Monday, January 03, 2005

Bobo's World


Skeptics have called it the ``Miracle Study'' -- findings by scientists that simple prayers could dramatically boost fertility in women.

Published in a respected medical journal by a Capitola researcher, a department head at Columbia University and a Korean scientist also based at Columbia, it immediately attracted the attention of the news media, religious groups and couples desperately trying to conceive.

``Women who were prayed for became pregnant twice as often as those who did not have people praying for them,'' trumpeted the New York Times in 2001. Other media, including the Mercury News, picked up the story.

But now, three years after the study first suggested that a higher power could influence pregnancy rates, critics are calling it all a sham, a black eye to the research community and proof that medical studies aren't always what they appear to be.

Many in the medical field are saying that the only miracle about the study is that it was published to begin with. They wonder if the research was ever conducted at all.

As the controversy rages, the Bay Area researcher is en route to a California prison camp on an unrelated fraud conviction. The second scientist recently took his name off the study. The third quietly left Columbia. The government conducted its own investigation and determined the study violated federal research guidelines.