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No Scientific Proof of the Efficacy of Prayer
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quick Ben wrote:

And it was clear in my post that I was reframing the perception of miracles by offering it in a statistical context.
Yes, it was clear that you did this. Yet, it wasn't clear why you were doing this, or how it helped your argument, or how it had any foundation in reality whatsoever.
Quick Ben wrote:

You incorrectly claimed that the entire usage of those statistics were dubious, if not factually deficient.
Yes, I did claim it was dubious. I don't care how large your sample size is, there are some things in the universe which will never happen, because they violate the laws of physics. The earth will never suddenly stop spinning for three days, and then continue on as if nothing had happened, with all life on earth completely undisturbed. You can wait the entire age of the universe, and this will never happen, because this violates the principle of angular momentum. This particular Biblical miracle can't be described with your 1:1,000,000 statistical analysis, because it's impossible. Just like it's impossible for Lazarus to rise from the dead after three days of rotting in a tomb. The "expert" you quoted wasn't an expert on miracles, but rather a mathematician. I fail to see how mathematics has any relevance to supernatural events. That's not to say that you can't post about math!!! It's a way to say that your point has no merit, because you are mixing two subjects which have no interlinking causal chains. For example, if I tried to analyze the mass of love, and calculate how a gravitational field might affect a person's love for his mother, you would be correct to say that gravity is irrelevant when talking about love, and therefore my claim that love has a mass of 2 kilograms is completely ridiculous.

Where did the nice round number of 1,000,000 come from? Why do miracles conform to a base 10 number system? Who counted the miracles in order to determine that this was indeed their frequency?

A mathematician could claim that unicorns appear on earth every 1,000,000 years, yet we wouldn't have to accept this claim merely because he is a mathematician. This appeal to authority requires us to surrender our common sense.

Quick Ben wrote:
You have no authority for your assertion of what constitutes a miracle (authority in this case siding with me, as it is), and none for what constitute proper discourse on this subject.
I don't need authority when I have reason. I'm perfectly capable of thinking for myself. If I can show just ONE example of a "miracle" which doesn't conform to your definition of miracles, then your definition is invalidated. Since the Bible makes many miraculous claims which cannot be described by your statistical analysis (I've listed two), then your statistical analysis is insufficient as a means to discuss miracles in general. Q.E.D.

A miracle is more than an unlikely event. A miracle involves direct, supernatural action from the Supreme Being. Are you really saying that this isn't an integral part of miracles? That we can leave the supernatural part out of it completely?

Quick Ben wrote:
I stated no reason to believe that casual prayer could cause them, merely posited that a more refined method might.
Sure, a more refined method of prayer might cause a miracle. While I have no evidence to counter that claim, there is also no evidence to support that claim. One could say with equal validity that a "more refined method" of unicorn calling would make a unicorn come to you. And the failure to produce a unicorn could always be blamed on a failure of technique. However, that claim has little value, because it isn't falsifiable (in Karl Popper's terms--one of the criteria of a valid scientific theory. Now I have an expert on my side, too. Smile ). If there exists no method or criteria by which a claim can be proven wrong, then the claim has no scientific merit. One could "explain away" failures of prayer by always claiming the technique was wrong--especially if they are unwilling or unable to provide the correct technique. But this "explain away" isn't an explanation, it is an excuse. It has exactly the same value as someone saying, "No, you're calling the unicorn incorrectly." Well, how do you call unicorns correctly? "I don't know, I don't have to tell you." At that point, we are justified in saying that the claim to be able to call unicorns has very little--if any--scientific value.

A note on the falsifiability of scientific theories: it doesn't mean that a theory must be proven false in order for it to be valid. That would be nonsensical. Rather, it means that there must be a way to test for the possibility of the theory being false. For instance, if Newton makes the prediction that bodies are attracted by a force which equals the inverse square of their distance, then this claim is falsifiable. All one would have to do is measure the force and the distance, and see if it follows this inverse square rule. If the rule is false, there exists a means to show it. Fortunately for Newton, the rule wasn't false.

