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No Scientific Proof of the Efficacy of Prayer
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Miracle whip is an abomination in the eyes of the lord. Evil or Very Mad
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Esmer said:
Quote:

Miracle whip is an abomination in the eyes of the lord.


Esmer, I will pray for you .... but only if if you teach me how! Smile
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

isn't that in the Bible, the blind leading the blind? Laughing

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Matthew 15:14 (King James Version):

Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.


I've spent enough of my life in the ditch thank you very much! Razz
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Malik23 wrote:
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 [could increase] their skill at praying, then conceivably it [could] 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 [define how I talk] about miracles. My (Syl's) definition of miracles carries [] 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.

Made some slight but necessary changes, not that I entirely agree with the characterization of the course of events.
Quote:
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.

That's an interesting proposal, though I'm not sure I'm up to the task. However, I'm not saying "prayers are" but "prayers could be." And if you want to refine it to something close to what I actually believe, it would be simply that I reject the idea of prayer being impossible, and propose that it is merely highly improbable. If you're taking the scientific approach, as you claim you do, then that is a correct stance, isn't it?
Quote:
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 ).

Perhaps, perhaps. But I have enjoyed the effort, and considering at least Lucimay has at well, then my efforts haven't been entirely pointless. I imagine I've even given you some things to think about, Malik. And that, really, has been my only purpose.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Malik23 wrote:
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.

See, this is one of the few instances where I'll actually say you're wrong, Mal. The Laws of Physics are merely a set of rules where a lot of people said, 'We have observed these principles in action numerous times and have found no incidences where they were not upheld, so we can currently say with a great amount of certainty that they are true.' That kind of dogmatic thinking is what religious types label as 'The Religion of Science.' Science doesn't address the impossible, but the possible. The unobserved is addressed by Theories.
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Quote:
Strange things happen all the time.
That doesn't make them a miracle.

To you. Others' perceptions vary. I'm not saying I see miracles, or even think of things in such terms. I'm just saying others do. I mean, a lot of people in the world consider the Virgin's face on a peace of toast a miracle. I just see it as a somewhat improbable but highly <possible> occurrence. *shrug*
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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.[/quote]
I completely agree.
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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.

No, that's stating that we don't know if it happened or not. In the instance of the study, we know it didn't happen. So we can say with a fair amount of certainty that there is no mechanism such as was proposed.
Quote:
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.

And I would agree, except I would hesitate to say something 'violates' the Laws of Physics. That would indeed be impossible. The best that can be said is, 'such events do not correspond to our current understanding, thus, it is highly unlikely.'
Quote:
In cases where it's impossible to go back in time to see if it happened...

As opposed to cases where it's possible to go back in time? Wink
Quote:
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.

Undoubtedly. But might there not be other possible explanations, as in the case of a theorized supernova, like in the article I linked? On a universal scale, even the highly unlikely becomes just a matter of time. And consider, similar reasoning was once applied to why the earth couldn't possibly be orbiting the sun: the bird never gets the worm. The more we learn...
Quote:
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.

Unless "God" is the programmer. Wink
Quote:
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.

And see, I just don't care, at least not beyond your need to tell people they're right or wrong. Even I don't think I'm right, if you want to work in absolute terms.
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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.

Exactly, but his wife might believe it was. Likewise, even he did suffer from something that made him appear to rise from the dead (I'm sure we've all heard the stories, even going to explanations for voodoo zombies and all that), that in itself would appear miraculous.
Quote:
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?

Artificial by your use of the word "true," yes. [
Quote:
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.

If that includes there being things we just don't understand, then hells yes. Hallelujah!
Quote:
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.'

And there's nothing that prevents me from responding, "It's not impossible. Just highly improbable."
Quote:
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."

For the same reason I call a fish a fish, but Ehud Olmert calls it a dog. Simply a difference in labeling, not a misunderstanding of the evident nature of the universe.
Quote:
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.

Me neither, but if you showed the same procedure to a serf from the middle ages, he might think you were dabbling in high necromancy. The term miracle is relative to our understanding. I mean, from all accounts, Jesus didn't think walking on water was all that miraculous. It was just something he did and said anyone else could do. If you could heal lepers with a touch, how miraculous do you think it would be to you after the thousandth or so?
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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.

And I'd say we agree, though we just word it differently.
Quote:
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

It's still a fanciful concept picked for it's silliness that has no direct bearing on the subject at hand. You could have picked a more cogent example. If it really was a separate theory raised for its own merits, that would be different. But per your scoffing at the basketweaving analogy...

Besides, the paper put forward a very compelling argument for the probability of a simulation universe. Yours amounts to... 'I just think I'm right.' I'm not saying I believe either, but if I had to choose on the merits of the argument...
Quote:
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.

I am responding, yes. But arguing the actual merits of things outside of your proclamations of certainty... Nah. I'm not sure why you think I would want to convince anyone of something that I don't myself believe. And I imagine the bar that would mean convincing you would be beyond the level appropriate for casual discussion... especially considering your disdain for the articles I have linked.

