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Prayer and thought are ineffective stimulants to plant growth, a group of students reported yesterday. An experiment conducted as part of the course work of Social Relations 71 revealed, in fact, a tendency for the control plants to grow more than those prayed for or thought about.
From the 11 students in the original group two sections--five who believed in psychokinesis and five who did not--were formed, with the 11th member serving as impartial gardener. Each person prayed or thought over an individual tray of corn seeds for 1b minutes a day, three times a week for two weeks.
At the end of this period, the plants were measured and the statistics tabulated. The tray with the greatest growth turned out to have been prayed for by a non-believer; that with the least was the work of a faithful. In total growth, the control group was first, followed by the skeptics' plants and then the believers'.
The experiment was conceived at the beginning of the term in order to test the claims of Reverend Franklin W. Loehr of Los Angeles, whose book, The Power of Prayer on Plants, has enjoyed popular success among not-too-green-thumbed housewives.
In it, Loehr called for an alliance of religion and science, since it was apparent from the results of his experiments that prayer could become a powerful laboratory tool. Not only could America invoke God's help to increase its food production, he said, but since prayer can be employed negatively--as in stunting the growth of cancer tissue--we of God's country can also bring famine to the atheistic nations of the East.
Loehr reported that when he told Richard Nixon of his discovery, the then vice-President told him, "That sounds like a good kind of thinking to me."
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