Yet, if the failure of prayer is forever obscured within some unknown technique, then there is never a way to eliminate the possibility that people are praying incorrectly. Thus, people can always claim that the experiment was insufficient. While this appears, on the surface, to be a criticism of the experiment itself, it's really a failure of the original hypothesis: it is stated in such a way that there is always room to deny the negative result. It would be like Newton's inverse square law being empirically disproved, and then Newton protesting that it was only disproved because the secret art of measuring distance has been lost.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quick Ben wrote:
All I can say Furls is, "Easy for you to say."


Yes, it is. I see your point. I apologize if I sounded patronizing or condescending. Not my intend at all.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Bob Barth, the spiritual director of Silent Unity, the Missouri prayer ministry, said the findings would not affect the ministry's mission.

"A person of faith would say that this study is interesting," Mr. Barth said, "but we've been praying a long time and we've seen prayer work, we know it works, and the research on prayer and spirituality is just getting started."
Yeah, but I'm interested in every single person who prayed. Some might have their faith shaken, because maybe they had always been told that this type of praying will get this type of result. Others might come to believe that praying is not intended for such things, and develop a new way of believing. Others might have always had that kind of belief, so no change for t hem. Others might say, "La, la, la, I can't hear you." The possibilities are numerous.

But you're right, the test only disproves a relatively specific thing. It could have been even more specific, but it seems to me it was closer to specific than vague. That is, if the people of certain churches tend to pray in similar ways. If I was trying to do a credible scientific study of prayer, I guess they need to find out what is common to all prayer, from all religions and individuals, and go from there.



Here's one of my favorite scenes from Northern Exposure. Joel's Uncle Manny, in NYC, died. Maurice put out an ad for Jews to come help Joel do the Kaddish. Joel ended up feeling wrong about it, and had a dream that the guys who showed up were hired gunslingers. Then this scene:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=upSNOta3ze0

That scene in The Missing where they're all praying in their own way to help, what, heal somebody? is also cool.


Interesting that those who knew they were being prayed for had the worst results of the three groups, and that a study along the same lines, though much smaller, and with alcoholism, had the same phenomenon. "It may have made them uncertain, wondering am I so sick they had to call in their prayer team?" Dr. Bethea said. My first thought was that they expected more, since they knew they were being prayed for, and complained about every little thing. Heh.


Furls Fire wrote:
What you believe is personal, it is your right...the soul is a deep well...no one should tell another what to keep there. Smile
What an excellent quote!! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I personally don't believe in God, and could only imagine a placebo effect for prayers, I do recognize that if there is a god, then he could have purposely withheld his help in this experiment for his own reasons . . . which may involve Him wanting people to have faith because he asks them, rather than because some scientist tells them it's okay.

The position that faith and science are two separate "realms" is a relatively safe claim. While I could list some things wrong with that position, I think it's on stronger footing than to claim that supernatural phenomenon and areas of faith should be included in scientific theories. As soon as that happens, we get experiments like this. So either the results were valid (for this specific kind of prayer), or faith claims are claims about personal belief, and not reality in general. As long as a person keeps those two separate (their beliefs and reality), I have no room to criticize. But as soon as you claim your beliefs affect the reality which we share, then you open those claims to consensual investigation.
Quote:

