We can always expect atheists to be on prowl to mock and ridicule prayer. They really have no choice to but reject it and clutch at straws to keep from believing the thousands of stories that come out every years of answered prayers. They have to reject it. It's only their ideology that prevents their addition that they have no intention of examining the facts. A particular study has been bandied about as "proof that prayer doesn't work." This study is ironic because to accept it's validity they actually must accept the validity of previous studies that show prayer does work. Since atheists are usually pretty dishonest they can't distinguish between different kinds of evidence, so they act as though this one studies disproves even empirical results.
Posted by Hemant Mehta in General on May 15th, 2009 |
I was reading an article in Christianity Today and one of the paragraphs made me do a double-take. I couldn’t believe anyone was actually writing it… it was incredible how much fact-twisting was going on.Funny he should mention flaws, because that's going to be a key issue with me. The so called "faults" he's talking about are mainly about the inability to control for outside prayer. The irony is back ten years ago when there were about 14 studies that proved prayer worked,* the major athist argument was you can't control for outside prayer. These were all done the same way, double blind and so on. The major atheist argument was that you can't control for outside prayer. The study athesits now run around touting as a disproof of prayer is one that is invalidated by the same argument it depends upon controlling for outside prayer. Rather than understand that if they accept their anti-prayer study they have to drop the major argument against Byrd and Harris and the pro-prayer studies, they try to invalidate the pro prayer studies on irrelevant grounds that basically amount to guilt by association.
First, a bit of background.
It’s no surprise that prayer can have a positive effect on those who believe in it. If you pray, it can relax you and make you feel better. If you know others are praying for you — that others care about you — you feel better and your body might actually respond to that positivity. None of this has anything to do with a god answering (or even listening to) the prayers. It functions more like meditation. Prayer can have a calming, healing effect for those who buy into it.
But what happens when others pray for you and you are unaware of it? To no atheist’s surprise, this has never been shown to work.
This idea has been tested repeatedly — usually, the studies have flaws. And even when the results show that the intercessory prayer has no effect on anyone, those who believe in it will look at the hits and ignore (or rationalize) the misses.
Here's the "big study" that disproves all prayer:
also from the article above:
Three years ago, a multi-million-dollar, controlled, double-blind study was conducted to test intercessory prayer.
The Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) found two major results:
1) “Intercessory prayer had no effect on recovery from surgery without complications.”
2) “Patients who knew they were receiving intercessory prayer fared worse.”
Fared worse?! Even I was surprised by that. So were many Christians — this didn’t sit well with them.
This new article from Christianity Today, though, offers a rationalization I’ve never heard before. You can tell they’re really straining to find a silver lining…[this is quoting Christianity today]
This prefectly rational explanation the atheist calls a "rationalization." Of cousre he does, his ideology demands that he not think reasonably about it but that he use it to attack. That's what atheism is about. Nothing could be more reasonable. What the quote actually says is that we can't study prayer the way we would a drug in a field trial. The reason the mystical experience studies I use don't make this mistake is becuase they have the sense to study the effects, they don't try to get inside the experience itself. These studies must actually assume that we can control God's will and control for what God does as well as for outside prayer.
Ironically, STEP actually supports the Christian worldview. Our prayers are nothing at all like magical incantations. Our God bears no resemblance to a vending machine. The real scandal of the study is not that the prayed-for group did worse, but that the not-prayed-for group received just as much, if not more, of God’s blessings. In other words, God seems to have granted favor without regard to either the quantity or even the quality of the prayers. By instinct, we might selfishly prefer that God give preferential treatment to those who are especially, deliberately, and correctly prayed for, but he seems to act otherwise.[end quote]
True to his character, God appears inclined to heal and bless as many as possible.
What do I mean by outside prayer? The study has two groups, experimental group and control group. You blind the study so that neither the participants nor the researchers even know who is in which group. That way they wont treat them differently based upon expectations. So in this case it means the control group is not prayed for the experimental group is prayed for. Then you look to see if there is a difference. Back ten years ago when I used to argue these studies all the time I was actually rationalizing the answer on the control because I felt it was so important to have studies since atheists are always flapping their gums about no empirical proof. I was rationalizing. It was only latter that I was able to force myself to take a good hard look at the rationalization and then I stopped using the arguments. But the current crop of atheists are not willing to face the honest truth. How can you double blind and say no one in group A will be prayed for? How can you know people not connected with the study aren't praying for them? Their friends know they are sick. How can we be sure no one of them has one friend, or how can we know one guy on the freeway doesn't pray for everyone in the hospital every time he passe it on his way home form work? Christians do things like that. So there's no way to ever control for outside prayer.
