Biology NAME: [ ] NAME: [ ] NAME: [ ] NAME: [ ] BIOL 1106 – Principles of Biology I Critical Thinking Exercises #1 Medicine,

Biology NAME: [ ]

NAME: [ ]

NAME: [ ]

NAME: [ ]

BIOL 1106 – Principles of Biology I

Critical Thinking Exercises #1

Medicine,

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Biology NAME: [ ]

NAME: [ ]

NAME: [ ]

NAME: [ ]

BIOL 1106 – Principles of Biology I

Critical Thinking Exercises #1

Medicine, Prayer, and the Scientific Method?

Read the following case and answer the associated questions. Most of the questions can be answered directly from the text. Others may require you to formulate an opinion. In those instances, be sure to support your conclusions with reasoning.

Furthermore, since this is related to the scientific method, the answers can be specific. For that reason, your answers should likewise be specific.

Finally, the following case involves situations where people have incorporated religion or prayer into the scientific method. Since the investigators were attempting to be scientific, you need to analyze their methodology from the perspective of
science
.

(Remember, this assignment is not an evaluation of faith, but rather an evaluation of a scientific project that just happened to included prayer as a component. A critical reader should be able to critique the merits of a scientific research project and it methodology, apart from his or her own person beliefs.)

Copyright © 1999–2008 by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.

“Prayer Heals, Scientist Reports”

Heart patients who had someone unknowingly praying for them suffered fewer complications, according to a study conducted by researchers in Kansas City, Mo. William Harris, a heart researcher and the lead author of the study, said in 1999 when the results were published that it’s “potentially a super- or other-than-natural mechanism,” or a “natural explanation we don’t understand yet.” The study by Harris and other researchers involved 990 patients admitted during a year to the Mid America Heart Institute program of St. Luke’s Hospital.

Patients, randomly divided into two groups, either had someone pray for them each day by community volunteers for four weeks, or had no one assigned to pray for them. That strangers were praying for patients in one group was not revealed to the patients, their families, or their caregivers. They were not even told they were participating in the study. The volunteers were told to pray daily for the speedy recovery with no complications for patients. They were only given the first names of selected patients.

Patients who were prayed for suffered about 10 percent fewer complications, ranging from chest pains to cardiac arrest, after four weeks, according to the study. The research was published Oct. 25, 1999, in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The American Medical Association publishes the internal medicine journal.

Researchers concluded that prayer may be an effective addition to standard medical care. “Although we cannot know why we obtained the results we did, we can comment on what our data do not show,” according to the report. “For example, we have not proven that God answers prayer or that God even exists. It was intercessory prayer, not the existence of God that we tested here.”

Harris admitted in the study that he could not control all variables. For example, at least 50 percent of the patients admitted to the hospital said they have a religious preference. “It is probable that many, if not most, patients in both groups were already receiving intercessory and/or direct prayer from friends, family and clergy during their hospitalization,” according to the report. “Thus, there was an unknowable and uncontrollable (but presumed similar) level of “background” prayer being offered for patients in both groups; whatever impact that (the) group assignment had on healing was over and above any influence background prayer may have had.”

But this study and a similar one in 1988 in San Francisco that involved 393 heart patients had questionable methods, according to an expert not involved in either study. Both studies used their own scoring systems that tallied complications. Dr. Herbert Benson, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said their scoring systems have not been proven medically valid. Benson also is president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. In one study, prayed-for patients suffered worse and others have found no apparent benefits to being prayed for.

Benson, however, noted that people who believe in God or in prayer typically fare better than those who don’t, according to medical research. But whether prayer itself makes a difference remains unproven, according to Benson.

Questions

Answer the following questions regarding the study led by William Harris:

1. Write a hypothesis for the project:
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2. Identify a prediction that Harris may have made prior to the original study.
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3. Identify the independent variable.
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4. Identify the dependent variable.
ANSWER: [ ]

5. Identify two possible controlled variables:

ANSWER:

1) [ ]

2) [ ]
6. Describe the control group.in the study:
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7. Describe the specific kinds of evidence (data) that was collected in the study?

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8. What conclusion did Harris make regarding this study?

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9. Critique Harris’s project from a
purely scientific viewpoint
. What were its scientific strengths and what were its scientific weaknesses?

Strengths:

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Weaknesses:

ANSWER: [ ]

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