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No Scientific Proof of the Efficacy of Prayer
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heh. I only addressed the first paragraph or two. The rest wasn't to me. Wink I did enjoy the rest of it, though, as I did this one, so sorry I didn't say so.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 6:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The only thing I have to say at this time is that I didn't learn a dam thing by reading it in a book. I lived it, breathed it, became it. Learning is by doing, not by only reading and thinking, at least this kind of learning. and my current knowledge is the sum total of the experience of my entire life, not something I pondered for an afternoon or so on several seperate occasions. Total commitment, total effort, total sacrifice. anything less only gets you what you put into it. saying this only proves the strength and the passion of my conviction, not it's validity or authority above everyone else's convictions.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Malik wrote:

Quote:
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.


You are right that they are free to set their own goals and criteria - even though it is very narrow, as it would have to be for a study like this. You know, some studies are to together to prove a particular belief - not just to study the outcome and keep an open mind. Wink

But like Lucimay noted, many different people of many different faiths have many different beliefs of the right way/wrong way to pray and the thousands upon thousands of different ideas of what prayer should be, how can scientists think that their particular study of a very specific type of praying is correct under these various circumstances?

In addition, the scientists on this very forum frequently have told me that virtually every scientific study is dissected by other scientists, argued about, punched holes in, etc., etc. I would be interested to see those rebuttals.

So, in all actuality those of us who are attempting to "dismiss them" are not attempting to dismiss them at all but discussing the validity of the study just as other scientists would do.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

good post Calais. Very Happy



twocents just a thought, but maybe it was because the scientists had no faith that the experiment didn't work. maybe everyone involved needed to have faith in God and prayer, and the scientists just didn't have any. Their presence alone may have voided the results or interfered in some way. just a thought.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The observer effect as applied to prayer?
If a skeptic knows you're praying, the prayer will or will not come true with a probability indistinguishable from that which would apply without the effect of prayer?

(Actually, I can see the logic of that. "Proof denies faith" and all, and if prayer was ever seen to have a measurable effect...)
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

isn't that like the [url=en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heisenberg_uncertainty_principle]Heisenberg uncertainty principle?[/url]
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The observer effect comes from that, yes. Measuring something changes the result. It's just what came to mind when I read the last line of your post.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i thought that there have been studies that have found that prayer was effective. tomorrow, i'll do a pubmed search to see what i can find.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I said earlier :
Quote:
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?


My point was not to offend. Esmer if I did, then I certainly apologize. My point was more about people taking a position or forwarding an opinion and then refusing to back it up , rather than pressing them to explain and defend their entire philosophy.

I went back and read the thread before Fist's remarks that led to my post and found I had previously and unintentionally skipped over Esmer's comment that he couldn't completely explain his entire philosophy. To that end, I would agree that someone shouldnt be required or pressed to defend their entire faith if they dont want to. So again, I apologize for not getting all my facts straight, Esmer.

However, I do respectfully disagree that just because this thread is in the Close, the debates or discussions like this arent like the ones in the Tank. I mean, we are talking about the most controlversail subject known to Man! If someone forwards an on-topic opinion or position, particularly if it is controversial, that it is expected they will be asked to defend or explain. That can't be controlled, because topics as controversial as religion are going to be debated. And when you debate, you are expected to back up your position. Now of course, they arent required to back up or answer anything, but it is my opinion that a poster who regularly does this will certainly not be respected by the others who are here to debate.
If the Close is ... Closed to debate, then we should post that to avoid further unpleasantness. Smile
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doar wrote:

If the Close is ... Closed to debate, then we should post that to avoid further unpleasantness. Smile


Kinda, sorta says that here, although this thread was not labled to show intent.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It depends on the person. If they're willing, all well and good. If they're not... The Close is meant as much to share our beliefs and philosophies as it is to debate them. One shouldn't be sacrificed for the other. And really, the point of a debate is to win or at least convince, right? I'd say the odds of doing that in the Close are slim, and any victory would be pyrrhic. In the end, is that any different than proselytizing, and do we really want that here?

But if a discussion leads to further understanding on both sides, great. But because this is the most controversial topic known to man, we should always treat each other's beliefs with respect. If we didn't, it very well could spill to areas outside of the forum.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Murrin wrote:
The observer effect as applied to prayer?
If a skeptic knows you're praying, the prayer will or will not come true with a probability indistinguishable from that which would apply without the effect of prayer?

(Actually, I can see the logic of that. "Proof denies faith" and all, and if prayer was ever seen to have a measurable effect...)


That's why they did a [url=en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_blind#Double-blind_trials]double blind [/url] experiment. This eliminates bias produced by the observers.

