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No Scientific Proof of the Efficacy of Prayer
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 11:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent post, MR!! Very Happy


Esmer wrote:
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.
You're absolutely right. You can say anything you want any time you want. But you shouldn't be surprised if, from time to time, someone asks you to back it up. I mean, you argue this view often. Why do you think, in a thread that is about there being no scientific proof of something like this, we have to hear speculations that you fully admit are not verified by even your own personal experience, much less any scientific study, but nobody is allowed to call you on it?

This study does not support the usefulness of a certain kind of prayer for a certain desired outcome. If you think that's not the end of the story, I'd like to hear your thoughts beyond "That's not the end of the story." I've always wanted to hear your thoughts on these things, and have had these discussions with you in the past, hoping you'll go on. And, yes, I'll ask what makes you believe those thoughts are more than fantasy. Personally, I think Conversations With God is a fantastic book! It is, imo, extraordinarily logical, and beautiful. However, I don't have reason to believe it is the Truth of things.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Understand that I have not read all six pages of this thread so I hope no one has brought this up yet. I did read the initial page and that is what I am basing my response on.

Praying is comparable to meditation. It is a method of reaching a place inside oneself and finding peace of mind and heart. Many people participate in this activity because it calms their minds and refreshes them.

Christians, Jews, and Muslums pray to God to reach this place, Buddists pray to Buddah, etc. All religions - and non-religions for that matter - have some sort of method for refreshing the mind and spirit - and by spirit, I do not mean soul. I cannot think of a better way to term it. Heh.

So, to say that praying does not make a difference is a little odd. I understand why a scientist would think that "praying" makes no impact on a person because they cannot measure it. It is not tangible. They have no results to study.

But, how many people here meditate? How many people swear by the results?
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:
Excellent post, MR!! Very Happy


Esmer wrote:
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.
You're absolutely right. You can say anything you want any time you want. But you shouldn't be surprised if, from time to time, someone asks you to back it up. I mean, you argue this view often. Why do you think, in a thread that is about there being no scientific proof of something like this, we have to hear speculations that you fully admit are not verified by even your own personal experience, much less any scientific study, but nobody is allowed to call you on it?


Avatar said in The Tank guidelines:

Quote:
Remember though, that once you make your opinion clear, you're going to be asked to justify it. You don't have to back it up with supporting data, but you'll probably be asked to. And if you do, please include a link, to help people judge the source.

If you can't, or if the data doesn't exist, then simply say so, and make clear that it's an opinion. You will however probably need a reason why you hold that particular opinion.



Now, I realize this was Avatar's guidelines for the tank, and not the Close, but I would argue that it applies.

Esmer, No, you don't owe anyone an explanation or a reason, and yes you can say whatever you want, but it is assumed you are here for some reason. If you want to your opinion and your posts to be respected, then it follows you would need to back up your position with either facts or reasons why you feel that way. If you don't care if people respect your opinion or your posts, then why post at all?
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After reading a few more posts on previous pages, I can see where the conversation is going a little clearer.

I think the problem with the study was that scientists were looking at prayer as a means to an end. In other words, they were looking at people praying and asking for something in particular.

Yet, in my opinion, the scientists were studying the wrong thing. Prayer is not necessarily about asking for things and recieving them. Prayer is not going to get you a new car or take away your lung cancer. Prayer is about being closer to your personal god.

I like the scene in the movie Constantine where he is talking to the archangel Gabriel. Constantine asks why his prayers haven't been answered, why he is going to hell, and why he is dying. Gabriel tells him that he is dying because he smoked too many cigarettes and that he is going to hell because everything he has ever done in his life was for selfish reasons. His prayers were useless because they were self-serving.

So, when Esmer says that they were praying "wrong" I think this might be what he meant.

Is that right, Es?

Prayer is not about asking for things. That is why it cannot be scientifically studied.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 11:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your and MR's posts are certainly more to my liking, Calais. It is entirely reasonable to pray in those ways, and achieve your peace/happiness/union with God/etc with it. But I expect the people who prayed for the patients have a different view, or they wouldn't have bothered. But the study did not support their view.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 11:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Calais said:
Quote:
Prayer is not about asking for things. That is why it cannot be scientifically studied.


I dont think that is a universal feeling. What about a congregation in a Christian church -- when a member gets sick, they all "pray" for that person to get well, to be healed. People are praying for rain in Atlanta because we have a severe drought. People many times pray for things.