What you believe is personal, it is your right...the soul is a deep well...no one should tell another what to keep there.
That is a nice quote . . . as long as we recognize that "the deep well of one's soul" is something separate from the consensual reality we share.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe that over the ages prayer has evolved from being a way to worship one's higher power to more or less a way of channeling that power. Where does it say in any book that man can wield divine power?
We as humans practice what we we're taught, modify those teachings to our times and pass it on to our children. This is how history, languages, and the roots of things such as prayer are forgotten. If we were to go back in time and study the original christians modern day folks would hardly be able to recognize their practices. Prayer now seems to involve, for some, a lot of smoke and lights and healing and channeling which were integrated into christianity to win our barbarian and pagan european hearts.
Nowadays when we feel powerless or desperate instead of turning to a divine spirit for comfort some of us turn to it for power over that which we are powerless since some of us have been taught that we could wield that power if we had enough faith. This again is a modern teaching with no basis.
5,000 Years ago, or even 500 years ago, if a fellow broke his leg or had a deep cut in his flesh and lived to tell the tale it really was a miracle. A doctor who performs heart surgery, I'd guess, doesn't need to pray that sutures hold or whatever. That doctor has been trained and probably has experience and knowledge of variables; he does not feel powerless, so if things go good or bad it's not the will of God but the ability or inability of man. Whereas, let's say, the great aunt of the poor chap with the bad heart happens to be a christian who has not medical training and feels powerless goes home and prays her socks off for her nephews full recovery may give all the credit to god and all his angels for saving him. More often than not, it seems, we pray for things that we can make happen ourselves; we've been taught this by practice and observation.
The experiment, to me, seemed fruitless other than stirring up debate. The experimenters are testing modern prayer, something that has evolved and branched out over many years to suit many different culture's needs and comfort zones meaning different cultures pray in different fashions. The teachers of this power of prayer, keep in mind, usually pass around a collection bowl after the show so how much faith can one put into what we see on stage when money is involved?
There is a larger experiment at work here maybe. What happens when you take a faith, add to it a loving, jealous, forgiving god and, over time, spread it across all the cultures of the world over millennia allowing it to branch out to many conflicting beliefs. How far from the original practices would a given person find themself?
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good Post

nice one chiss!! have a couple a wgd's on me for this one.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have read this thread with great pleasure. I also do not beleive in God, nor in prayer, nor in miracles (defined as Malik said). As I am fond to say to mixed reviews, I put my faith in Science.

To those of you with faith, please know I respect your faith and mean no offense by these comments, OK? If you are easily offended by people who raise questions about the existence of God, then I ask you don't read on here.





One question leaps into my mind: If there is a God, then why would he have specific prayer rules we had to follow, generation to generation, in order to communicate with him? If he loved us, why would he let us forget those rules and never again be able to talk to Him? I mean, I assume that if people knew how to prayt 2k-10k years ago as Esmer says, and we have lost the knowledge, then everyone from here on out is just screwed; A benevolent God might just leave us a note or go Old Testament on our collective asses for a spell then repeat the lesson, or maybe simply post an Ad in the NYT, but just refusing to communicate with us because we forgot how -- I mean, what kind of God is that?

As far as prayers getting answered, I'd say there is no proof or provability of that. I mean, God gets it pretty good. If things are Bad, then we get "Well, God works in mysterious ways and he has a plan." If things go Good, then we get "Praise God! He has Answered our Prayers!" If nothing happens, again its part of his plan. I'd say God has a pretty good gig, and a built in never-fail clause with his followers. SO my point is, if everything that happens is part of Gods plan, why pray at all? He's got a plan, he's gonna do what hes gonna do. And if what you are praying for is not part of his plan, then he isnt going to do it. If it is, he would have done it anyway. So, why pray at all?

As to the post about the Christian Scientist (?) all watching the woman choke on her food as they prayed until a dishwasher came out and saved her, my only comment is if there is a God, I am sure he would want us to use our brains and ability to help others. If someone stood around praying while i was choking, they better hope I die, cause I am gonna be pissed.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i think the bobs have the way of it here. Thumbs Up
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Malik23 wrote:
Quick Ben wrote:

And it was clear in my post that I was reframing the perception of miracles by offering it in a statistical context.
Yes, it was clear that you did this. Yet, it wasn't clear why you were doing this, or how it helped your argument, or how it had any foundation in reality whatsoever.
Quick Ben wrote:

You incorrectly claimed that the entire usage of those statistics were dubious, if not factually deficient.
Yes, I did claim it was dubious. I don't care how large your sample size is, there are some things in the universe which will never happen, because they violate the laws of physics.

