While, I’m not sure about the barbecue study, I can say for certain that the “prayer study” is absolutely worthless – and it would remain worthless if the study “proved” prayer helped people.
There are numerous things wrong with this study – scientificially and theologically.
No other variables were considered. Were there more overall unhealthy people in the prayed for group? Were all the groups as identical as possible in demographic make-up?
The control group was not really “controlled.” Those in the group that was not prayed for, could have had family and friends praying for them, which goes into the theological issues.
Theologically, the very idea behind this study is a mess. Prayer is not like rubbing the magic lamp to get the God/genie out to grant our wishes. If God exists, He is an independent being with His own ideas about what is right and needed. Just because someone prays for something doesn’t mean they will get it.
Not to mention the way they were prayed for – giving a group of strangers a generic list of names and telling them exactly what to pray. Somehow I don’t think that is a sincere prayer, one that God would be inclined to grant. I don’t think God is really into being a magic show or a science fair subject.
The best take on this whole issue is, as usual, Scott Ott from ScrappleFace:
A team of scientists today ended a 10-year study on the so-called “power of prayer” by concluding that God cannot be manipulated by humans, not even by scientists with a $2.4 million research grant.
The scientists also noted that their work was “sabotaged by religious zealots” secretly praying for study subjects who were supposed to receive no prayer.
“As it turns out, God was not impressed by our academic credentials, our substantial funding base, and our rigorous study protocols,” said lead researcher Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston.