Newsflash: prayer still pointless


Prayer helps no one but the one praying, providing a euphoria and calming effect, which could be comparable to ejaculating.

That line seemed to trouble someone recently. How could I know prayer doesn’t work? How could anyone know this to be true? Well I think we can start by reviewing everyone who refused medical treatment instead of prayer and were healed. That list would be….. strangely unavailable. Interesting. Ah, but prayer without medicine would be crazy, right? I mean, we know how that turns out. So then what, look at how prayer + medical treatment is superior to just medical treatment? How silly. I mean that just undermines the whole power or prayer, doesn’t it? It can’t work on it’s own, but might be effective in a supporting role, medicine’s wingman. Well I’d say that would be cheating really, but guess what? Even then no credible study showed prayer makes for a good wingman. In fact, it was the same as if it wasn’t there at all. Oddly in this study, prayer hurt.

But ok, how about weather maybe? What happened when Georgians joined their governor in prayer for rain? I’m guessing since we didn’t hear shit about it, rain didn’t arrive, but of course even if it took a year for it to rain again, you could claim success, right? I’m sure there wasn’t a timeframe given in the prayer. Best not to be too specific, you know, like the folks in Texas who prayed for a hurricane to turn and instead strike Louisiana (let’s skip the obvious moral question there) but got hit anyway.

So it isn’t curing anyone, it’s not even lending a helping hand to medicine, and it certainly isn’t changing the weather, so why should anyone think prayer works, especially when no one in their right mind appears to be relying on it unless their situation is hopeless, with no known answer in sight? Ya got me. Oh, and if you’re Christian, you’ve got this whole belief system about free will, which is the excuse given for why their god doesn’t step in and do good – he can’t. It would be a violation of our free will, so prayer can’t work anyway, so what’s the point of testing the claim that prayer works when there’s no point to making the claim in the first place?

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30 Responses to “Newsflash: prayer still pointless”

  1. I think we can start by reviewing everyone who refused medical treatment instead of prayer and were healed. That list would be….. strangely unavailable.

    Maybe all those who were healed by prayer never bothered reporting it to the newsies. I wonder why they kept their lights hidden under their bushels? It seems like their testimonies would be powerful stuff. Still, it seems strange that not even one person appears to have stepped up and told such a story. Oh, God, I’m so confused!

  2. CL:I read about Kayla Knight's story recently, but had forgotten it. I'll amend my comment accordingly: one person that I know of has stepped up to tell such a story. As to the role that intercessory prayer may have played in the spontaneous remission of her cancer, I'll reserve judgment until further credible evidence is proffered. I'm fairly sure that evidence of such, which can withstand scientific scrutiny, will not be forthcoming, but I could be wrong. I'm willing to wait and see.

  3. “I think we can start by reviewing everyone who refused medical treatment instead of prayer and were healed. That list would be….. strangely unavailable.”
    PhillyChief“…it seems strange that not even one person appears to have stepped up and told such a story.”
    the chaplain“Both wrong again, and confused indeed!”
    cl

  4. Quirky HTML:

    “I think we can start by reviewing everyone who refused medical treatment instead of prayer and were healed. That list would be….. strangely unavailable.”
    PhillyChief

    “…it seems strange that not even one person appears to have stepped up and told such a story.”
    the chaplain

    “Both wrong again, and confused indeed!”
    cl

  5. So a list equals one? Oh my, you’ve COMPLETELY unraveled my argument! I’m devastated! Woe is me!

    It is curious though that no information can be found about this story, isn’t it? You’d think it would be major news, perhaps some medical professionals would want to examine her, etc. Oh well.

    I would add to your summation that although miracle claims may not be falsifiable, claims that doing such-and-such causes miracles or any other physically observable result is; therefore, prayer studies investigating say claims that prayer causes medical cures can be tested.

  6. Just telling the truth, since you prefer telling one-sided stories, and you’re free to assume people wanting to live free from media meddling entails evidence of incredibility. Is the doctor lying, too? How do you know? As I said, you can do nothing but deny.

    “I would add to your summation that although miracle claims may not be falsifiable, claims that doing such-and-such causes miracles or any other physically observable result is;”

    Ah, I see. We can’t prove whether or not God or miracles exist, but we can prove whether or not God does what we tell Him. Foolishness!

  7. 1. I wasn’t assuming anything. I just said it was curious.

    2. As I said before, gods have nothing to do with testing claims about the efficacy of prayer, so your attempt to misrepresent my earlier statement is “foolishness”.

    HOW it may work is for others to investigate if they can. Whether it works as claimed, however, is testable.

  8. By the way, CL, I thought you had sworn off arguing with Philly?

  9. chaplain,

    He’s too cute to resist and you know it, and this one was about you, too. I think he’s really irritated with me now so I’ll probably lay low for a while. I just assumed what was good for the goose was good for the gander! Besides, I’m beyond convinced there’s nothing to fear in his arguments. I just like his wit.

    You have not provided any evidence for your claim of spontaneous remission. Dr. Ralph Moss notes that the majority of patients he’s studied who experience spontaneous cures of cancer do so after acute injections which stimulate immune response, and it is consensus that early-stage remissions are far more common than late-stage remissions.

    I do not recall Amy answering in the affirmative to either of these questions when asked.

    Philly,

    Gods have everything to do with testing claims about the efficacy of prayer, because prayers are requests to God and/or gods.

    You have failed to establish how falsifiable actions can proceed from unfalsifiable agencies. Prayer studies test magic genies. You’re saying we can’t know if God exists, but we can know whether or not God ever answers prayers. It’s silly.

  10. You have not provided any evidence for your claim of spontaneous remission.I'm not going to play Shift the Burden of Proof, or Quibble Over Terminology & Other Shit, or whatever game it is you're trying to get started. You'll have to carry on without me.

  11. One last thing, CL – if you’re going to discuss what I say over here at your blog, have the integrity to note that I amended my initial comment to this: I read about Kayla Knight’s story recently, but had forgotten it. I’ll amend my comment accordingly: one person that I know of has stepped up to tell such a story.

    Last I saw, you were still representing me as standing by the initial statement, which I admitted was mistaken. Is it too much to expect you to have the integrity to make that correction?

  12. cl – by the breathless sound you were making at the end of your post, I’m taking it that you are actually entertaining a miracle here.

    Yes. That is me snickering.

  13. “As I said before, gods have nothing to do with testing claims about the efficacy of prayer…”

    “Gods have everything to do with testing claims about the efficacy of prayer…”.

    Yes, and with that we’re done. If all you’re going to do is give a “yeah it does” reply, then tell me I failed because “yeah it does”, then there’s really no point, is there?

  14. Philly,

    That Gods have everything to do with testing claims about the efficacy of prayer is a positive claim, and unlike you, I'm willing to go to bat for positive claims I make: If no God or gods exist, no prayers will be answered. Agree or disagree?

    chaplain,

    "I'm not going to play Shift the Burden of Proof, or Quibble Over Terminology & Other Shit, or whatever game it is you're trying to get started. You'll have to carry on without me." (chaplain)

    You're already playing Shift the Burden of Proof!

    You claimed May 17, 2009 4:18 PM that Kayla's healing resulted from spontaneous remission. Yes or no? I rebutted that with two bits of evidence and challenged you to provide evidence for your positive claim, and you got quite silent all of a sudden. Yes or no?

    As far as the correction, it's been made. I don't work according to your time schedule, and at that moment, carrying on conversations with my readers was more important to me than correcting your ill-thought-out claims.

  15. “If no God or gods exist, no prayers will be answered. Agree or disagree?”.

    Unknown. The question of how prayer may work is a completely separate issue. Maybe aliens get a kick out of fucking with Earthlings. Maybe the fairy folk occasionally hear people pray and decide to help them with their magical powers. Maybe somehow prayers tap into some inner Chi and they shoot it out to do good like some sort of DragonballZ thing, only it’s invisible.

    And no, you don’t “go to bat” for all your claims. There are times, like recently, where you instead pretend someone else is the one making the claim instead of yourself and then badger them to “go to bat”.

    Here’s are a few questions for you:

    1) Is an understanding of electricity, the light bulb and home wiring necessary to test a claim that flipping a light switch on will produce light?

    2) Is an understanding of the internal combustion engine and/or oil refining necessary to test a claim that a certain car model gets a certain range of gas mileage?

    You have two things, not one. There’s the initial claim which can be tested, and afterwards, should the claim pan out, THEN you can investigate the how.

  16. “Prayer helps no one but the one praying, providing a euphoria and calming effect, which could be comparable to ejaculating.” -PhillyChief

    “Is an understanding of electricity, the light bulb and home wiring necessary to test a claim that flipping a light switch on will produce light?” -PhillyChief

    No, and if a handful of studies on switch-flipping tells us nothing conclusive about light production, are we justified to say flipping switches illuminates the room only for the one flipping them?

    Answer honestly, and we really will be done.

  17. Dr. Ralph Moss notes that the majority of patients he’s studied who experience spontaneous cures of cancer do so after acute injections which stimulate immune response, and it is consensus that early-stage remissions are far more common than late-stage remissions.How large a a majority was Dr. Moss referring to in his statement? 55% is one thing, 85% is substantially more persuasive. An indefinite majority is not as persuasive as you wish it were.