The laws of physics or the laws of probability? Many things violate the law of probability (enforcement is lax to nonexistent). Strange things happen all the time. There's no law that says that all the oxygen in the room could suddenly shift into the corner. It's just so unlikely as to be the next thing to impossible.

As far as the laws of physics go, again, enforcement is a non-issue. If something happens, it has to have a reason, or for a less anthropomorphic turn of phrase, a capability. If something possibly happened, it follows it has to possibly have the capability to do so. There's no law that says we have to understand much less approve of how it happened.
Quote:
The earth will never suddenly stop spinning for three days, and then continue on as if nothing had happened, with all life on earth completely undisturbed.

Excuse me while I trip of into la-la land for this next part. But you seem to be awfully sure of that. With good reason, certainly. However, I side with the argument that the only thing certain is a greater or less degree of uncertainty. Consider, for example, Dr. Bostrom's (if you find a mathematician's example worthless, hopefully a philosopher's opinion is worth something to you. We are in The Close, after all) argument that the probability of us living in a simulation, ala The Matrix, are higher than not. Could not then the simulation be changed to include a three day eclipse or 36 hour day? Or to go a little more practical, what if a close (but not too close) star went supernova, the duration or trajectory into our orbital path just long enough to light the sky for three days? Anything's possible, man. Are you starting to see why I bring up statistical definitions of the word miracle?
Quote:
Just like it's impossible for Lazarus to rise from the dead after three days of rotting in a tomb.

Just like it was perhaps possible that he only suffered some affliction that made him appear dead. Or maybe he just faked it really well. "Sorry I didn't come home that night, honey. I was dead, and this guy Jesus resurrected me. No really. Ask everyone."
Quote:
The "expert" you quoted wasn't an expert on miracles, but rather a mathematician. I fail to see how mathematics has any relevance to supernatural events. That's not to say that you can't post about math!!! It's a way to say that your point has no merit, because you are mixing two subjects which have no interlinking causal chains.

Quotes or not, he was still an expert. When you said, "No, a miracle isn't merely an unlikely event. A miracle is supernatural intervention by omnipotent God," you were asserting that there was some kind of absolute definition that only you were using correctly. In no way did you say it only applied to your argument, whereas I am no way saying that a statistical definition need to be the only acceptable one. Considering the forum, I reject your artificial parameters.

We're in the Close, man. As such, any terms of 'argument' or 'debate' are pretty nebulous. I'm not trying to prove anything one way or the other. I'm merely offering suppositions. You appear to be assuming that I in some way actually believe anything I've put forward. All I'm saying is 'What if?' Perhaps instead of failing to see "how mathematics has any relevance to supernatural events" you are rather failing to see that an event beyond current understanding need not be supernatural.
Quote:
Where did the nice round number of 1,000,000 come from? Why do miracles conform to a base 10 number system? Who counted the miracles in order to determine that this was indeed their frequency?

A sarcastic question deserves a sarcastic answer, so I'm tempted to say 'ask the mathematician.' However... What's a miracle (rhetorical question)? If I'd never seen a martial arts exhibition in my life, I'd think watching a guy break a stack of ten bricks with his bare hand would be a miracle. I imagine only one guy in a million could do it first shot. But the black belt next to him has seen it done a thousand times. No miracle to him, just an example of proper training. So, isn't the concept of a "miracle" relative? In that sense, the number doesn't really matter. It's just something that appears incredibly rare to be beyond normal understanding or ability to achieve. Indeed, I think the actual number used in the quoted article was slightly over 1 million for the purposes of calculation.