However, if skeptics cause prayer not to work, then prayer would never work because there will always be skeptics in the world. And the "they didn't have enough faith" argument has no bearing on a scientific result. If the results of experiments could be physically altered by the beliefs of the scientist, then no experiment would have any validity. If a phenomenon only worked when you have enough faith--and the only way to determine if you have enough faith is after the fact (by seeing if the prayer worked)--then this is a merely an excuse for failure, not an explanation for success. Since there's no way to measure faith at the beginning, this concept has no predictive value. It is an ad hoc "explanation" tacked on at the end to excuse the lack of results. Science simply cannot be done in this way. In fact, it is a circular argument, because in order to accept its existence and its power to effect the results, you have to have faith, since faith itself isn't something which can be proven or measured.

[BTW, the observer effect isn't the same as the Uncertainty Principle. Uncertainty is an inherent feature of reality, and is not caused by observation itself. While it is true that we disturb systems when we measure them, the uncertainty of quantum mechanics arises from the superposition of multiple quantum states and entanglement with the environment. Concepts we've developed for macro-sized objects (like position and momentum) simply don't apply with accuracy to micro-sized objects. A quantum particle does not have a definite position or momentum to measure, even before we disturb its state by measuring it.]
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Menolly wrote:
Doar wrote:

If the Close is ... Closed to debate, then we should post that to avoid further unpleasantness. Smile


Kinda, sorta says that here, although this thread was not labled to show intent.

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I dont see any posts tagged debate or comment at all.

I am saying I agree someone shouldnt have to defend their fundamental beliefs, which I made that very clear, and even apologized, admitting I hadnt gotten my facts straight. I havent seen many posts like that here or anywhere.

But if someone says something like "Prayer cannot be measured because Scientists are all atheists therefore..." (which, I am just making up an example, this is not a reference to anyone) then I would expect them to defend that statement. Again, to be clear, I also said earlier I mistook one for the other in my original post.

I think the spirit of what Syl is saying is that we shouldnt debate a persons beliefs -- and I wholeheartedly agree with that. That isnt the intent of the forum, I also agree with that. But if points come up like I mentioned above, then that is altogether different. I that is what I so-less-than-eloquently was trying to say.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To be fully honest:

-The study assessed only the hypothetical value of prayers offered by strangers (in other words, it didn't test whether prayers offered by, say, relatives and friends - or even by the patient himself - had any effect). Furthermore, one could argue that giving a prayer for a person's recovery because a scientist asked you to might invalidate the purpose of the experiment itself - after all, prayers are supposed to come willingly from the soul of the praying person, not to be solicited by strangers.

In other words, if you're sick and I go to the first person I meet on the street and ask him to pray for you, it would be unlikely that person would pray for you with true conviction and desire to see you healed - he doesn't even know you! This, one could argue, would definitely diminish or annul any effect a prayer might otherwise have if uttered by someone who genuinely cares about you (even better, if that someone knows you).

In fact, the article itself says:

Quote:
But experts said the study could not overcome perhaps the largest obstacle to prayer study: the unknown amount of prayer each person received from friends, families, and congregations around the world who pray daily for the sick and dying.


-The differences in percentages between those who suffered complications or not are very small, and the article does not mention the standard errors. Any collection of scientific data always includes an interval for errors - the more data you have, the smaller the interval, but there is always one. This interval - the standard deviation - is usually expressed as "plus or minus Y", and means that while your average value is X, the actual value fluctuates between X+Y and X-Y.
Traditionally, two sets of data are only statistically meaningful if their standard deviations don't overlap - that is, if the interval defined by the standard deviation of one does not overlap with the one of the other set of data. Since we are not told the standard deviations of these percentages, we cannot know whether they're statistically significant or not; but since the scientists who performed the study say the variation could have been pure chance, we can infer that the data were only marginally significant, if at all.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Xar wrote:
To be fully honest:

-The study assessed only the hypothetical value of prayers offered by strangers
True. But plenty of people pray every day for people they don't know. Simply praying for world peace, or praying for the dying children in Africa, etc.--these things would be eliminated as practical activities if prayer can only be effective for people you know.