    I do not recall Amy answering in the affirmative to either of these questions when asked.If you want me to retract my common sense inference on the basis of what you recall about your interview, you’re asking for, dare I say it, a lot of faith on my part. Your evidence is flimsy. Furthermore, what specific questions did you ask Amy?

    Until I see more evidence – I hope yours will be based on extensive notes and not just your recall, and which will include other sources in addition to yours – I will stick to my common sense, Occam’s razor answer that Kayla experience spontaneous remission or something of the sort that can be explained via natural causes.

  18. chappy,

    I thought you said, “There is too little information available for me to be interested in discussing Kayla Knight’s case right now?”

    Well, what’d'ya find?

  19. “Is an understanding of electricity, the light bulb and home wiring necessary to test a claim that flipping a light switch on will produce light?”
    - No.

    Alrighty then. That should end the discussion. Apply that to testing claims of what prayer can do and you’ll see I was right, “gods have nothing to do with testing claims about the efficacy of prayer.”

    if a handful of studies on switch-flipping tells us nothing conclusive about light production, are we justified to say flipping switches illuminates the room only for the one flipping them?.

    That is a sentence confusing, either by accident or design.
    • “nothing conclusive” means what exactly?
    • “light production”? The claim was ‘flipping a light switch on will produce light’. The test is for the efficacy of flipping light switches, not light production. Light production is the result that claimed action is supposed to yield.
    • the last part of the sentence begs questions:
    1) did the test show light switches don’t necessarily turn on lights?
    2) are the flippers claiming there’s light when no one else can detect that there’s light?

    I’m not sure what the point of this was, cl. You should have stopped at “no.”

  20. “I’m not sure what the point of this was, cl. You should have stopped at “no.”"

    That just shows me you’re still not thinking it through, and I’m not surprised. I do not agree that “gods have nothing to do with the testing of prayer.” After all, electricity certainly has something to do with light production.

    Gods may or may not have anything to do with the testing of magic, however.

    Again – if we do a bunch of switchflipping tests – and the results show results no better than chance – but some lights do come on – are we justified to say that switch flipping only works for the one flipping the switch?

    Try answering that.

  21. Can’t apply the same logic to two similar situations and I’m the one not thinking?

    I do not agree that “gods have nothing to do with the testing of prayer.” After all, electricity certainly has something to do with light production..

    But electricity has nothing to do with testing the CLAIM of the effect of light switch flipping. If you can’t see that, I don’t know how else to explain it to you.

    “Again – if we do a bunch of switchflipping tests – and the results show results no better than chance – but some lights do come on – are we justified to say that switch flipping only works for the one flipping the switch?”.

    Don’t say “again”, because you didn’t ask this before. I’ll say “again”, because again you’ve asked an unclear question which again begs questions. In your hypothetical:
    • Do lights randomly come on without switch flipping? (ie, what do you mean by “no better than chance?”)
    • Do lights just randomly come on with switch flipping?
    • What do you mean by “only works for the one flipping the switch?”
    - What only works?
    - Do only the flippers detect the effect?

  22. I disagree that the logic is the same. It’s finals week. I’ll be back.

  23. What are finals like at cosmetology school?

  24. Well, they’re not bad. The teacher likes a challenge, so we’re supposed to yank a cracked-out post-op trannie off the streets in the TL and convert them into somebody that can pass for a church-going Republican, frumpled frown and permanent scowl-countenance included.

  25. Sounds pretty rough

  26. Okay, let’s recap. Let’s see if we can at least fully agree on this much:

    1) My original gripe was with your statement that “Prayer helps no one but the one praying…” Yes or no?

    2) That gripe entailed my claim that prayer studies are not scientifically credible. Yes or no?

    3) That claim entailed the supporting claim that prayer claims were not falsifiable, and that is where we left off. Yes or no?

  27. How was your weekend sweetie? Thinkin’ ’bout them questions at all?

  28. Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

    Hey cl, I don’t think Philly needs to worry about ejaculating any longer, because you’ve emasculated his argument :) I tend to agree with you that prayer studies are not much more than something to pass the time with. When dealing with a supposed willful agent, there’s just no way to predict what God may or may not do.

  29. What a surprise, you found yourself a buddy who also doesn’t understand that a claim of X produces Y can be examined independently of examining HOW X produces Y. Congratulations! I know how hard it is for you to make friends, so I’m very happy for you.

    I’m not so sure I’m happy for him, though. If only he knew what he was getting into! Try to be nice to him. Perhaps offer him a makeover. :)

  30. Philly – let’s get serious here. Address questions 1-3 and let’s pick up where we left off. I can show how your argument concerning 3 is also incorrect. Can I get simple, straight answers to questions 1-3 from my comment May 23, 2009 8:01 PM?

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