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No Scientific Proof of the Efficacy of Prayer
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 1:02 pm    Post subject: No Scientific Proof of the Efficacy of Prayer Reply with quote

Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer

Not even an inkling. One of the study's authors specifically said that it does not include personal prayer, but solicited prayers don't help.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Further proof we have forgotten how to pray. We just don't have the knowledge or the will, more importantly knowledge of the will, to pray anymore. Sad
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read about this study in Dawkins's THE GOD DELUSION. He pointed out that many religious people dismissed the findings, stating that you can't scientifically test faith, because faith transcends science. Yet, they still try to force creationism into science classes. And, Dawkins pointed out, if some kind of genetic proof had come to light proving that Jesus was a fatherless child of a virgin birth, you better believe that these very same religious people would instantly drop this "science can't prove religion" nonsense. They'd trumpet those findings as the most significant results ever uncovered. Religious people dismiss science only when it disproves their faith . . . rather than updating their faith.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Has it ever occurred to you that neither you, they or the others have any idea what prayer is? Have you ever researched it, personally? Have you actively pursued the act of praying, or tried to discover what was meant by it by those who first ever spoke of it? Taking the word of those who don't understand it could hardly be called a valid attempt to understand something so prevalent in our humanity's past.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One would assume that the ability of prayer would be an instinctual device built into our hardware by the one who created us in order to communicate with them instead of something that we had to learn how to do that could be manipulated or one person was better at than others.
In the Bible days, for thousands of years, Jehovah fearing folk would simply worship and sacrifice and only the upper priests were allowed to talk to the guy upstairs and relay his messages. Some common folk would have visions or hear a voice or see an angel but not without first enduring terrible suffering like starvation or loss, or endure some Klingon type ritual, and still it had nothing to do with funneling powers or altering the inevitable. That didn't start until long after the Christian faith moved west and mingled with European practices.
I am skeptical that we all have the power to communicate with a supreme being and use that power to change the natural path of their creation.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

those are exactly the kinds of assumptions and misconceptions I was referring to. You have every reason to be skeptical of that, and in my opinion you are spot on.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bloodguard bob wrote:
One would assume that the ability of prayer would be an instinctual device built into our hardware by the one who created us in order to communicate with them instead of something that we had to learn how to do that could be manipulated or one person was better at than others.
In the Bible days, for thousands of years, Jehovah fearing folk would simply worship and sacrifice and only the upper priests were allowed to talk to the guy upstairs and relay his messages. Some common folk would have visions or hear a voice or see an angel but not without first enduring terrible suffering like starvation or loss, or endure some Klingon type ritual, and still it had nothing to do with funneling powers or altering the inevitable. That didn't start until long after the Christian faith moved west and mingled with European practices.
I am skeptical that we all have the power to communicate with a supreme being and use that power to change the natural path of their creation.


From my post on the Anthropology of the Siddur class I took...

Menolly wrote:
What is Prayer?

Jerry’s definition of prayer:
Professor Murray wrote:

An activity by which an individual directs any thought towards invisible spirit beings. This includes thoughts towards deceased relatives and/or friends. It is not limited to asking for things.


Practices of prayer in ancient times most likely had everyone pray in their own language. Jewish sages put together the Amidah/Shemonah Esrai (18 prayers, although it now consists of 19 prayers), and the formulaic siddur evolved from that.

[class participant volunteered that he had heard that the Amidah were verses penned to replace the daily animal sacrifices after the fall of the second temple. Jerry had never heard of that explanation.]

The thoughts of the sages were that if you turn yourself over to formulaic prayer, heartfelt prayers emerge within the formulas. The set formulas and times of Jewish prayer enable consistency to the commandment of praying three times a day. If left to our own devices there is no accounting for how often one would remember to pray.

Purposes of prayer: praise, petition, thanksgiving, contrition, cursing, bargaining

Praise is the most common prayer in the siddur.
Petition is asking for things.
Thanksgiving is the least frequent in the siddur.
Contrition is repenting of sins (to be discussed).
Cursing is directed towards “the evil ones.” The intent is that it is better to curse and leave it to HaShem to handle, than to go out and kill them yourself. (Heh…I can see that)

Anthropological Peculiarities of Jewish Prayer

Thrice daily prayer required of Jewish Males.
Much Jewish prayer is formulaic.
Obligatory prayer is preset.
From the Zohar:
1) Prayers in Hebrew are viewed as more powerful.
2) Prayers in Hebrew have a mystical affect in Heaven.
3) Kabbalistic tradition says the world was created through Hebrew letters.
4) Some prayers are in Aramaic to confuse the angels.

