Faith-Based Fertility Treatment

Some of you may recall a purported study from a few years back claiming to demonstrate that remote prayer by strangers doubled the success rate of in-vitro fertilization among infertile women. The study, by researchers then employed by Columbia University, was published in the reputable-sounding Journal of Reproductive Medicine.

Now, astoundingly, like faith-healing, faith-based intelligence on Iraq, and faith-based missile defense, it turns out to be a giant crock of hogwash. One of the authors, Daniel Wirth, has now “… pleaded guilty to multi-million-dollar fraud charges against US cable telecommunications company Adelphia Communications”; another, Dr. Kwang Cha, has left Columbia and is working in fertility clinics (using, I presume, methods other than just prayer); and the third, Dr. Rogerio Lobo, remains at Columbia where, like the university, he refuses to comment or return reporters’ calls.

Journal editors and referees, take heed: if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

One real scientist, without whome the fraudulent research might have gone undected, deserves credit: Dr. Bruce Flamm, of the University of California. More details here.