Don’t Pray for Me

by Jon Mandle on March 30, 2006


NEW YORK – In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery. In fact, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications.

The study looked at complication rates within 30 days of heart bypass surgery and compared three groups of about 600 each: “those who knew they were being prayed for, those who were prayed for but only knew it was a possibility, and those who weren’t prayed for but were told it was a possibility.”

Results showed no effect of prayer on complication-free recovery. But 59 percent of the patients who knew they were being prayed for developed a complication, versus 52 percent of those who were told it was just a possibility.

A kind of reverse placebo, I guess.

Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center, who didn’t take part in the study, said the results didn’t surprise him….

Science, he said, “is not designed to study the supernatural.”

No, it’s designed to study the natural. Like, for example, whether prayer can help recovery from bypass surgery.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the abstract in the American Heart Journal. The full text is behind a pay wall.

A small, vivid world

by Henry Farrell on March 30, 2006

John McGahern “has just died”: I knew that he’d been ill; he had been supposed to come to Washington DC a couple of weeks ago, but his trip was cancelled at short notice. This recent “Jonathan Yardley review”: of his memoirs give some flavour of the man.

bq. His mother hoped that he would become a priest and say Mass for her, but his life took a different direction. In his early teens, he discovered reading, “a strange and complete happiness when all sense of time is lost,” much of which he did floating on the nearby river in a small boat. Gradually “a fantastical idea” formed in his mind: “Why take on any single life — a priest, a soldier, teacher, doctor, airman — if a writer could create all these people far more vividly? In that one life of the mind, the writer could live many lives and all of life. . . . Instead of being a priest of God, I would be the god of a small, vivid world. I must have had some sense of how outrageous and laughable this would appear to the world, because I told no one, but it did serve its first purpose — it set me free.”

bq. McGahern has taken full advantage of that freedom. He has published six novels and four collections of short stories, received numerous honors and much well-deserved praise. He is regarded as one of Ireland’s finest contemporary writers, not least because he writes about his native land with such clarity and honesty. His difficult childhood informs much of his work — in particular his best-known novel, The Dark (1965) — but in that as in this memoir, he seeks not to exploit his past but to understand it and to make it pertinent and meaningful to others.

Spin, Old Man’s War online

by Henry Farrell on March 30, 2006

John Scalzi emails to tell me that his Hugo-nominated book, _Old Man’s War_ and Robert Charles Wilson’s _Spin_ are “both available”: to potential Hugo voters. The catch is that you have to confirm that you’re an attendee at LAcon IV, and thus able to vote for Hugos. The upside is the books aren’t crippleware; they’re being made available in .rtf format on the honour system. Charles Stross’ _Accelerando_ is also part of the package, but it’s been available “under Creative Commons”: in a variety of formats since it was first published.

“Scott McLemee”: is a superb critic, and one of the things that makes him good is that he is generous. He can get something interesting out of not very interesting books, and he doesn’t go out of his way to be snarky. But when he feels like filleting something, “his knife is very sharp”:

THE MAN ON WHOM NOTHING WAS LOST: The Grand Strategy of Charles Hill, by Molly Worthen. Houghton Mifflin, 354 pp.

… Charles Hill — a former Foreign Service officer who served in important positions under Henry Kissinger and George Schultz – has for a few years now taught a class at Yale University called Grand Strategy. Young aspirants to the diplomatic corps flock to it. … Molly Worthen, a recent Yale graduate, was one of Hill’s junior illuminati, and her book The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost is an authorized biography of the great man. … The result is not a book so much as it is an alumni-magazine profile gone horribly, horribly wrong. … Hill comes across as a single-minded careerist who did not notice his wife’s alcoholism until she mentioned it during the final days of their marriage. If not for the element of hero worship pervading the book, one might suspect an element of sarcasm in Worthen’s title … something is missing from Worthen’s gale-force proclamations of wonder … There is nothing resembling a substantial idea in the entire book. Worthen presents Hill as a neoconservative guru. But her portrait is that of a mind bearing less resemblance to the political philosopher Leo Strauss than a walking edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. … the author never forgets herself entirely. Or at all, really. … She also indulges in a considerable amount of “my generation” babble: “We sit in coffee shops and complain about the doldrums of ‘real jobs,’ the stress of having to commit to a career that won’t ever let out for the summer,” etc.

This is not a biography, but a study in self-absorption by proxy. The publisher ought to be ashamed. The manuscript should have been left in a drawer, where it might embarrass the author 10 years from now, and in private.


Geraldine Brennan is blogging for the TES at the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair. A good place to pick up tips on children’s books. Come to think of it, further tips are welcome in comments.