Friday, January 31, 2014

Science & Healing

Candy Gunther Brown. Testing Prayer: Science and Healing.  (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012).  
Brown’s research is organized around five questions: (1) why are biomedical tests of prayer controversial; (2) are healing claims documented; (3) how do sufferers perceive healing prayer; (4) can health outcomes of prayer be measured; and (5) do healing experiences produce lasting effects?  
Chapter two introduces the history of testing prayer including a discussion of recent major studies of distant intercessory prayer. Brown discusses the fact that a major difference between studies yielding positive versus negative outcomes was the difference in the characteristics of the intercessors. Of  the studies she discusses, studies with positive outcomes used intercessors who were “born again” (88) or who were believers “in a personal God who hears and answers prayer” (88), while studies with negative outcomes used many intercessors who would not meet either criterion. 
Chapter three discusses the use of medical records in documenting healing claims, their strengths and weaknesses as evidence…Brown concludes that while medical records cannot give evidence as to the cause of a given medical recovery, they do provide a “scientifically informed perspective” (154) regarding whether an individual actually exhibited improved health.  
The sixth chapter explores whether prayer produces lasting effects through a series of narratives constructed using ethnographic and textual analysis.

1 comment:

  1. To supplement Steve's post, Brown likewise has a Veritas Forum talk on the same topic here.