Prayer Isn't Scientific
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19-04-2012, 05:21 PM
Prayer Isn't Scientific
I hope you can tell where I'm going by the thread title Rolleyes It wasn't meant to be ambiguous. But to clarify, prayer is the act of speaking to a god, though in this thread I specifically mean asking a god for things. And by scientific i mean "based on a system of knowledge obtained and tested through the scientific method".

We've tested prayer. I don't mean "we" as in myself and a bunch of people in lab coats, but the scientific community has repeatedly put it to the test. The response is almost always the same: God doesn't work like a vending machine. It isn't always put in exactly this way, but allow me to put this argument in a way that a rational scientist probably would...

A scientific test only works to prove one variable at a time. We have to have two identical situations with only one factor changed. For example, if you run two identical cars side by side --- one traveling at 25 mph and one traveling 50 mph --- it is quite likely that you will discover the car traveling at 50 mph is "faster" because it will reach the finish line first. But what if the 25 mph car was on a track that was 10 times shorter? It would appear to be much "faster" than the 50 mph car, but only because you cheated and changed 2 variables instead of one. You can't do that.

So what does this have to do with prayer? Well, the rational scientist would say that there is more than one variable that has been changed, and that other variable is "God's will". It pisses me off somewhat that theists assert that the prayer tests are "done incorrectly" because they don't factor this in, but these same theists don't explain how because you can't. "God's will" is an unknowable factor that frequently changes. It's impossible to factor in by definition. And even if you could run a test where "God's will" is inherently knowable, and you ask why prayer doesn't respond when asking for something that God wills, then you're presented with other factors such as praying enough times, praying to the right god (or the right name of the god), praying with enough faith, and praying with the right motives (which is usually enough to disqualify the whole idea of testing prayer scientifically, if true).

So while scientists expect to measure prayer's effect with a simple equation, where P is prayer, and C are the control conditions applied to both groups, scientists would say that prayer is ineffective if:

P + C = C

...because that would imply that P = 0 and therefore adds nothing. And theists are saying the equation actually looks like this:

P + T + N + F + M + C = C

...and all of these extra variables are not only unknowable but immeasurable --- "I prayed 3 times. Would 4 have done it? I think my faith in the result is only 93.6%. Fuck, I think I prayed in Jesus' name that second time rather than the Father's. And I'll bet that swear word that I just let pass through my mind cost me my chance of getting a yes."

But here's the thing, prayer-believers; these factors all still add up to 0. Those studies that I linked to up there still show that prayer does not have a discernible effect, despite so many theists claiming that they see obvious results to the prayers all the time. It doesn't matter what other things you think the scientists aren't taking into account, because these factors apparently don't mean shit either. Theists have had an infinite opportunity (and still do) to prove that prayer works scientifically, and none of them have met the challenge. Most of them would rather argue that prayer can't be tested, and therefore they throw away their licence to argue that they've seen prayer work because they simply don't know. Let's say you pray for a new car and someone gives you a new car for a gift. That's gotta be improbable, right? Improbable, but not impossible. And there's no way to know after the fact whether prayer brought you the car --- your prayer may have been turned down but a new car was in your future anyway. You can't test it any more than we can if you're going to judge it untestable. To base whether prayer is answered on results that are assumed to be the answer to prayer is begging the question.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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19-04-2012, 05:49 PM (This post was last modified: 20-04-2012 09:13 PM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: Prayer Isn't Scientific
(19-04-2012 05:21 PM)Starcrash Wrote:  I hope you can tell where I'm going by the thread title Rolleyes


Since there is nothing "there" ta answer a prayer .. it's obviously not answerable. Even if it were, there woud be no way to test it. The parents of the 7 year old I saw walking down the hall, with his IV today, Leukemia, and all, prayed. Maybe they just need one more. Right.