But to break it down a bit more, what really is the unit of measurement we call a foot (you could even use a meter if you were so inclined, but that would require a discussion on fractal geometry). It's an acceptable unit of measure, even if it has no real scientific reason to be the way it is (hence the metric system, but even that's just a way of reducing uncertainty, not eliminating it). On the atomic level, the difference between two calibrated and certified measuring instruments would be huge (statistically, of course. There is the chance that they'd miraculously end up being similar in length). So, is there some universal meaning of the word "miracle." No, but something that occurs 1 times in a million should be good enough for most reasonable people.
Quote:
A mathematician could claim that unicorns appear on earth every 1,000,000 years, yet we wouldn't have to accept this claim merely because he is a mathematician. This appeal to authority requires us to surrender our common sense.

Ah, yes. The famous Unicorn Constant. Still hotly debated in some circles, I understand. [appeal to ridicule. blatant straw man]
Quote:
Quick Ben wrote:
You have no authority for your assertion of what constitutes a miracle (authority in this case siding with me, as it is), and none for what constitute proper discourse on this subject.
I don't need authority when I have reason.

Quote:
If I can show just ONE example of a "miracle" which doesn't conform to your definition of miracles, then your definition is invalidated.

Well, it wasn't my definition. You're welcome to inform Webster's of their error. However, that's a logical fallacy, especially considering I'm merely postulating, not stating as fact. I say a man may be named Alex. You say Bob and Tom aren't named Alex, so nobody could be (ignoring the possibility that Bob and Tom may have been named Alex, but go by other names for reasons we do not know).
Quote:
Since the Bible makes many miraculous claims which cannot be described by your statistical analysis (I've listed two), then your statistical analysis is insufficient as a means to discuss miracles in general.

Considering I never even mentioned the bible (those were your examples), you can Q.E.D. that one all you want. I'll try not feel too ashamed. Though I have to point out that I have made no analysis, only hypothesized. What analyses I have presented were not mine, though I do not think your refutations of them rise to any academic standards.
Quote:
Sure, a more refined method of prayer might cause a miracle. While I have no evidence to counter that claim...

I made no claim in this regard. I never said, "A more refined method of prayer will indeed cause miracles." You're trying too hard to win. Sorry, man, but I'm not in that game with you. I'm only trying to imagine.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 11:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm lost in this discussion. Laughing What is anybody trying to say? The study seems to have shown that prayer by a certain category of people does not aid in the recovery from a certain surgical procedure, at least if those praying do not know the patient. Who is trying to make what point beyond that?
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really don't know either, Fist. What is the dispute here?
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 1:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:
I'm lost in this discussion. Laughing What is anybody trying to say? The study seems to have shown that prayer by a certain category of people does not aid in the recovery from a certain surgical procedure, at least if those praying do not know the patient. Who is trying to make what point beyond that?


Lord Mhoram wrote:
I really don't know either, Fist. What is the dispute here?


somebody said "bullhockey"
and somebody else said "not necessarily"
near as i can figger. Wink



no really now...nice post Sheriff. Good Post here's a coupla bucks. go buy yerself somethin pretty. Wink and don't spend it all in one place either.! Cheers excellent post.
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you're more advanced than a cockroach,
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~ alan bates, the mothman prophecies



i've had this with actors before, on the set,
where they get upset about the [size of my]
trailer, and i'm always like...take my trailer,
cause... i'm from Kentucky
and that's not what we brag about.
~ george clooney, inside the actor's studio



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the fold - searching for our
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gravel pits. sixteen gears switch.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 1:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lord Mhoram wrote:
What is the dispute here?


I got tired of trying to figure that out here. Wink
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 1:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the efficacy of prayer is the dispute.
it is an evolving conversation. Cool
Sheriff just raised the bar.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 1:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Damelon wrote:
Lord Mhoram wrote:
What is the dispute here?


I got tired of trying to figure that out here. Wink

Same Laughing
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, here's a summary:

Syl posted an experiment about the lack of efficacy of prayer.