Friendly Atheist man wants to Claire its' Christianity today that is rationalizing but look at his own rationalization. He's twisting the facts, as surely as he says Christians do. He has to ignore the problems of controlling for God's will and for outside prayer. He's twisting because the says the pro prayer studies have flaws but he's not begin honest about what they are. He is in a catch 22. He must either give up his study and admit you can't control (his study depends as much on controlling outside prayer and Byrd or Harris did). If he denies the problem and says they can control for outside prayer then he must accept that Byrd, Harris, and at least eleven other studies show that prayer works.*
Friendly Atheist above:
So the fact that the prayers had no effect on the sick? Don’t think about that, say Gregory Fung and Christopher Fung, the authors of the article. Instead, they want you to consider that prayer works because the un-prayed-for people didn’t die a horrible death.
That’s one way of ignoring the evidence when it’s staring you in the face.
What's obvious here is that the concept of double blind prayer study is a problem. Not prayer that is disprove, clearly , it is the ability to conduct a double blind and control for the will of God and outside prayer. One of the major problem with atheists taking this is a rationalization is that they don't know what prayer is about. They think prayer is just for getting stuff if it doesn't get you somethign one time then it doesn't work. This is because they refuse to study about the meaning of Christian theology or to understand what Christianity is about. Since they don't want to know they can't figure out what they are doing wrong with the criticize the wrong end of prayer. Far from disproving prayer this study disproves the ability to study prayer as thought it's a drug that has to work every time.
There’s gotta be a perfect analogy for this somewhere. What comes to mind?to be honest what comes to my mind first is that you are not idiot. I suppose that would be one of those uncalled for comments that is sure to send Hermit comment the comment box. But he did ask.
The better method of "proof" for prayer is empirical evidence. Prayer is something that can be studied empirically in terms of result so we don't need double blinds. There are no cotrols on them anyway so they can't be good double blinds. Empirical is better because it's there, if you have the evidence its' obvious. There's another atheist argument, one that says we just look at the good stuff and ignore the misses, that's "hit rate."
"Paradoxical" on CARM
I think it gives them the notion that they "could" have some control over things that are beyond their control. By way of just one example, I think they know that they personally can't control whether or not a loved one dies, and it is comforting to think that a being can grant that loved one a reprieve. If that loved one is deathly ill, and the believer prayed very hard that he or she would live, and he or she recovered, the believer chalks it up to a prayer being answered, and spreads the news so that others can feel empowered by this being that he and his friends believe in. This gives solace to society as a whole, and is useful to the human psyche. Humans don't want to think that life is random and there's nothing they can do to change what will be. Since they are not God, they want to think they can have a direct pipeline to Him and have him grant favors. That is the next best thing to being God, and gives that person perceived power that they wouldn't otherwise have without the prayer belief.
It matters not that billions and billions of prayers go unanswered or ignored. If there was even just ONE person out of a billion that got well after prayer, that would be all a believer would need. As for the outher 999,999,999,999, either they didn't pray enough, pray right, or it was God's will.
My opinion is that prayer gives humans the illusion of power that they do not possess by using an imaginary God to give it to themThe problem here is it doesn't take into account empirical miracles and it doesn't consider the complexity of veriables. In other words you don't need the hit rate because you are not dealing with something that is supposed to happen every single time. You are dealing with a will that can decide case by case if it wants to work or not. If scietnfiic studies on partcial excellorators had a theory about sub atomic pascals having minds of their own there would be no way to study them and no one would have evdience for the existence of any of them. Its' only when we can assume a stable situation that we can study it. That's why we have to go case by case. If a cause violates what we know nature on it's own produces then, and only then, do we have reason to believe there's really evidence of answered prayer. God goes case by case deicding if he wants to act. So we must go case by case deciding the chances of this or that happening according to probability. The veriables are far too complex to ever expect to be able to analyze the outcome short of something that really challenges our understanding of how nature behaves.
A leg is broken. We pray, we x-ray, the leg is not broken anymore. Within a half an hour the leg went from broken to not broken, this is something nature just doesn't ever do in our experience. That would be empirical evidence of a miracle. It would require a double blind. It wouldn't even try to control for anything because it doesn't have to. The only thing it would control for is making sure the X-Ray is not a fraud. I don't now of a case this dramatic but I do know of several that are close enough that they count as evidence of prayer working. The scientific study of miracles at Lourdes, France, the shrine to Mary of the Catholic chruch is very good. The ruels are strict and they are administered by major medical researchers of Europe.
MODERN MIRACLES HAVE STRICT RULES
BY DAVID VAN BIEMA
The paradox of human miracle assessment is that the only way to discern whether a phenomenon is supernatural is by having trained rationalists testify that it outstrips their training. Since most wonders admitted by the modern church are medical cures, it consults with doctors. Di Ruberto has access to a pool of 60 - "We've got all the medical branches covered," says his colleague, Dr. Ennio Ensoli - and assigns each purported miracle to two specialists on the vanquished ailment.