Anyhoo, prayer IS effective. It raises the circulating levels of beta-endorphins in the pray-or, which is independant of the pray-ee. http://www.wikihow.com/Get-a-Natural-Rush, http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/1453...ns-prayer/ , http://mell-earnyourendorphins.blogspot....nd-go.html . Better ya just go for a run.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein
Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music - Friedrich Nietzsche
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19-04-2012, 07:08 PM
RE: Prayer Isn't Scientific
When I'm on the sea I pray to Poseidon.
Somethines he answers my prayers, somethine he doesn't.
Who am I to question a god's intentions?
I know he knows what's best for me. Bowing

The old gods are dead, let's invent some new ones before something really bad happens.
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19-04-2012, 07:13 PM
RE: Prayer Isn't Scientific
Are you kidding me?
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20-04-2012, 08:30 PM
RE: Prayer Isn't Scientific
(19-04-2012 05:49 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  Since there is nothing "there" ta answer a prayer .. it's obvuosly not answerable. Even if it were, there woud be no way to test it. The parents of the 7 year old I saw walking down the hall, with his IV today, Leukemia, and all, prayed. Maybe they just need one more. Right.

Anyhoo, prayer IS effective. It raises the circulating levels of beta-endorphins in the prayor, which is independant of the prayee. http://www.wikihow.com/Get-a-Natural-Rush, http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/1453...ns-prayer/ , http://mell-earnyourendorphins.blogspot....nd-go.html . Better ya go for a run.
Well, it's not strictly answerable... there's no magic number of tests that prove that prayer has no result, since science's power doesn't exactly cover negative findings. A strong result in 1 good study could prove prayer's power, and 17 negative results doesn't prove conclusively that prayer is ineffective... although it's pretty damn probable with a current known ratio of 17:0.

And prayer doesn't seem to be effective for raising beta-endorphins. I thought "how could it be that I haven't heard of this", and that's because it's probably mythical. I tried my best to find a scientific source (none of the three links you cited quote a study or link to research) to back up your data and I was unable to find one (although I found plenty more sources that said the same thing also without citation). It's quite possible that prayer provides a placebo effect, and a scientific study of positive mental benefits would compare prayer to a placebo. I didn't find a study that disproved it, either, so it's quite possible that no one has studied it... which is just hard to believe.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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20-04-2012, 09:40 PM
RE: Prayer Isn't Scientific
(20-04-2012 08:30 PM)Starcrash Wrote:  
(19-04-2012 05:49 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  Since there is nothing "there" ta answer a prayer .. it's obvuosly not answerable. Even if it were, there woud be no way to test it. The parents of the 7 year old I saw walking down the hall, with his IV today, Leukemia, and all, prayed. Maybe they just need one more. Right.

Anyhoo, prayer IS effective. It raises the circulating levels of beta-endorphins in the prayor, which is independant of the prayee. http://www.wikihow.com/Get-a-Natural-Rush, http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/1453...ns-prayer/ , http://mell-earnyourendorphins.blogspot....nd-go.html . Better ya go for a run.

Well, it's not strictly answerable... there's no magic number of tests that prove that prayer has no result, since science's power doesn't exactly cover negative findings. A strong result in 1 good study could prove prayer's power, and 17 negative results doesn't prove conclusively that prayer is ineffective... although it's pretty damn probable with a current known ratio of 17:0.

And prayer doesn't seem to be effective for raising beta-endorphins. I thought "how could it be that I haven't heard of this", and that's because it's probably mythical. I tried my best to find a scientific source (none of the three links you cited quote a study or link to research) to back up your data and I was unable to find one (although I found plenty more sources that said the same thing also without citation). It's quite possible that prayer provides a placebo effect, and a scientific study of positive mental benefits would compare prayer to a placebo. I didn't find a study that disproved it, either, so it's quite possible that no one has studied it... which is just hard to believe.


I don't know or remember any actual double blind studies for this. I think I read about it in Joel Davis' "Endorphins : New Waves in Brain Chemistry". I'll have to look for it, an see what studies, if any he cites.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein
Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music - Friedrich Nietzsche
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21-04-2012, 12:11 AM
RE: Prayer Isn't Scientific
You know who I pray to? Joe Pesci. Joe Pesci. Two reasons; first of all, I think he's a good actor. Ok. To me, that counts. Second; he looks like a guy who can get things done. Joe Pesci doesn't fuck around. Doesn't fuck around. In fact, Joe Pesci came through on a couple of things that god was having trouble with. For years I asked god to do something about my noisy neighbor with the barking dog. Joe Pesci straightened that cock-sucker out with one visit.
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