Esmer: that proves that people don't know how to pray.

Malik: this experiment doesn't prove that conclusion.

Esmer: [tangent] people have lost the skill of how to pray.

Syl: [backing up Esmer] if we define miracles as something that has a 1: 1 million chance of happening, then if people increased their skill at praying, then conceivably it would increase the frequency of miracles.

Malik: a miracle isn't merely an unlikely event. It takes supernatural intervention. Therefore, the skill of a person involved has nothing to do with increasing the likelihood of miracles occurring.

Syl: [tangent] Malik has no authority to talk about miracles. My (Syl's) definition of miracles carries more weight because it comes from a trusted authority (a mathematician).

Malik: that's a bunch of nonsense. Smile A miracle is something that is impossible according to the laws of physics (for instance, people getting healed due to a direct causal link between their health and words other people say in their heads: prayer). That's why statistics have nothing to do with this. There is zero chance of something impossible happening. That's why it requires intervention from a supernatural being in order to make it happen. If it were merely an infrequent occurrence that was going to happen anyway--given enough time--then there wouldn't be any need for God to be involved. And in that case, we're no longer talking about miracles, but merely an unlikely--though completely natural--event.

If Syl wants to say that prayers getting answered are merely unlikely--though completely natural--events, then perhaps he could present the physical model by which words people mumble in their heads has any causal link between the health of other people.

Otherwise, the entire string of his argument has been pointless, as several people here seem to concur with statements like:
Quote:

I'm lost in this discussion.
There's a good reason for that: there is no logical connection between the conclusions being drawn and the premises laid out here (excluding my arguments, of course Smile ).
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 2:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quick Ben wrote:

The laws of physics or the laws of probability?
Physics. Probability has nothing to do with impossible things happening. It deals with unlikely, though possible, things happening.

Quote:
Strange things happen all the time.
That doesn't make them a miracle.
Quote:
If something possibly happened, it follows it has to possibly have the capability to do so.
True. But the issue here is whether that "something" happened at all. Just because people claim that miracles have happened doesn't mean that they have actually happened. If the events in question didn't happen, then there's no reason to suppose they were possible in the first place. The totality of possible events isn't determined by the things which people believe. Events are ONLY possible in as much as the laws of physics (known or otherwise) present the conditions by which they can happen. If an event lies outside of the laws of physics, then these laws can no longer present the conditions to make such an event possible. Therefore, it is impossible. Miracles listed in the Bible (including the efficacy of prayer) fall into such a category. No laws of physics makes it possible for the sun to stand still for three days, for dead people to rise from the grave, or for people to be healed by words that other people mumble in their heads.
Quote:

There's no law that says we have to understand much less approve of how it happened.
True. But that's assuming it did indeed happen in the first place. When the issue is whether the event happened at all (such as efficacious prayer claims), then our inability to make such an alleged event conform with known laws of physics is itself reason to suspect that the alleged event actually happened. That is indeed how we separate real phenomena from merely purported phenomena (such as the cold fusion claim debunked in the 80s). If it violates known laws, it probably didn't happen. While this isn't always the case, it is a good working hypothesis until we determine whether or not it actually happened. In cases where it's impossible to go back in time to see if it happened (like the sun sitting still for three days), we can still use this as a way to decide that it didn't happen, because the alternative (i.e. believing that it happened) is also impossible to go back and check. Therefore, in deciding between these two claims (1. "the sun sat still" 2. "the sun didn't sit still") we are on firm ground to side with the one that doesn't violate known physics. The sun never sat still for three days, folks. All surface matter would have been flung into the atmosphere if the earth suddenly stopped spinning. It's moving at about 1000 mph at the equator. That includes you and me. If it stopped suddenly, all unsecured matter (all life) would still be moving at 1000 mph.

If we're living in a virtual reality, I admit that all bets are off. But then miracles wouldn't require the intervention of God. They would be computer simulations. If the entire world is a computer simulation, then there is nothing miraculous (or even improbable) about any particular simulation within it.

