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No Scientific Proof of the Efficacy of Prayer
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

At what point in our history did the word prayer originate Malik? Is it a modern term that was invented in modern times? Who says my conclusions require you to believe them? Who says I have to prove to you that I believe what I say?
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eh. Just because, as I see it, that many of our fellow humans have an irrational concept of God, doesn't mean he actually is irrational. In fact, looking at what I find to be a very rational universe, I think he'd have to be.

And to reiterate, if every skill we learn above the animalistic level (and many below it) depends on learned behavior, what rational reason is there to believe that prayer doesn't as well, especially when it comes to levels of efficacy? Of course basket weaving is an (intentionally) silly analogy (though I believe many prehistoric cultures might disagree on that). You could pick any other skill with the same result, and that's the point. Name one thing you couldn't do better at the more you know.

As for miracles... statistically, a miracle is something that has a 1:1,000,000 chance of happening. Statistically, each person witnesses one miracle about every 13 months (IIRC, =1M seconds). Whether that's a person recovering from terminal cancer, winning a lottery, or just flipping a coin that lands on its side... *shrug* But it's not unimaginable that there are things one could learn about each that would increase his odds past the norm. Could you not then say that they could perform miracles? Is it possible that in prayer there is some way to effect these things. *shrug*

As for prayer being natural, though, I have to strongly disagree. Not unless I was born damned, anyway. I prayed regularly and fervently as any other little Mormon boy. It wasn't until I was 16 that I couldn't put up with the silence anymore and began looking for other answers (a very uncomfortable journey for me to undertake, btw). Even after a blinding, ecstatic moment in my life where I knew the answers... I still occasionally say 'what can it hurt' and try to open myself up to this higher power. I got nothin'. If you want to pray for this light to shine on my soul, you are more than welcome to. I wouldn't shun any knowledge, especially of a higher power.

And perhaps, Furls, you're just a prodigy. Haven't other great artists said doing what they do is as natural to them as breathing? I could train for the rest of my life and never compose anything close to Beethoven.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does anyone want to talk about the experiment . . . ? Did anyone read it . . .?

Esmer, I don't care when the word "prayer" originated. If you want to start a thread about the origins of prayer, and show us the fruits of your 30+ year study, then by all means go ahead. Again, this experiment was undertaken to test what millions of people do on a daily basis now, not to uncover the historic origins of the word.

Your conclusions don't require me to believe them. They simply don't apply to this experiment. If you want to set up a different experiment which tested whatever you're talking about, then go ahead. However, this experiment tested a specific activity, and found that this activity produces no measurable result.

Quick Ben wrote:
And to reiterate, if every skill we learn above the animalistic level (and many below it) depends on learned behavior, what rational reason is there to believe that prayer doesn't as well, especially when it comes to levels of efficacy?
There's an extremely good reason to suppose that prayer is an activity very different from every other activity we perform: it is communication with a supernatural being who (supposedly) is omnipotent, omniscient, and can read our thoughts. Therefore, the issue of skill has no bearing, because any lack of skill we have in framing the request ought to be dwarfed by the supernatural being whom we are addressing. If God knows everything, then he should be able to understand our request. Our lack of ability to ask correctly shouldn't hinder a being who can create the entire universe. Skill has no bearing. All that is required is whether or not god is listening, and if he chooses to help. This experiment showed no evidence that he is doing either.

Quote:
As for miracles... statistically, a miracle is something that has a 1:1,000,000 chance of happening. Statistically, each person witnesses one miracle about every 13 months (IIRC, =1M seconds). Whether that's a person recovering from terminal cancer, winning a lottery, or just flipping a coin that lands on its side... *shrug* But it's not unimaginable that there are things one could learn about each that would increase his odds past the norm. Could you not then say that they could perform miracles? Is it possible that in prayer there is some way to effect these things. *shrug*
No, a miracle isn't merely an unlikely event. A miracle is supernatural intervention by omnipotent God. I don't know where you got those statistics, but they sound suspiciously made-up to me. Nice round number, and all. Smile

A miracle is something that is impossible, and yet it happens anyway because god intervenes to violate the laws of physics. People who have been dead for days, already rotting, and then brought back to life. Or the sun sitting still for three days. That kind of stuff. As far as I know, these kinds of things don't happen every 13 months. In fact, they don't ever happen, except in stories. So no, I don't think any amount of skill can increase the likelihood of something impossible happening. If God wants to do it, that's his prerogative. But my level of skill has no bearing on the issue.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

