Saturday, December 04, 2004
The following item has forced us to reconsider our longstanding policy of having Christian groups pray for the NFL teams we bet on in the office pool each weekend:
A prominent researcher at Columbia University has pulled his name from a controversial study of prayer's effect on fertility, the university says.If stories like the one above make you want to heave all over your nice new shoes, we recommend that you cleanse your palate by reading an interview with the great Richard Dawkins (on the occasion of the publication of his new book, The Ancestor's Tale):
The study, published in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine in 2001, found that women undergoing in vitro fertilization doubled their chances of becoming pregnant when Christian groups prayed for them.
The study immediately brought fierce criticism of the Columbia researcher, Dr. Rogerio Lobo, a fertility specialist whom the paper listed as senior author, from scientists who questioned the way the experiment had been conducted.
Then, this May, one of Dr. Lobo's co-authors, Daniel Wirth, a California lawyer and alternative medicine researcher, pleaded guilty in connection with an unrelated $1.2 million case of business fraud.
In June, the journal pulled the study from its Web site, saying it would perform an internal review of the data. Columbia also began an investigation.
Dr. Lobo said in an interview in September that although he was listed as the paper's senior author, he had acted only as an editorial adviser on it rather than working on the study directly. But he, along with his co-authors - Mr. Wirth, who was sentenced last month to five years in prison, and Dr. Kwang Cha, a Korean fertility specialist - has said he stands behind the study . . . .
"The university seems to think that because he's taken his name off the paper, that solves it," said Dr. Bruce Flamm of the University of California, Irvine. "But that solves nothing. The real issue is that this research is flawed and possibly fraudulent, and it's now back up on the journal's Web site."
"You've called religion a 'dangerous collective delusion' and a 'malignant infection,' " I said. "Don't you think you're underplaying it a bit?"
Dawkins turned, smiled a small fox smile, and said, "Yes!"