If our sun had gone supernova, we wouldn't still be here.

Quote:
Are you starting to see why I bring up statistical definitions of the word miracle?
I've seen it all along. I just think you're wrong.

Quote:
Just like it was perhaps possible that he only suffered some affliction that made him appear dead. Or maybe he just faked it really well.
Then it wouldn't be a miracle. There is nothing supernatural or improbable about living people continuing to live. It happens to 6 billion people on a daily basis, every second of their lives.

Quote:
When you said, "No, a miracle isn't merely an unlikely event. A miracle is supernatural intervention by omnipotent God," you were asserting that there was some kind of absolute definition that only you were using correctly. In no way did you say it only applied to your argument, whereas I am no way saying that a statistical definition need to be the only acceptable one. Considering the forum, I reject your artificial parameters.

It's an artificial parameter to say that true miracles (not merely the fake appearance of a miracle, like your Lazarus explanation) require a supernatural component? If you want to say there is nothing at all supernatural about so-called miracles, then I would agree with you 100% and we can end the argument here. I, too, believe there is no such thing as the supernatural. I believe prayers don't work. And planets don't suddenly stop spinning just so people can have enough light to finish their battle. That would be an acceptable place to end this.
Quote:

All I'm saying is 'What if?'

And all I'm saying is: "Ain't no way." There is nothing at all about your 'What if' game that precludes people from answering: 'but that's impossible.'
Quote:

Perhaps instead of failing to see "how mathematics has any relevance to supernatural events" you are rather failing to see that an event beyond current understanding need not be supernatural.
I'm not failing to see that at all. I agree with that. I just fail to see why we'd call something which isn't supernatural a "miracle." I don't label everything I don't understand as a miracle. For instance, I have no idea how to perform heart surgery. But I don't think it's a miracle just because I don't know how to do it.

I wrote:
Where did the nice round number of 1,000,000 come from? Why do miracles conform to a base 10 number system? Who counted the miracles in order to determine that this was indeed their frequency?
Quote:

A sarcastic question deserves a sarcastic answer, so I'm tempted to say 'ask the mathematician.'
I wasn't being sarcastic. I was serious.
Quote:

However... What's a miracle (rhetorical question)? If I'd never seen a martial arts exhibition in my life, I'd think watching a guy break a stack of ten bricks with his bare hand would be a miracle. I imagine only one guy in a million could do it first shot. But the black belt next to him has seen it done a thousand times. No miracle to him, just an example of proper training. So, isn't the concept of a "miracle" relative?
This doesn't show the relativity of the concept "miracle." All this shows is that sometimes people mistakenly call something a miracle when it's actually quite normal and natural.
Quote:

So, is there some universal meaning of the word "miracle." No, but something that occurs 1 times in a million should be good enough for most reasonable people.
Why should that be good enough? Why shouldn't "supernatural" be good enough? If something is possible, then it's not miraculous for it to occur, no matter how small the odds. There is nothing miraculous about natural events happening naturally.

Quote:
Ah, yes. The famous Unicorn Constant. Still hotly debated in some circles, I understand. [appeal to ridicule. blatant straw man]
You proposed that we're in a Matrix, and yet unicorns are too ridiculous to contemplate? You want to claim that anything can happen, and yet unicorns are impossible? It's just a horse with a horn on its head. I'd say that unicorns are about 1,000,000 times more likely than the idea that the entire universe is a computer simulation. Smile

If you are arguing for something ridiculous, it is not ridicule to point it out. Nor is it a straw man to bring up something else which is as equally ridiculous, in order to bring that fact to light.
Quote:

Well, it wasn't my definition. You're welcome to inform Webster's of their error. However, that's a logical fallacy, especially considering I'm merely postulating, not stating as fact.
Just because you are postulating doesn't remove your ideas from criticism. I can criticize hypothetical claims with just as much validity as I can criticize factual claims. And I can criticize a definition no matter who's it is. Neither of these strategies are fallacies.