Quote:
-The differences in percentages between those who suffered complications or not are very small, and the article does not mention the standard errors. . . . Since we are not told the standard deviations of these percentages, we cannot know whether they're statistically significant or not; but since the scientists who performed the study say the variation could have been pure chance, we can infer that the data were only marginally significant, if at all.
Are you saying that the data was insignificant, or the difference between the three groupswas insignificant? Because if the difference was insignificant, that's the same thing as saying that there was no efficacy observed. Which is the conclusion of these scientists. However, if you're saying that the data was insignificant--i.e. that we should ignore the findings of this experiment--I'm not sure this follows from your premises. Having results which don't fall outside the standard deviation is compatible with what they in fact found: no statistical difference between those prayed for and those not prayed for.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Xar wrote:
To be fully honest:

-The study assessed only the hypothetical value of prayers offered by strangers (in other words, it didn't test whether prayers offered by, say, relatives and friends - or even by the patient himself - had any effect). Furthermore, one could argue that giving a prayer for a person's recovery because a scientist asked you to might invalidate the purpose of the experiment itself - after all, prayers are supposed to come willingly from the soul of the praying person, not to be solicited by strangers.

In other words, if you're sick and I go to the first person I meet on the street and ask him to pray for you, it would be unlikely that person would pray for you with true conviction and desire to see you healed - he doesn't even know you! This, one could argue, would definitely diminish or annul any effect a prayer might otherwise have if uttered by someone who genuinely cares about you (even better, if that someone knows you).

In fact, the article itself says:

Quote:
But experts said the study could not overcome perhaps the largest obstacle to prayer study: the unknown amount of prayer each person received from friends, families, and congregations around the world who pray daily for the sick and dying.


-The differences in percentages between those who suffered complications or not are very small, and the article does not mention the standard errors. Any collection of scientific data always includes an interval for errors - the more data you have, the smaller the interval, but there is always one. This interval - the standard deviation - is usually expressed as "plus or minus Y", and means that while your average value is X, the actual value fluctuates between X+Y and X-Y.
Traditionally, two sets of data are only statistically meaningful if their standard deviations don't overlap - that is, if the interval defined by the standard deviation of one does not overlap with the one of the other set of data. Since we are not told the standard deviations of these percentages, we cannot know whether they're statistically significant or not; but since the scientists who performed the study say the variation could have been pure chance, we can infer that the data were only marginally significant, if at all.


the remark in bold above -- how can you quantify prayer? What is meant by amount in that context? Is it measured in seconds of prayer? How often the person prays? the level of need? The amount of emotional content? Is it more potent coming from one person rather than another? Member of the clergy versus homeless person? To me, the whole idea of measuring prayer is absurd. we have no context. possibly because even the very method and definition is different for almost every group.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
we have no context. possibly because even the very method and definition is different for almost every group.


we have the context of the Bible and the Scriptures, where it was the same for everyone. It is this very context of the mindset, the internal knowledge, of those back then that we are missing. There must be more to prayer than "get on knees, bow head, clasp hands, and say Please God?" really really hard. It was an act of power, of total will, not one of begging and submission, IMHO.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2008 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Furls Fire wrote:
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.


Agree on faith. To me the OP looks like "No Scientific Proof of the Efficacy of Asking Parents for Things".
On right and wrong, though... Jesus said, "When you pray, pray like this:"
and provided a model for how we should pray.
Just a thought for Christians only (no plans of arguing with non-believers) - that pre-thought out prayers that follow the model of the Lord's prayer actually do have a purpose, and that maybe spontaneous prayer focused on what we want isn't the only, or even main way to pray.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Would ANY experiment ever convince religious people that prayers don't work? If not, then the issue isn't whether people know how to pray, or if there are flaws in this experiment. No, the issue would be one of refusal to question belief, regardless of facts or evidence. I suspect that there is no amount of evidence that could ever convince someone to stop believing in supernatural effects or phenomena in the natural world. So perhaps these kinds of experiments are only valuable to justify the beliefs of those who are already skeptical of the supernatural. It provides a justification for their dismissal of supernatural claims. Those who believe in the supernatural are already inclined to believe without evidence, and to believe that physical laws can be violated at any time. The entire prospect of disproving such a dogma with physical evidence is futile.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 5:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Malik23 wrote:
Would ANY experiment ever convince religious people that prayers don't work? If not, then the issue isn't whether people know how to pray, or if there are flaws in this experiment. No, the issue would be one of refusal to question belief, regardless of facts or evidence. I suspect that there is no amount of evidence that could ever convince someone to stop believing in supernatural effects or phenomena in the natural world. So perhaps these kinds of experiments are only valuable to justify the beliefs of those who are already skeptical of the supernatural. It provides a justification for their dismissal of supernatural claims. Those who believe in the supernatural are already inclined to believe without evidence, and to believe that physical laws can be violated at any time. The entire prospect of disproving such a dogma with physical evidence is futile.


Malik, not sure if you got my point, which is that prayer is NOT magic - it is asking for something. So speaking of its 'efficacy' is illogical, except insofar as "them's that don't ask, usually don't gets".

People usually say "God didn't answer my prayer" when in fact, He said, "No".

It's this misconception of prayer as magic that launched this thread.
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