Now I realize this isnt always the case, and I allow that people pray sometimes and dont specifically ask for things, but I do think one of the main points, or at least how people do it nowadays, is they are asking for something -- to be cured, for money, for forgiveness, for strength, for understanding.

Esmer said we had forgotten how to pray, and possibly this is what he meant; that we were asking for things when we should be trying to understand and be closer.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, you are right that not all people share my view. However, many do.

And people do pray for things. But is someone going to get well because they were prayed for or are they going to get well because the doctor gave them medicine?

Does it really matter? If someone believes that they were healed because of God, is that so bad? No, of course it isn't.

I am just wondering how the scientists missed those people who do truly believe that they recieved what they prayed for.

(Hint: I am at work and could not access the article). Wink [/i]
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 1:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Close is not the 'Tank. I used to mod here, giving it up because I didn't have the inclination to read the posts required. But as far as I'm aware, policy hasn't changed. It is necessary to the fundamental nature of the forum to be able to simply state one's beliefs or even a part thereof. Everyone should be welcome to state what they think, and others should be respectful. For instance, I've mentioned several times that I grew up Mormon. Does that mean I have to give a full dissertation on it if I mention it? No. Asking is fine, but if I say I don't feel like going into it... that should be the end of it.

That said, I'm fairly aware of what Esmer is talking about. I've read up on gnosticism (considering I had a moment of gnosis in my life, it seemed like a good idea). I've read the teachings of Don Juan. Maybe that has something to do with it. If you truly wish to understand rather than attack, perhaps he can list some relevant reading?
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 1:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shocked Confused Embarassed

Uh, I didn't mean to offend, Syl. That wasn't my intention at all. I apologize if I did. I actually thought I was being middle of the road.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No offense was made, Cal, and it wasn't you.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, good. I know sometimes it is difficult to read emotions on these posts. Heh.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 3:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Calais wrote:

I think the problem with the study was that scientists were looking at prayer as a means to an end. In other words, they were looking at people praying and asking for something in particular.

Yet, in my opinion, the scientists were studying the wrong thing.


The scientists could very well be studying the wrong thing, starting with the wrong assumptions, using a bad definition of prayer, etc. This is true. However, there is a belief held by millions of people that prayers work, meaning that when they pray for something, that prayer actually helps to bring it about. So the scientists were trying to test that belief, and not all the possible beliefs or definitions people have for prayer. When you do an experiment, you have to narrow your scope and control your number of variables in order to get a meaningful result. Although this result may not be universal, or cover every possible form or definition of prayer, it achieved its goal of testing this particular type of prayer claim. And I would argue that this is a relevant result because it applies to a practice and a belief that millions of people experience on a daily basis (though these people may be wrong, according to your definitions, too--in fact, this experiment doesn't contradict that belief).

So the scientists weren't studying the wrong thing if they were studying exactly what they had intended to study. If the results aren't relevant to your particular beliefs on prayer, then that's a separate issue. But it's not really fair criticism to say they were studying the wrong thing, merely because they weren't studying what you wanted them to study. They are free to set their own goals and criteria.

I don't mean to sound like I'm chastising you, nor am I saying your beliefs are wrong. I just feel that the results of this study are being lost in all these attempts to dismiss them.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i don't think Cal was necessarily dismissing them, more voicing her opinion that they had studied the wrong thing in regard to prayer.

after several pages of this thread, i'm inclinded to agree with her.
(Calais has the same ideas about prayer that i do.)


definitions of prayer are plentiful. viable studies? not so much.

can you get a bunch of people together and get them all in the
right frame of mind to affect another person's ailment by envoking
divine intervention? possibly.

does a diety in charge of a kabillion souls have a minute to
get jenn a million dollars and a beach house? could be.

is belief (or...for esmer...intention) alone enough to affect matter?

can you measure this stuff?

good question.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 6:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sorry to have become so combative with you Fist, and I apologize to everyone as well. As I already mentioned the great effort it would require for me to undertake such an attempt to explain my exact theory is beyond my current ability, and will accomplish nothing in the end. in other words, you don't know what you are asking me to do when you ask for an explanation, it's not that easy, and it's not that simple, and if what I've said already seems incomprehensible, what is going to happen when I make it even more complicated and complex? It serves no purpose, achieves nothing in the end, and comes at great personal cost for me to do so, so take my word for it, please.