<edit to change one word>
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

iQuestor wrote:
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....


Shocked

Oh...iQ...where did your mama go wrong???

Esmer wrote:
Miracle whip is an abomination in the eyes of the lord. Evil or Very Mad


Say Ay-MEN, brother!!
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quick Ben, I think we've reach an impasse, and to add yet another line-by-line response would be a fruitless endeavor.

Obviously, we're using the word "miracle" differently, and both of us are arguing that our usage is just as legitimate (if not more so) than the other. That's an argument which can't really get off the ground.

However, I think your position is less secure, because it puts you in the position of defending the use of the word even when people are wrong about their usage. You might as well defend the use of the word "magic" to describe technology, simply because of Arthur C. Clarke's famous saying ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.") I don't think he was arguing that technology is magical, nor was he arguing that we should be able to apply this word to technology. He was making a point that people will (incorrectly) invoke the supernatural for things they don't understand--even something as straightforwardly mundane as technology. If it is sufficiently advanced, people have a hard time distinguishing it from magic. But we shouldn't defend people's misunderstanding, or defend their confusion as a response to the universe on par with understanding. Surely understanding displaces a previous misunderstanding, and a correct usage of a word displaces an incorrect usage of that word. At least, that's how I see it.

There's one more thing you're doing in this debate that sets us apart: you're arguing for something you don't believe in--by your own admission. Yet you criticize me for my "certainty," for "trying to hard," and my "need to be right and prove others wrong." I think what you're picking up on is that I'm passionate about my position. I do believe I'm right, but that's not what is important to me. I'm not here to win, to make you (or anyone) look silly, or to preach the "religion of science." I'm going to great lengths because I believe what I have to say is important, and I want very much to communicate it to you and to others. I'm not merely playing a game or playing devil's advocate, or defending a position which I don't believe in. I mean what I say, and want dearly for the world to understand it. So perhaps that's the difference you are noting with these criticisms.

One small note on the details: I should have made a distinction between the laws of physics (which we articulate) and the physical constants and relationships (which these laws attempt to capture). When I was talking about possibility and impossibility, I was basing that on the latter and not the former.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can live with that, Mal. And I applaud your enthusiasm and perspicacity on the subject. Perhaps the argument, inasmuch as we can be said to have one, stems from the fact that in areas like these, I shun the words 'wrong,' 'ridiculous,' and 'impossible,' where it concerns the beliefs of others (not that it stops me from arguing with those beliefs when I choose). As certain as I usually am of my own rectitude, I like to consider Hamlet's words when he says, "There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio."
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 7:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, in any case, I think it's interesting that those who knew they were being prayed for did worse. Laughing

Also, I think it's odd to test the power of prayer with something that was going to happen anyway. Even if we do define a miracle as something that happens 1 in 1,000,000 times (and I'm entirely in Malik's court on that), getting better from this surgery is not a miracle. They didn't say how many people in any of the three groups died from complications, but I'm sure the percentage of those who recovered is better than 1/1,000,000.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

maybe it takes time for the effects to be realized. they might end up living longer and being healthier because of the prayers. we don't know anything about it, and so much we don't know about ourselves, therefore how can we determine what effect it actually has if any?
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

QB wrote:
perspicacity
Heh! Only on KW.
Is it a wonder that this is my favourite discussion forum?
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Esmer, the problem is that we're trying to do a scientific study of it. In this study, it did not accomplish what it attempted to accomplish. Will those who were prayed for in this study live longer because of the prayers that were said for them in this study, even though the prayers weren't for longer life? Well, we could keep track of them, and see if they live longer than those who did not get the prayers. But then we'd have to check every other variable that might conceivably increase lifespan, too. Including how many other times each person in all groups was prayed for in their lifetimes. Which would be impossible.

Yes, you're free to believe it's prayer can do what you're suggesting. You're free to believe it is doing what you're suggesting. But if you want to talk about studying it with the scientific method, you're gonna have your work cut out for you. Shocked

(And I figured I'd let "perspicacity" slide, because I think I said something about some word or other in another of Syl's posts recently, and I didn't want to look like I was picking on him. Mr. Green)
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist, the scientists claimed the effects must be immediate in order to comply with their expectations of the results. They can't force prayer to comply with their definition of it if they don't understand it, and the people praying don't understand it either. Maybe it proves they don't know what they're doing or what to expect. It's like saying it proves there is no God because He didn't appear when you called Him. Do you come when called if you can't hear the call or someone doesn't know your name? or doesn't speak your language?

this is about maybe. THEORY. Wink
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, "immediate" was not required. It only needed to be faster than those not prayed for, and/or with fewer complications, to give us reason to believe the prayers helped. But that was not the case. The prayers did not do what those praying hoped they would do.

