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date: 24 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

All research domains are based upon epistemological assumptions. Periodic reassessment of these assumptions is crucial because they influence how we interpret experimental outcomes. Perhaps nowhere is this reassessment needed more than in the study of prayer and intention experiments: If positive results from this field of research are sustained, the reality of nonlocal consciousness must be confronted. This chapter explores the current status of healing and intention research, citing a number of major studies and using the “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in Cardiac Bypass Surgery Patients: A Multicenter Randomized Trial of Uncertainty and Certainty of Receiving Intercessory Prayer” as a case study of this line of research. The chapter argues that the dose-dependent model typical of drug trials, and adopted for use in the STEP and other studies, is not the optimal model for intention-healing research, and critiques this approach in detail, citing apposite research from which we draw our recommendations and conclusions. The chapter suggests that the usual assumptions concerning blindness and randomization that prevail in studies using the pharmacological model must be reappraised. Experimental data suggest that a nonlocal relationship exists among the various individuals participating in a study, one which needs to be understood and taken seriously. We argue that it is important to account for and understand the role of both local and nonlocal observer effects, since both can significantly affect outcome. Research is presented from an array of disciplines to support why we feel these issues of linkage, belief, and intention are so important to a successful, accurate, and meaningful study outcome. Finally, we offer suggestions for new lines of research and new protocol designs that address these observer-effect issues, particularly the nonlocal aspects. The chapter finally suggests that if these effects occur in intention studies, they must necessarily exist in all studies, although in pharmacological studies they are often overshadowed by the power of chemical and biological agents.

Keywords: intention, prayer, healing, observer effect, consciousness, placebo, nonlocal consciousness

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