Quote:
I made no claim in this regard. I never said, "A more refined method of prayer will indeed cause miracles."
I recognize that. I was arguing against your hypothetical. (See above).

Quote:
You're trying too hard to win.


Actually, I find this quite easy. Smile
Quote:

Sorry, man, but I'm not in that game with you. I'm only trying to imagine.
Ok, you don't have to play along if you don't want to--though you do keep responding. Maybe you're playing a different game. However, what is the purpose of your imagining, if it's not to delineate areas of possibility? This started off with you trying to imagine a way for prayer to work. I don't think that's possible, and you haven't presented a convincing reason why it should be possible. You can't just say, "Anything is possible, therefore this is possible," because some things are clearly impossible.

Perhaps there is a way for words people say in their heads to affect physical reality. Maybe the virtual reality thing is the mechanism. Maybe God is the mechanism. However, until it is actually proven that words people say in their heads actually do affect reality (an idea for which this experiment failed to find evidence), then these mechanisms are just as hypothetical as the original hypothetical phenomenon. If you want to fantasize about such things, that's fine. But you are doing more than "imagining." You are arguing for a mathematical, physical justification for the existence of something which--as far as we know--doesn't exist.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My only comment is that I agree with the definition of Miracle as something occurring outside of the laws of physics, ie Divine Intervention.

It would be an event that leave no other interpretation as to its cause. Images of the Virgin Mary appearing in ink stains, on toast, or in a plate of spaghetti, while improbable, are up to personal interpretation and the laws of lysics as pertaining to oil, pasta and bread. They are not miracles.

If we redefine what a miracle is to allow it to happen within the bounds of Physics no matter how statistically improbable, then, in my opinion, we are just trying to justify things that happen in our world as Divine, and not just some improbable event. In my opinion, if something is possible, however improbably, there wil always be another explanation that would account for its ocurring, therefore the Divine Intervention would not be the only explanation, and therefore (by my assumption) not be a miracle.

If the Sun stands still, or the confirmed dead rise, if a basket of fish and a few loaves of bread does in fact feed thousands, then I would beleive some power above the normal workinfs of the universe were at work. Until then, I put my faith in Science.


Now I agree, there are other definitions of miracle, and no one can claim there is one universal definition. here is what wiki says:

Quote:
A miracle, derived from the old Latin word miraculum meaning "something wonderful", is a striking interposition of divine intervention by a supernatural being in the universe by which the ordinary course and operation of Nature is overruled, suspended, or modified. Although many religious texts and people confirm witnessing or prophesying various events which they refer to as "miraculous", it is disputed whether there are scientifically confirmed occurrences of miracles[1]. People in different faiths have substantially different definitions of the word "miracle". Even within a specific religion there is often more than one usage of the term.

Sometimes the term "miracle" may refer to the action of a supernatural being that is not a god. Thus, the term "divine intervention", by contrast, would refer specifically to the direct involvement of a deity.

In casual usage, "miracle" may also refer to any statistically unlikely but beneficial event, (such as the survival of a natural disaster) or even to anything which is regarded as "wonderful" regardless of its likelihood, such as birth. Other miracles might be: survival of a fatal illness, escaping a life threatening situation or 'beating the odds'

link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle

note the last item, which I have also bolded. This use of miracle is the common way we might use it, ie its a miracle we survived the hurricane. . I am not using this definition, but the ones above.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't forget Miracle Whip. That's a common usage for the term. I suppose, based on the "argument by casual usage," we should put mayonnaise on par with parting the Red Sea. Twisted Evil
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

now, wait a minute! have you tasted Miracle Whip? Its pretty damn good -- Not sure physics can account for that creamy, eggy sinful smoothness!


I now return you to your regularly scheduled thread....
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