If the fact that people thousands of years ago are probably difficult to comprehend, and that prayer came with no instruction makes no sense to you (how many of us can even understand where our parents are coming from?), then what is further expounding of the theory going to accomplish? For me, that IS the explanation, that alone should be enough to support my statements. And Syl pretty much nails it. You guys are fully aware of the influences and sources of information that make up the body of my perspective, just start there why don't you? Make an effort yourself instead of asking me to do it for you? Everything I believe is the result of direct experience, I have taken no-ones word for anything because for me that's just no way to learn anything. I've paid for my knowledge with blood, bone, tears and soul, and nearly lost my life on more than one occasion, as well as sacrificing my own personal life in my attempts to ultimately understand this world. I have given up everything I have and everything I am for what I know, and you asking for it served up on a platter would only naturally make me emotionally resistant to your requests.

So yes, you do have the right to demand from me, but what I'm saying is you don't know what you're asking for when you do so, it's just not that simple, it's just not that easy, and it's just not worth it to me to do something that you will likely dismiss offhand as incompatable with your current beliefs. My just saying it doesn't prove anything, and you can't learn this stuff by reading about it, you have to live it. There is no other way. In my world God gives you nothing but love for the asking, if you want the power of His will you must claim it with your own and as your own. The challenge He has given us is to discover how.

and since I can't back up my comments at this time, I'll qualify those statements made by others as to my intentions with a: "you're definitely on the right track". Wink
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Come on, Syl. I asked for clarification of his beliefs, and told him that, since the thread's topic is what it is, I'd also be asking him why he has those beliefs. That's hardly an attack.

Esmer wrote:
And Syl pretty much nails it. You guys are fully aware of the influences and sources of information that make up the body of my perspective, just start there why don't you? Make an effort yourself instead of asking me to do it for you?
I read the first Don Juan book not long before you joined the Watch, iirc. Thing is, I did not find it compelling enough to continue. It did have some stuff I liked, but most I did not. Reading is usually something of an effort for me, and I hoped you could give me a shorter version. Like I said, even systems of belief I do find overwhelmingly logical (I've often mentioned Conversations With God, Eknath Easwaran's translations of the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, and Fools Crow) don't convince me they are real. So if I don't find Don Juan as logical (and yes, I know that's a subjective thing, particularly where belief systems are concerned), I can't much read on. If you had told me what it is about, and your reason for believing it worked for me, it might be a different story. In other types of threads, I have not asked anybody why they believe what they believe, because it wasn't that kind of thread. But here...


Esmer wrote:
Everything I believe is the result of direct experience, I have taken no-ones word for anything because for me that's just no way to learn anything. I've paid for my knowledge with blood, bone, tears and soul, and nearly lost my life on more than one occasion, as well as sacrificing my own personal life in my attempts to ultimately understand this world. I have given up everything I have and everything I am for what I know, and you asking for it served up on a platter would only naturally make me emotionally resistant to your requests.
Now that makes sense! Very Happy I've never heard you say such things. I have heard you say things like, "I admit I haven't actually tried this stuff, so I don't really know..." In this thread, I believe that can be challenged. But what you said just now is different. If your reason for believing was some particular experience, it would be great to hear about it. But if it is a lifetime, I won't ask for a Readers Digest version.


Esmer wrote:
In my world God gives you nothing but love for the asking, if you want the power of His will you must claim it with your own and as your own. The challenge He has given us is to discover how.
I've told Malik at times that I don't agree with his reasons for having a certain view, but that I agree with the overall result. Same sort of goes for you with this. I don't think I'll ever come to believe there is or is not any god/God. But even if there isn't, I feel that Love is everything.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is God's ultimate love for us, that He has given us everything we need to live our lives as we see fit. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist wrote:
Come on, Syl. I asked for clarification of his beliefs, and told him that, since the thread's topic is what it is, I'd also be asking him why he has those beliefs. That's hardly an attack.

Doar wrote:
Now, I realize this was Avatar's guidelines for the tank, and not the Close, but I would argue that it applies.

Esmer, No, you don't owe anyone an explanation or a reason, and yes you can say whatever you want, but it is assumed you are here for some reason. If you want to your opinion and your posts to be respected, then it follows you would need to back up your position with either facts or reasons why you feel that way. If you don't care if people respect your opinion or your posts, then why post at all?

Syl wrote:
The Close is not the 'Tank... It is necessary to the fundamental nature of the forum to be able to simply state one's beliefs or even a part thereof. Everyone should be welcome to state what they think, and others should be respectful.

