06 April 2006

Passing... I mean Explaining Away

By now, everybody has heard about the prayer study. William Saletan has the most complete list of explanations for the poor results that I have seen. My favorite is

6. God is unmoved by the size of your lobbying team. The authors lament contamination from "background prayer" as though it were radiation. Patients "may have been exposed to a large amount of non-study prayer" from friends and family, they warn, possibly swamping "the effects of prayer provided by the intercessors." ...
In other news, the benefits of moderate drinking have come under severe criticism. The crux of the error

The common error was to lump into the group of "abstainers" people who were once drinkers but had quit.

Many former drinkers are people who stopped consuming alcohol because of advancing age or poor health. Including them in the "abstainer" group made the entire category of non-drinkers seem less healthy in comparison.

This second one gets me. I can't tell you have often people say, as evidence to support their point, "well, they've proved" this or that. Not only have these people not read the studies, they wouldn't understand if the study really proved this or that or not... heck, even the authors don't know! Oh and an article in Newsweek or Time is not proof.

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