People pray because the Bible and other ancient documents use the term prayer and describe an act that is used in conjunction with God and miracles Malik. If not for the origins of the term nobody would be praying at all. They are mimicing what they read in a book that was written thousands of years ago. I find it hard to believe you can't see the relevance here. It also might help you to understand that you are the only one here trying to prove anything. The rest of us came in here to discuss things and share our views on the subject of prayer.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It originated in the 13th century and the roots mean things like "beg", "ask for", &c.
How about you get on with the actual discussion now, rather than discarding anything anyone posts on the excuse that they didn't address the exact thing you wanted them to?
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wow! Jesus was born 1300 AD? All the historical documentation we have of the idea of prayer didn't start until 1300 AD? The first recorded evidence of prayer didn't occur until 1300 AD? I am so dumb, I thought it was like 10,000 BC. thanx Murrin, you've been a big help. I guess I'll go throw out my Bible now, seeing how irrelevant it actually is.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Esmer wrote:
At what point in our history did the word prayer originate Malik? Is it a modern term that was invented in modern times?

I answered your question.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

you certainly did Murrin, and made quite a fool of yourself in the process. Shall we request the mod delete this little exchange?
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I answered your question literally and in an offhand manner as a comment on how irrelevant to the debate I saw the line you were taking. I don't see how that is making a fool of myself.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I disagree. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Esmer wrote:
People pray because the Bible and other ancient documents use the term prayer and describe an act that is used in conjunction with God and miracles Malik. If not for the origins of the term nobody would be praying at all. They are mimicing what they read in a book that was written thousands of years ago. I find it hard to believe you can't see the relevance here. It also might help you to understand that you are the only one here trying to prove anything. The rest of us came in here to discuss things and share on views on the subject of prayer.
I think the origins of prayer are relevant if you are interested in the history of religion, and how it relates to today what people do today. However, it is NOT relevant to this experiment. This experiment wanted to specifically test the activity which is relevant to millions of religious people today, because they are doing it today. How can you not see how that is relevant? People do this thing they call prayer. They make a claim that it works. Scientists want to test that claim (not yours). So they construct an experiment to test that claim, and found that there's no evidence to support it. Period.

Do you want to discuss that, or not?

Or do you want to discuss this thing that you can't describe, can't prove, and seem merely to talk about in the vaguest possible terms, even though you've studied it for 30+ years. If you want to discuss, then discuss it. Otherwise, what the heck are you talking about?

You've made an extremely ambiguous claim that you're not willing to back up with any evidence whatsoever. You're not even willing to describe what you're talking about. But you insist that I find it relevant.

I'm not trying to prove anything. I'm here to discuss the topic of this thread, and the experiment which was the subject of this thread. You, on the other hand, are not. I suppose you can talk about whatever you want, but what you have to say has no relation whatsoever to the subject of this thread, or the experiment which began the discussion.

If people are doing something which is different from what people did 10000 years ago, it doesn't matter to the goals of the scientists involved in this experiment. They wanted to test the activity which people are doing now, the activity which those people claim works.
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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: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If they are doing something that is based on knowledge and words that are thousands of years old, how could it not be relevant? If they are imitating what people did thousands of years ago, how could it not be relevant? If they are emulating an act based on words and knowledge that are thousands of years old, how can it not be relevant? If my conclusion is that the experiment is tragically flawed, and therefore the results are absolutely meaningless, how can it not be relevant?
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 1:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Threads change. And yes, I did read the article.

But you're arguing from the logical to the illogical. By those standards, what you're saying is inarguable (and depending on your favorite flavor of illogic, you could rationalize any argument in such a way). I'm trying to frame the idea in terms of logical to logical. Key word is trying. I very might well be going from the illogical to the logical. Doesn't matter to me, really, since it's a rhetoric exercise. If you choose to only look at that side of it, then so be it. I'm hardly out to convince anyone.
Malik wrote:
No, a miracle isn't merely an unlikely event. A miracle is supernatural intervention by omnipotent God. I don't know where you got those statistics, but they sound suspiciously made-up to me. Nice round number, and all.

Webster wrote:
2: an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment

Considering we have not previously mutually agreed on the parameters of what constitutes a miracle, any definition is valid.

Ah, and it appears I was way too generous. A little research (may the gods of academia not strike me down for referring to checking wikipedia as research) reveals that I was referring to Littlewood's Law.
Quote:
Littlewood's Law states that individuals can expect a miracle to happen to them at the rate of about one per month.