Emphasis is on reading the prayers, we are discouraged from memorizing them.
Pronouncing of G-d’s name is restricted to formal prayer. Even in Torah and Talmudic study, we substitute HaShem for Adonoi, Elokim for Elohim, and Kel for El. We never, ever, say the name that is spelled yud-hay-vav-hay, not even in prayer.
Prayer is mostly directed to the Supreme Being/HaShem.
A minyan of 10 Jewish men over 13 (in the Orthodox and Traditional Conservative movements, 10 Jews either male or female in all other movements) is required to chant key prayers. The reasoning goes back to Avraham’s bargain with HaShem regarding Sodom and Gomorrah.
To paparaphrase (my words, not Jerry’s):
Quote:

Find me 100 righteous men and I will spare the cities.
100 is a bit much. How about 50?
OK. 50 righteous men and I will spare the cities.
50 is still quite high. How about 10?
Alright already!! Find me 10 righteous men and I will spare the cities.

Women are exempt from the strictures of communal prayer, as they are considered closer beings to the Shechinah (feminine aspect of HaShem), and have their own separate commandments to keep involving purity and home life. (Orthodox view)
Exceptions include gravesites and the Shabbos table.
Examples of exceptions:
Gravesites of parents
Gravesite of tsaddikim (sages)
Greeting the angles who accompany one home from shul on Friday night at the Sahbbos table with Shalom Aleichem


Quote:

Shalom aleichem, malachai hashret


(Syl…if you’re reading this, sorry if I got that wrong. I’m trying.)

Peace on you guardian angles…
May you come in peace, angels of peace…
Bless me in peace, angels of peace…
Sit down in peace, angels of peace…
” (Sefardim only, after welcoming and asking for a blessingthe Ashkenazim kick them the hell out. [my notation again]).
May your departure be in peace, angels of peace…” (See? What did I tell you?)

Comparison to (Jerry’s interpretation of) Catholic Prayer

Daily formulaic prayers only for priests and nuns.
Not incumbent upon laity.
No distinction between male and female.
Name of G-d or JC spoken freely. Many prayers sent to angels or saints to intercede. For example, a Catholic prayer to Archangel Michael:
Quote:

Saint Michael the Archangel
Defend us in battle
Be our defender
Against the wickedness
And snares of the devil.
May G-d rebuke him
We humbly pray
Do thou
O Prince of heavenly hosts
By the power of G-d
Thrust into Hell Satan
And the other evil spirits
Who prowl about the world
For the ruin of souls.
Amen.


Comparison to (Jerry’s interpretation of) Muslim Prayer

Commanded to pray five times a day instead of three.
Prayers are shorter and easier to memorize.
Value is placed on memorizing prayers and the Qur’an, instead of reading them.
Dependence on written text is seen as a shortcoming.
Name of Allah is used freely in daily speech.
Less need for a prayer book.

…and we ran out of time…

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Like I said, biblical's not my gig, but that looks good to me. Malach is angel (as opposed to melech for king or melach for sailor Wink), though the smichut for 'guardian angel' is not one I'm familiar with. Is the sound mal-chei (rhymes with hay) or mal-chai (rhymes with eye)? I'm having trouble remembering with any certainty, though I'm thinking it should be -chei (it would be spelled the same in Modern Hebrew, regardless, since you're basically just dropping the mem in the masculine plural... though I believe the second vowel in the first word is usually dropped as well Mr. Green)
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Esmer wrote:
Has it ever occurred to you that neither you, they or the others have any idea what prayer is? Have you ever researched it, personally? Have you actively pursued the act of praying, or tried to discover what was meant by it by those who first ever spoke of it? Taking the word of those who don't understand it could hardly be called a valid attempt to understand something so prevalent in our humanity's past.

Esmer, what evidence do you have that these people don't know how to pray? If you say the evidence is that their prayers didn't work, then you are assuming the very thing which the experiment set out to investigate.

Whether or not I've researched prayer personally has nothing to do with whether or not prayer--as a general phenomenon--can be tested in a double-blind experiment to reveal if it works. Have you personally investigated whether these people are praying properly?

Experimental error (such as praying improperly) must always be looked at. But one thing this experiment did show was that this kind of prayer--what nearly everyone thinks of as prayer--was proven to have no positive effect whatsoever.

