Intelligent Design

Prayer studies: From one-way skepticism, deliver us

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For some reason, Arts and Letters Daily, which I often visit, is always publishing materialist stuff, whether it is well sourced or not, but almost never non-materialist stuff.

Anyway, here’s a really silly piece from CSICOP – a group of unidirectional materialist skeptics – denying that prayer works.

Now, I agree that there are some serious logistical difficulties in determining whether prayer works. The main one is – how can you be sure that no one is praying for a given person? Ridding the world of prayer would be no easy task. Some old, venerable, and popular religious organizations pride themselves on the fact that no minute passes without prayers offered up, all over the planet How can you be sure that you are not touching their invisible wires?.

The “skeptical” piece linked above, thought worthy of publication by Arts and Letters Daily, opines as follows on studies of intercessory prayer:

To date, such studies of intercessory prayer have not shown it to improve health-care outcomes. In contrast to thoughts themselves, the brain activity from which thoughts arise does consist of energy—electrochemical energy within neural circuitry. Reading this teeming energy in millions of circuit neurons and translating it into the thought or prayer arising from it seems theoretically impossible for even a supernatural being.

But what can this mean? Who knows what a supernatural being can do? Surely that was never a serious object of study?

The only relevant reference I could find in the article, which significantly lacked detail, was to the famous STEP study. In this study, inept handling of offers for intercessory prayer inadvertently reversed the enormously powerful placebo effect that many patients experience (you get better because you believe you will).

Quite the contrary, offers of prayer without a suitable context turned prayer into a nocebo effect (you get worse because you believe you will).

Far from demonstrating that intercessory prayer does not work, the study demonstrated that it can work all too well – that is, ineptly handled, intercessory prayer can become a nocebo effect. (Logically, then, correctly handled, it should be a positive effect.) There are still key problems with understanding what, exactly, is happening with intercessory prayer, of course, but the STEP study definitely showed, by reversing the effect, that it made a difference.

Mario Beauregard and I discuss the STEP study and its findings in The Spiritual Brain, to be released in September. Meanwhile, I advise you to be skeptical of the sort of “skepticism” that does not even discuss the details of the STEP study.

Why not? Because that would mean acknowledging that prayer can work, in principle, which is bad for their business.

Golly, if this is the best that unidirectional skeptics and materialists can do – get me a broom, somebody, and a pile of recyclable trash bags.

Other Mindful Hack posts:

Citing no evidence, only opinion, New York Times apprises the world that everyone knows that materialism is true and that therefore there isn’t really a soul.

The Spiritual Brain provides lots for some people to like and others to be mad about.

Canadians tiring of atheist tirades?

Frank Tipler tries to prove Christianity through physics

Also, recently at the ID arts site:

A mammoth sculpture, a major new find in early human art (35 000 ya) suggests that sophistication in art appears suddenly.

7 Replies to “Prayer studies: From one-way skepticism, deliver us

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    I just want to comment on Tippler’s book, He relies heavily on the fact that Quantum mechanics points to the future influencing the past. This is a profound spiritual aspect in itself. Yet he also presumes (from a materialistic standpoint) that the evidence in quantum mechanics points to a multiverse. The truth is that the materialistic philosophy requires a multiverse explanation whereas Theism’s primary postulation would hold that the path of every particle is ultimately controled by God. The multiverse that materialism alludes to, would be alluded to as the mind of God in a Theistic interpretation. Though Tipler claim’s to be a Theist he is still following materialistic postulations for solutions.

  2. 2
    nullasalus says:

    Re: Tipler, I have no problem with materialist theists, personally. I don’t think I’d classify myself as one, but I do think that materialism and naturalism in and of themselves do not necessarily discard God – even traditional, orthodox conceptions of God. It’s a question of what axioms are being worked with.

    In regards to prayer, though – I always thought that the mere existence of a so-called ‘placebo effect’ was proof of some prayer, even faith. After all, it’s now demonstrable that those things can lead to changes in the self and, if communicated, changes in others. When it turns out that praying has has a positive effect due belief, labeling the results ‘placebo effect’ and saying “Ah, see, prayer never worked, just this thing that worked concurrently with prayer was at work” is a copout.

    As for talk of the soul – it depends what they mean by soul, now doesn’t it? Trying to nail down the definition of such a thing has been a long-standing task of theists, with a variety of views.

