Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Pray changes things sort of maybe

I read. I read like a man saved from drowning breathes. I’ve always been like this but I haven’t always been so disciplined about it. My reading brings me little peace. I seek constantly to challenge what I believe. Sometimes religion, ALL religion (even mine) seems like its all just pretend.

There are two kinds of miracles. The first is a for-granted miracle. Physics is one of these. Life another. The fact that all over the world (and even the universe) the exact same Newtonian laws apply with equally facility is something seen as normal only because we see it everyday. There is no reason for reality to function this way, and the the fact it does is miraculous. Every moment the atoms don’t fling apart is a miracle. Everyday that life resists entropy is a miracle. The fact that a female mammal and a male mammal can join a bit of DNA from each them and create a new member of the species is not less miraculous and wonderful despite the fact that we have the words to explain each part and process.

The second type of miracle is the suspension of physics and the modification of life. This is the kind that is usually prayed for. God is asked to make the blind see, the lame walk, the infertile conceive, etc. Now, this is my problem: if God does this often we should be awash in verifiable claims. But we’re not. Sort of….

The first problem is the statistical challenges. A couple of studies have been done, and claim to be double blind. (the people don’t know precisely what is being searched out and the researchers don’t know who is in the control group and who is in the target group.) The 1st problem is consent. Which means that the people are told they might be prayed for and is that OK? So only people who WANT to be prayed for are prayer for. Further, people know that they are participating in a study on a prayer. So its not exactly a double blind. The first study was only born again Christians praying to their God. (San Francisco General ’82).

Duke University doctors in ’98 did a similar study. They found the results were similar. Off site prayer makes a difference. Oddly, though, for Christians, it doesn’t matter which God you pray to. The results are the same when Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians pray. It hasn’t been tried yet, but I seriously have to wonder? If atheist spoke aloud to entropy and asked it to leave you alone would that count? “Praying” actually doesn’t make the difference. Positive meditation by non-religious people works just as well, btw.

What happens if prayer for people who don’t want you to. What happens if you pray to Satan? (As a child I was led to believe thats what Buddhist were doing anyway…) Know what else is weird? In 20 “distance healing” studies 11 said prayer works, 9 said it does nothing, and 1 said it made it worse!!! Yikes.

One study found it improves healing in mice, which I guess disproves the consent to study bias (placebo) or proves that mice are smarter than we thought…

Know what else is weird? A total lack of this data being cross checked with spontaneous remission stats.

So, basically the stats at this time say “Prayer is good for you if agree to be [maybe] prayed for around 50% of the time. Hmm. 2 choices pray or don’t pray, and of the two choices one works 50% of the time. Anybody else see a problem with all this?

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August 28, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Perhaps this is part of your point but isn’t it rather difficult to quantify the truly miraculous? Also, why should prayer always make things better? It seems the goal of the studies was to see if and when prayer improved certain situations. But we know that sometimes God doesn’t give us what we want every time we ask for it even if we are convinced that it is the best thing. To me these studies prove nothing but the difficulty of trying to put the Divine into a human framework.

    Comment by CC | August 29, 2007 | Reply


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