So if you know a better way how to pray, all you have to do is tell us. And then an experiment can be constructed to test that method of prayer, too. If prayer has any real effect on physical reality at all, then that effect should be available for examination with the scientific method.

So lay it on us: how do you pray?
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ever hear of the guy who runs five miles every day, then drops dead of a heart attack shovelling the snow in his driveway? Some people say he was wasting his time with the exercise, because it didn't help him live longer after all. I say it made the life he did have better. He could do more things more easily while he was alive. Perhaps more important, maybe he did think he was extending his lifespan with the running. So while he was alive, he felt good about his discipline, didn't feel like a lazy slob (Wave), and was convinced he would live to a ripe, old age. Nothing wrong with any of that.

Even if there isn't any superior being, or there's one that doesn't so much as pay attention to prayers, maybe the belief that there is helps some people get through times they wouldn't know how to get through otherwise. Maybe it gives some a better outlook on life on a daily basis.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe Esmer is referring to Gnosticism or a similar brand thereof. Prayer is esoteric and must be learned like any other skill.

Take basket weaving. Just about every person on earth has at one point or another found themselves in need of something to put something else in. Having never seen a basket, most would just make do with finding a big piece of cloth or hide and maybe tying it shut with a string. May get the job done, but it's not a basket. Consider this to a person facing a crisis, looking into himself somewhat, and managing to struggle on.

Some person who was either very clever or very desperate from lack of material might come upon the idea of weaving together dried straw, managing to make a rudimentary basket. Maybe it falls apart more often than not, but the more he practices it, sees what works and what doesn't, the better he gets at it. He then tells other people how great baskets are. So lots of people start working on how to make baskets. Some are better at it than others. Many just think, "Sack's good enough for me," or "I don't need to carry anything." Some get discouraged after their fiftieth basket falls apart and says it's all a bunch of nonsense; others just think it's a matter of luck and either the basket holds or not.

Then maybe there's a guy, either a basket-making genius or the selected messenger of the Basket God. The dude can make some awesome freaking baskets that can do just about anything.

Make the baskets invisible, and you just about got prayer, I think.

Not that I believe it, but I see no reason to think that if you have to learn language to speak with your fellow man why it'd be any different to speak with God. There's very little that any of us do on a more than animal level that doesn't at least rely on some training, and nothing that isn't improved by further instruction.

*shrug*
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

not quite QB. Wink

Malik23 wrote:
Esmer wrote:
Has it ever occurred to you that neither you, they or the others have any idea what prayer is? Have you ever researched it, personally? Have you actively pursued the act of praying, or tried to discover what was meant by it by those who first ever spoke of it? Taking the word of those who don't understand it could hardly be called a valid attempt to understand something so prevalent in our humanity's past.

Esmer, what evidence do you have that these people don't know how to pray? If you say the evidence is that their prayers didn't work, then you are assuming the very thing which the experiment set out to investigate.

Whether or not I've researched prayer personally has nothing to do with whether or not prayer--as a general phenomenon--can be tested in a double-blind experiment to reveal if it works. Have you personally investigated whether these people are praying properly?

Experimental error (such as praying improperly) must always be looked at. But one thing this experiment did show was that this kind of prayer--what nearly everyone thinks of as prayer--was proven to have no positive effect whatsoever.

So if you know a better way how to pray, all you have to do is tell us. And then an experiment can be constructed to test that method of prayer, too. If prayer has any real effect on physical reality at all, then that effect should be available for examination with the scientific method.

So lay it on us: how do you pray?


This isn't about you, or me, proving anything Malik. I just asked you what combined effort you put into coming to your conclusion, nothing more, nothing less. Theology and prayer and the pursuit of "The Truth" is something I have been actively engaged in, specifically, exclusively, for over 30 yrs. I have examined every religion there is or you can think of and every seemingly related or even unrelated "phenomena" that exists in this world and it's historical record with "religious fervor" you might say. Wink Based upon my extensive and dedicated research I have patently rejected every form of religion and religious figure we currently are aware of, according to the contemporary terms and actions with which we regard them, which has drawn me to reach the following conclusion, which I stated initially:
Quote:
Further proof we have forgotten how to pray. We just don't have the knowledge or the will, more importantly knowledge of the will, to pray anymore. Sad


What part of "we" don't you understand, and even IF I knew "how to pray", what makes you think I would even be inclined or willing to prove it to you, or to anyone?