  3. 3
    russ says:

    From a Judeo-Christian point of view, the whole notion of doing “prayer experiments” is ridiculous if you understand God to be personal, omniscient and sovereign. You don’t “poke God with a stick” to see see if He jumps on cue. He is not bound by some laws of nature. God, by definition, does what He will and has no obligation to submit to tests and experiments performed by those who were made by him yet hold him in contempt. They have made God their lab rat when they should be falling to their knees in fear and contrition.

  4. 4
    StephenA says:

    “To date, such studies of intercessory prayer have not shown it to improve health-care outcomes. In contrast to thoughts themselves, the brain activity from which thoughts arise does consist of energy—electrochemical energy within neural circuitry. Reading this teeming energy in millions of circuit neurons and translating it into the thought or prayer arising from it seems theoretically impossible for even a supernatural being.”

    Ok, that has to be the stupidest argument against the supernatural that I have ever heard.
    And I’ve heard some pretty stupid stuff.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    I’ve had prayers answered many times in my life! In fact that is what I think differentiates Christianity from other religions in this world, for in Christianity a personal relationship with God is what testifies to the validity of Christianity as the true way.
    Evidence for the fact that mind and brain are actually two different things is available. I suggest Dr. Pim Van Lommel’s paper “A reply to Shermer” : medical evidence for NDE’s, I also recommend the John Hopkin’s Study on the after effects of Brain Hemispherectomies. Both these stusies offer compelling empirical evidence that we are indeed spiritual beings living in physicl bodies.
    As well Theism, as a philosophy totally tes materialism in predictive power to illustrate:

    1. Materialism did not predict the big bang. Yet Theism always said the universe was created.

    2. Materialism did not predict a sub-atomic (quantum) world that blatantly defies our concepts of time and space. Yet Theism always said the universe is the craftsmanship of God who is not limited by time or space.

    3. Materialism did not predict the fact that time, as we understand it, comes to a complete stop at the speed of light, as revealed by Einstein’s special theory of relativity. Yet Theism always said that God exists in a timeless eternity.
    4. Materialism did not predict the stunning precision for the underlying universal constants for the universe, found in the Anthropic Principle. Yet Theism always said God laid the foundation of the universe, so the stunning unchanging clockwork precision found for the various universal constants is not at all unexpected for Theism.
    5 Materialism predicted that complex life in this universe should be fairly common, Yet statistical analysis of the many required parameters that enable complex life to be possible on earth reveals that the earth is extremely unique in its ability to support life in this universe. Theism would have expected the earth to be extremely unique in this universe.
    6. Materialism did not predict the fact that the DNA code is, according to Bill Gates, far, far more advanced than any computer code ever written by man. Yet Theism would have naturally expected this level of complexity in the DNA code.
    7. Materialism presumed a extremely beneficial and flexible mutation rate for DNA, which is not the case at all. Yet Theism would have naturally presumed such a high if not, what most likely is, complete negative mutation rate to an organism’s DNA.
    8. Materialism presumed a very simple first life form. Yet the simplest life ever found on Earth is, according to Geneticist Michael Denton PhD., far more complex than any machine man has made through concerted effort. Yet Theism would have naturally expected this complexity.
    9. Materialism predicted that it took a very long time for life to develop on earth, Yet we find evidence for photo-synthetic life in the oldest sedimentary rocks ever found on earth (Sarah Simpson, Scientific American, 2003). Theism would have expected this sudden appearance of life on earth.
    10. Materialism predicted the gradual unfolding of life to be self-evident in the fossil record. The Cambrian Explosion, by itself, destroys this myth. Yet Theism would have expected such sudden appearance of the many different and completely unique fossils in the Cambrian explosion.

    11. Materialism predicted that there should be numerous transitional fossils found in the fossil record. Yet fossils are characterized by sudden appearance and stability as long as they are found in the fossil record with no continuous examples of transition out of millions of collected fossils. Theism would have expected fossils forms to suddenly appear and stay stable in the fossil record with no transition to other forms.
    And as I posted earlier the quantum mechanic interpretation, that Tipler relies on of a multiverse is a materialistic postulation that will be found to be false. There is not an “array” of multiverses. It will be found to be the Theistic postulation of “Mind of God” reality!

    But to the main thread of the topic, Prayer does indeed work or I can readily assure you I would not be a Christian!

  6. 6
    GilDodgen says:

    A combination of prayer and reason totally transformed my life — for the better.

  7. 7
    bork says:

    GilDodgen:

    How so? I would truly love some radical change to my life…

    email me if you prefer: muterouge@yahoo.com

    I would love to have an intellectual chat… this goes for anyone who would like to develop a dialog… I will replie with my “real” email.

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