No, this does not prove prayer cannot accomplish anything that is measurable by science. But it certainly doesn't prove prayer can accomplish anything that is measurable by science. Do you have suggestions for further studies that might be more conclusive?
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:
Well, in any case, I think it's interesting that those who knew they were being prayed for did worse. Laughing

Also, I think it's odd to test the power of prayer with something that was going to happen anyway. Even if we do define a miracle as something that happens 1 in 1,000,000 times (and I'm entirely in Malik's court on that), getting better from this surgery is not a miracle. They didn't say how many people in any of the three groups died from complications, but I'm sure the percentage of those who recovered is better than 1/1,000,000.


This was my whole point earlier, why pray?

God has a plan, as Christians are want to say. If something good happens, or what they preayed for comes true, they say "Praise God! He answered my prayers." If something bad happens, or they didnt get what they prayed for, God still comes out smelling like a rose, because they say "God works in mysterious ways" or "What you ask for may not be what you get" or some other similar sentiment.

SInce God has a plan, and is obvious about keeping to it, then I offer a conundrum: If you pray for something that is in His plan, its gonna happen anyway. If you pray for something not in his plan, you dont get it, or you get something else, presumable something that is in his plan.

Either way, God is sticking to his plan, and your prayer didnt affect the outcome either way. Therefore, it made no difference. Why Pray?
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a very complex, ultra-complicated theory about prayer, Fist, but the time, effort and energy required to make it into a cohesive post is beyond me at this time, not to mention the fact that it won't really prove anything anyway. undergoing such a pointless, fruitless process is something I can't convince myself to undertake at this time, it's just not worth it to me right now. Maybe someday.... Wink
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Esmer, I'm sorry to come off harsh, but... And I haven't read all of your posts, so I may be wrong. But from what I've seen, you've often argued for a view/theory that you've only hinted at, and admit you've never verified in any way.


iQuestor, I'm with you.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 9:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

are you saying I OWE you an explanation Fist? That I can't say what I think just because I think it? I don't HAVE to back up anything I say if I don't feel like it, I'm free to say what I choose when I choose, and if you don't like it, then don't like it.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 9:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doar wrote:
Either way, God is sticking to his plan, and your prayer didnt affect the outcome either way. Therefore, it made no difference. Why Pray?


This is my opinion only. We pray for selfish reasons. Most often, that reason is to reaffirm one's own understanding, whatever that may consist of, of what one chooses to accept and believe.

I know when I pray, and I am talking personal thoughts, not the formulaic prayers of worship, most of the time I enter it with the mindset that most likely I am simply organzing my thoughts, venting, being thankful, whatever, and that there will be no obvious return from it. But it makes me feel better.

And that's the heart of the matter.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doar/iQuestor wrote
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This was my whole point earlier, why pray?

God has a plan, as Christians are want to say. If something good happens, or what they preayed for comes true, they say "Praise God! He answered my prayers." If something bad happens, or they didnt get what they prayed for, God still comes out smelling like a rose, because they say "God works in mysterious ways" or "What you ask for may not be what you get" or some other similar sentiment.

SInce God has a plan, and is obvious about keeping to it, then I offer a conundrum: If you pray for something that is in His plan, its gonna happen anyway. If you pray for something not in his plan, you dont get it, or you get something else, presumable something that is in his plan.

Either way, God is sticking to his plan, and your prayer didnt affect the outcome either way. Therefore, it made no difference. Why Pray?


Part of it has to do with how one percieves "God's plan". If, as many Christians feel, that everything that occurs does so because of the "plan" and that all events, however minor, are in the "plan", then you are right. If everything is pre-ordained and my actions don't change what is going to happen, then why pray? Becuase whatever God wants to happen will anyway, regardless.

I don't see the "plan" that way though. (And I realize that this places me in the minortiy amongst Christians). To me, God's "plan" is a type of existence He'd like for us to have. Sort of like my plan for my son's life. I plan for him to grow up happy and healthy, get good grades in school, go to college, get a good job, get married and make me a grandfather at some point. Does that mean that this is what will happen? Nope. It's my "plan," but between my actions, his (my son's) own choices and random chance it may or may not happen that way. I see God's "plan" the same way. Not as a sequence of pre-ordained events, but rather as goals for us to achieve.

In that context, prayer does make more sense. But I honestly wasn't surprised by the results of the study. I came to my own conculsion, fairly early on, that praying for a thing or an event didn't necessarily make it more likely to happen. So again, why pray? Well, like Menolly said, it makes me feel better. When I pray, if I am praying for something, it is usually for something intangible, like internal peace, or to reduce stress or anger, as opposed to praying for surgical recovery, or a safe trip home for a loved one or anything along those lines. And for those things, for me, it works quite well. I'm not sure if the benefits I get from prayer are a quantifiable result though. And certainly, one could make the arguement that the benefits I get from prayer could be achieved through meditation, or other stress reduction-type techniques. But calling it "prayer" makes it work for me, and makes it real for me, whereas calling it "meditation" would not have the same subjective effect, at least for me personally.
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