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just an experience, not a rebuttal.
I used to cook at this big castle called Ardenwood. It is a sort of hospital/retirement community for Christian Scientists who used to own all the land out that way and who do not believe in medical intervention but the power of prayer. They have doctors and nurses and even a nursing school but no drugs, I.V's or scalpels.
One day in the dining room one of the elderly ladies began choking on her food and those around her, including nursing staff, were excited but nobody did anything but pray. It wasn't until one of the busboys, a catholic, ran over and Heimliched her, saving her life.
I didn't work there long and never got to see any miracles but I dated a girl who's father was a Christian Science "doctor", a prayer pro, and had her in the nursing program. She said it didn't do a bit of good to pray which frustrated most of the afflicted since their "faith must have been weak" or they weren't supposed to get well.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Prayer is not an art form, nor is there a right or wrong way to do it.

All you have to do it open your heart and talk to God. He answers if He chooses too. And it's sometimes not the answer you expect.

Prayer is not about science, Faith is believing there is something other than our tangible world. And there is no "proving" it. I wouldn't even know how to try too. All I know is the peace and hope I feel whenever I talk to God. That is all I need and it has made my life wonderful. My life without God and prayer would be dark indeed.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Furls Fire wrote:

Prayer is not about science, Faith is believing there is something other than our tangible world. And there is no "proving" it. I wouldn't even know how to try too. All I know is the peace and hope I feel whenever I talk to God. That is all I need and it has made my life wonderful. My life without God and prayer would be dark indeed.

Yep, maybe prayer was never meant to work miracles or win the lottery or shoot fire out of your fingers. Maybe it's only meant to find peace and get cuddly with a divine power.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quick Ben wrote:
Like I said, biblical's not my gig, but that looks good to me. Malach is angel (as opposed to melech for king or melach for sailor Wink), though the smichut for 'guardian angel' is not one I'm familiar with. Is the sound mal-chei (rhymes with hay) or mal-chai (rhymes with eye)? I'm having trouble remembering with any certainty, though I'm thinking it should be -chei (it would be spelled the same in Modern Hebrew, regardless, since you're basically just dropping the mem in the masculine plural... though I believe the second vowel in the first word is usually dropped as well Mr. Green)


mal-chei

Todah, Shimon.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist, the overwhelming body of evidence is that exercise makes people healthier and live longer. One fluke death of a person who exercises doesn't invalidate the scientific evidence that exercise is good for you. We don't have to look for personal validation of this man's choice to exercise, because we have a wealth of data.

However, there is NO data that prayer does any good at all. We only have anecdotal evidence of people who filter out all the times prayer doesn't work, and concentrate on the few cases where they seem to work.

I know the point you're trying to make: prayer can have a placebo effect and make people feel better even if it has no tangible, external effect beyond that. However, according to this study, prayer didn't even have a placebo effect. In fact, the people who knew they were being prayed for had worse recoveries from their surgery than those who weren't prayed for at all.

So I doubt even those people who "trick" themselves into thinking that prayer has some positive effect. How can something be positive if it acts as an enabling force for people to disassociate themselves from their personal responsibility to fix the problem themselves? Perhaps it can help in areas where we have no control at all . . . but only in as much as it helps us stop worrying about it. In this sense, prayer becomes just a diversion, a way to distract ourselves from things we can't face. I'm not sure that's a positive benefit at all.

Quick Ben, baskets are tangible and have demonstrable benefits. There is no evidence that prayer is anything like this. Sure, we can suppose that prayer is a skill which can be learned. But we can just as easily assume that magic is a skill which can be learned. There is no reason to believe in either unless there is some evidence.

Now the question about whether we can communicate with God without "learning his language," is a ridiculous question in my opinion. Surely if God is an omniscient being which responds to mental communication at all, he could understand plain English. Otherwise, this would be a limitation of the God, not of the devotee. To assume that communication with an omnipotent and omniscient being is anything like basket weaving seems silly to the extreme. If God wants to answer a plain English prayer, he can. Simple. This experiment proved that God does not answer plain English prayers, even when the life and health of humans is on the line. Since no one could argue that answering these prayers is beyond God's power, then it must be the case that either God doesn't exist, or God doesn't care. Neither conclusion is comforting to those who believe in God and the power of prayer.