The law was framed by Cambridge University Professor J. E. Littlewood, and published in a collection of his work, A Mathematician's Miscellany; it seeks (among other things) to debunk one element of supposed supernatural phenomenology and is related to the more general Law of Truly Large Numbers, which states that with a sample size large enough, any outrageous thing is likely to happen.

Littlewood's law, making certain suppositions, is explained as follows: a miracle is defined as an exceptional event of special significance occurring at a frequency of one in a million; during the hours in which a human is awake and alert, a human will experience one thing per second (for instance, seeing the computer screen, the keyboard, the mouse, the article, etc.); additionally, a human is alert for about eight hours per day; and as a result, a human will, in 35 days, have experienced, under these suppositions, 1,008,000 things. Accepting this definition of a miracle, one can be expected to observe one miraculous occurrence within the passing of every 35 consecutive days -- and therefore, according to this reasoning, seemingly miraculous events are actually commonplace.


And I may not be a mod in this forum, but I hardly see how the sarcasm is helping anyone, fellas.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Syl, the miracle in question is clear from the context: supernatural communication with the Supreme Being which achieves the granting of a specific wish. That kind of miracle is what we're talking about here. Not some statistical definition. But even if we were to define it statistically, the study showed no statistical advantage to praying. If miracles really happen as frequently as you say (apparently without even consulting the skill of the people), then it should have manifested itself in this study.

Esmer, I've explained several times now how your issue is not relevant to this experiment. Whatever it is you are referring to, the scientists had no interest in testing for it. Therefore, their experiment wasn't designed to test for it. And thus, whatever it is you are referring to has no bearing on whether the results were accurate or not.

If people are performing prayers differently from people 10000 years ago, that is an issue for historical study. I'm not saying that this wouldn't be a valuable investigation in itself. In fact, I'd be interested in hearing the results. However, how can scientists test for a certain skill which no one is performing today? It is separate issue from the hypothesis being tested here.

Person x makes the claim, "the kind of praying that I do works." Scientist y then devises an experiment to test that claim. This claim can be tested independently of your claim, which is, "person x is praying wrong." Either person x's claim is true, or not. Either it works, or it doesn't. These two possibilities are testable whether the person is praying correctly, or incorrectly.

Your claim might be the reason why the prayers didn't work. Or it may not be. We would have to conduct a new experiment to test that hypothesis. However, the experiment discussed here was sufficient to test the original claim: "the kind of prayer most people do today works."

The question of whether of not that claim is true is a perfectly valid area of investigation. In fact, we must settle that issue before we can deal with yours, because if it were proven that this type of prayer works, there would then be no need to bother with your points, because we would have proof that prayer--even if done incorrectly according to you--still works, which would be a finding of great significance. However, that result was not the case. So we know definitively that, for whatever reason, the kind of prayer people do today doesn't work. That's a perfectly valid conclusion. You may think you have the explanation for why it doesn't work, but that's a separate theory which must be tested with a new experiment.
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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 2:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since I'm not here to prove anything Malik, but simply to discuss things, why don't you just ignore me? and if the moderator feels that my input into this discussion is irrelevant and inappropriate, why don't you just ask them to delete it?

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Esmer wrote:
Since I'm not here to prove anything Malik, but simply to discuss things, why don't you just ignore me? and if the moderator feels that my input into this discussion is irrelevant and inappropriate, why don't you ask them to delete it?


Because your discussion is clouding the issue. I'm here to clear things up.

I don't need a moderator. I'm handling this just fine.
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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: Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, Malik, then how about I just ignore you then, because I feel you don't understand anything at all about the experiment?
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You could instead explain how I don't understand it.

For instance, why is it necessary to take your claim into account in order to test person x's claim?
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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: Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I already have, and you don't understand. Is your failure to comprehend the relevance of my statements my responsibility? did this somehow become Maliks thread, where we discuss only what Malik wants and understands?
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Think of it this way: I make a claim that I can jump 20 feet high, because my Holy Book tells me I can. Scientists doubt this claim, and therefore ask me to prove it. They set up a 20 foot high measuring stick, and tell me to jump. I jump, but I get no where near 20 feet high. They rightly conclude that my original claim was false.

Anything wrong with that experiment?

In the meantime, you might come along and say that everyone jumping today has lost the original art of Holy Jumping, and that if we knew how to do it correctly, we would be able to jump 20 feet high. A scientist would appropriately ask you to prove this claim . . . at which you'd defiantly say: "I don't have to prove anything to you."

And then we'd shake our heads and respond: thought so.

Maybe ignoring you was good advice.
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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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