All I'm saying is that respect is the default position. I didn't accuse anyone of attacking or offending. Now, that doesn't mean you have to like what someone says, and it definitely doesn't mean you have to agree.

I mean, I didn't agree with Furls about the naturalness of prayer, but I also tried to respect her own beliefs while stating my own. I do not require in depth explanation to allow it validity. Further, if I were to press her in such a manner, not only would it achieve nothing, but it would assuredly gain me ill will from others.

But I'm curious, Fist, if you say it's hardly an attack, why would you need to state in a previous post, "Esmer, I'm sorry to come off harsh, but..."
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 3:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Treating people with respect is certainly the default position. But it is asking too much for us to respect a belief or an idea in the absence of the reasons and justifications which cause the person who espouses the idea to believe it in the first place. Beliefs have to earn their respect. And the only one who can help them along the way is the person who espouses that belief.

And criticizing--even ridiculing--an idea is not the same thing as criticizing a person. Ideas aren't people. No idea is above critique. No idea is above sarcasm. An idea is only as good as it is useful, or as it is reasonable, or as it is backed up by evidence.

Esmer, I've read one of Don Juan's books. I've also read Alice Bailey's OCCULT MEDITATIONS. I've read Terrence McKenna's ARCHAIC REVIVAL, Robert Anton Wilson's COSMIC TRIGGER series, Colin Wilson's THE OCCULT, Paul Devereux's THE LONG TRIP, Timothy Leary's autobiography FLASHBACKS, Schultes and Hofmann's PLANTS OF THE GODS, Vine Delora's SPIRIT AND REASON . . . and these are just the ones I was able to pull of my own bookshelf just now. I'm clearly open to the idea that modern man has lost touch with a hidden (which is what "occult" means) potential within consciousness that once opened us up to a larger view of reality. I myself have experienced something transcendental and almost "godlike" during several shroom trips. And I've had experiences which make me wonder if I'm psychic (I've listed some of these on the Watch). So this audience isn't as hostile to your ideas as you might think.

I sympathize with how difficult it might be to put something out there which is very dear to your heart, something you feel very strongly about, only to have assholes like me tear it down due to lack of understanding. Also, much of the things you have to share (I assume) rely upon personal seeking and person experience, rather than the Western method of having an authority figure give you the bullet point version. I understand that.

However, asking us to understand these distinctions, while not taking into account the very thing which you are distinguishing yourself from (i.e. the Western rational, materialistic model--which underlies this experiment) only confuses the issue.

The Western rational model has its uses. It has clearly had its success. This is only a suggestion . . . but if you want to get your message across with more success, perhaps it would be better if you didn't simply dismiss the findings of Western science flippantly, if you don't want your own ideas dismissed in a similar manner.

I think the things you want to talk about have much worth. But the way you talk about them immediately engages the defense mechanisms, even for people like me who are inclined to be sympathetic to your view. Of course, the way I argue is probably very similar, and I could take my own advice. So I apologize if I sound preachy. Actually, I'm trying to reach out. You do help me remember that there is this other side to my research and my thinking which I often ignore. The duality is hard to straddle.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 3:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can do whatever you want, Mal. I'm just saying... the Close isn't the Tank. It isn't meant to be. And when it comes to things like faith and religion, that approach might satisfy you, but it will come at a cost (to others, yourself, harp seals? *shrug*) and almost definitely achieve nothing in the long term.

But perhaps this is a conversation better suited to the 'Guidelines and Roundtable Discussion' thread.
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"It is not the literal past that rules us, save, possibly, in a biological sense. It is images of the past. Each new historical era mirrors itself in the picture and active mythology of its past or of a past borrowed from other cultures. It tests its sense of identity, of regress or new achievement against that past.
-George Steiner
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Syl, I feel like you only read the first paragraph or two of my post. I agree with you that my own style often doesn't communicate well. However, I was trying to reach out to Esmer and let him know that this audience wasn't entirely hostile to the things he has to offer.

While I think I could tone it down, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask someone to back up their point. However, I DO think Esmer has backed up his position of "not going into detail" by telling us how much effort and what personal risk this would entail. I agree that the points he has to make don't translate well to this particular style of debate, because this style of debate is linear, confrontational, and literal. It's difficult to show when this medium only facilitates telling.

Put Don Juan on a message board, and he'd probably just sit there in silence, waiting until you're ready to listen. I get that.
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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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