To blame the lack of results on an incorrect technique seems to miss the entire point of miracles. If prayer is miraculous communication with a supernatural being, entreating this being to perform yet another miracle (besides the communication itself), then the miraculous nature can't be limited by something as mundane as technique. Miracles transcend physical reality. God is supposedly all-powerful and all-knowing. If he wanted to respond to these kinds of plain English prayers, he could. For God to withhold his help in a life-or-death situation merely because our prayers didn't "have the right form" or whatever Esmer can mean seems unbelievably pedantic of a loving God.

If you want to reserve some special word for whatever the heck Esmer is talking about, fine, call that "prayer." But that doesn't change the fact that this experiment proved that God doesn't "take requests." God does not intervene on our behave when we ask him to. Either that, or God places more importance on mere technique than human life.
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

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: Sat Jan 12, 2008 9:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

what I'm saying Malik is we don't have the knowledge that these people had 2,000-10,000 yrs ago, and have no way we are aware of to gain it. Not to mention as Syl pointed out that we have no "instructions" on how to pray, and even if we did we would be likely to misinterpret it. We don't know what their words meant to them, so using their words and "emulating" their acts as we modernly interpret them is only naturally going to be a fruitless task. Definitions require internal knowledge, and since we have no way of knowing how they internally regarded their use of words or explanations of their actions we cannot possibly know what they meant by them. If we were able to go back in time, and learn all of this required information, it is my assertion we would indeed "prove" that prayer is, and know exactly what it is they meant by it. We are seperated from this knowledge by a barrier of language and time. It got lost in the male. Wink (A shred may yet exist in the female, but this is entirely hypothetical.)
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Esmer wrote:

This isn't about you, or me, proving anything Malik.
Then you're in the wrong thread. This is a thread about proving the efficacy of what millions of religious people do on a daily basis. It's not about resurrecting the "true meaning" of what people did 10,000 years ago. While I think that's a fascinating subject--one I've read about, too--that's not the issue here. This study showed that what people today call "prayer" has no measurable effect on reality. This lack of measurable result in no way proves that they don't know what prayer is. In order to make that conclusion, you have to assume that if they did pray properly, then there would be a measurable effect. There's no other way to conclude what you're concluding, based on the results here. But that assumption begs the question of whether prayer (of any kind, correct or not) has any real power. Therefore, we absolutely CANNOT draw the conclusion you are drawing from this experiment. This experiment in no way proves that prayer would work if you did it correctly. It's impossible for these results to show that. Your response to these results is pure conjecture which can be found nowhere within the results themselves. People might be praying incorrectly. But the structure of this experiment doesn't allow for that conclusion to be made.

That would be like saying that a failure to detect alien communication proves that we don't know how to communicate with aliens. While that conclusion might very well be true, it might also be true that there's simply no aliens with whom to communicate. In order to draw the conclusion that our poor communication skills are to blame, you have to assume that there are aliens out there in the first place. (However, even this conjecture would be on stronger ground than the one you're making, because aliens are natural and we have a plausible theory for how they would come into being. We already have one example of life evolving in the universe, so we already know it is possible.)
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I just asked you what combined effort you put into coming to your conclusion, nothing more, nothing less.
It's not my conclusion. It's the conclusion of those who performed the experiment. My research has no bearing on their results.

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Theology and prayer and the pursuit of "The Truth" is something I have been actively engaged in, specifically, exclusively, for over 30 yrs. I have examined every religion there is or you can think of and every seemingly related or even unrelated "phenomena" that exists in this world and it's historical record with "religious fervor" you might say. Wink Based upon my extensive and dedicated research I have patently rejected every form of religion and religious figure we currently are aware of, according to the contemporary terms and actions with which we regard them, which has drawn me to reach the following conclusion, which I stated initially:

Further proof we have forgotten how to pray. We just don't have the knowledge or the will, more importantly knowledge of the will, to pray anymore. Sad
If your personal research has led you to believe this, then that's fine. But your conclusion is based, as you admit, on your research--and not this experiment.

Quote:
What part of "we" don't you understand, and even IF I knew "how to pray", what makes you think I would even be inclined or willing to prove it to you, or to anyone?
"We" can be used facetiously or patronizingly. Thanks for clearing it up here. However, if you're not willing to prove your conclusions to anyone, then what's the point of even talking about them? I've got a fairy in my pocket. Am I going to prove it to you? No. So why should you believe I have a fairy in my pocket? Why should you even give my claim a second thought? Indeed why should we even care? I certainly don't care about theoretical fairy claims which one is unwilling to back up.
_________________
Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

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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