “We do not need science to validate our spiritual beliefs, as we would never use faith to validate our scientific data.” Faith and science need not support each other, they stand on their own, with their own supports.
Brandeis University (2009, June 18). The Healing Power Of Prayer?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 18, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/06/090617154401.htm