They apply criteria established in the 1700s by Pope Benedict XIV: among them, that the disease was serious; that there was objective proof of its existence; that other treatments failed; and that the cure was rapid and lasting. Any one can be a stumbling block. Pain, explains Ensoli, means little: "Someone might say he feels bad, but how do you measure that?" Leukemia remissions are not considered until they have lasted a decade. A cure attributable to human effort, however prayed for, is insufficient. "Sometimes we have cases that you could call exceptional, but that's not enough." says Ensoli. "Exceptional doesn't mean inexplicable."
"Inexplicable," or inspiegabile, is the happy label that Di Ruberto, the doctors and several other clerics in the Vatican's "medical conference" give to a case if it survives their scrutiny. It then passes to a panel of theologians, who must determine whether the inexplicable resulted from prayer. If so, the miracle is usually approved by a caucus of Cardinals and the Pope.
Some find the process all too rigorous. Says Father Paolino Rossi, whose job, in effect, is lobbying for would-be saints from his own Capuchin order: "It's pretty disappointing when you work for years and years and then see the miracle get rejected." But others suggest it could be stricter still.
There is another major miracle-validating body in the Catholic world: the International Medical Committee for the shrine at Lourdes. Since miracles at Lourdes are all ascribed to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, it is not caught up in the saint-making process, which some believe the Pope has running overtime. Roger Pilon, the head of Lourdes' committee, notes that he and his colleagues have not approved a miracle since 1989, while the Vatican recommended 12 in 1994 alone. "Are we too severe?" he wonders out loud. "Are they really using the same criteria?"
Reported by Greg Burke/Lourdes
Copyright 1995 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
The Lourdes miracles are a good argument. They are much stronger than those double blind studies. There are a lot of good arguments and good info available on my miracles page on Lourdes. (Don't pronounce the s). There are also protestant miracles. There are three main prolems wtih this info:
(1) it's old
(2) It's assocaited with a faith healing ministry, the faith healer (Kathryn Kulhman ministry)
(3) book's out of print although recently has been re-pulished in a new form that I have not seen.** Kullman ministry asked Dr.Richard H. Casdraoph to verify several of the healing and he uses his his entire staff of medical technicians and consulting doctors to help. This is not as well founded as the Lourdes miracle committee, but it's not bad.
The Casdroph book goes into great deatail on every case. Since these were not the actual patients of Casdroph himself, there are 3 tiers of medical data and opinion; Casdroph himself and his evaluation of the data, several doctors with whom he consulted on every case, and they very from case to case, and the original doctors of the patents themselves. The patients gave their permission and were happy to provide the medical data on their healing since they were all people who had written to the Kulhman ministry with words of their healing. Not all of them were healed immediately in the meeting. Some were healed latter when they got hom.Naturally no one had a x-ray machine standing by at the faith meeting to crank out results like a x-rox copy, so all of them took some period of time to see the results. Not all of them were toally healed immediately. But all the cases were either terminal or incurable and all of them, within a year, returned to full health and pain free existences.
Dr. Richard Steiner, of the American Board of Pathology, head of department of Pathology Long Beach Community Hospital reviewed several of the slides. William Olson, American Board of Internal Medicine and head of Isotope Department at Long Beach Community Hospital, and several radiologists form that Hospital also consulted on the rest of the cases.
1)Reticulum cell Sarcoma, right pelvic bone.
2)Chronic Rheumatoid Arthritis with Severe Disability
3)Malignant Brain Tumor (Glioma) of the left Temoperal lobe
5)Arteriosclerosis Heart Disease
6)Carcinoma of the Kidney (Hypernephroma)
7) Mixed Rheumatoid Arthritis with Osteoarthritis
8)Probable Brain Tumor vs Infarction of the Brain
9)Massive GI Hemorrhage with GI shock (instantly healed)
10)Osteoporosis of the Entire Spine
All of these people were totally healed of incurable or terminal states. The one commonality they all have is that they were at some point prayed for by the same person, Kulhman. Let's look at a few examples:
1)Lisa Larios: Cell Sarcoma of the right Pelvic bone.
Larios didn't know she had cancer. She had developed a great deal of pain in her pevis and was confined to a wheel chair, but the doctors had not found the evidence of the tumor at the time her mother took her to hear Kulhman. Yet, when Miss Kulhman said "someone over here is being healed of cancer, please stand up" she stood up without knowing why. She had already started feeling a strange heat in that area and had ceased to feel pain. She went up onto the stage and walked around without pain. She was than "slain in the spirit" which is that odd thing when the healer pales his/her hand on the forehead and the person falls over in a faint. It took some time to receive the next set of x-rays becasue she only learned after the meeting some days latter that she had cancer. Than the next set of x-rays showed vast and dramatic improvement. It would still be some time,almost a year, before her pelvis was completely resorted. But she did return to full health. The Catholics wouldn't except this miracle because it could be confused with a normal remission. The power of suggestion can be ruled out because the heat started before she was called to the stage, and because she didn't even know she had cancer, but responded to a call for healing of cancer. The first dramatic improvement which was immediate within a few days, and walking on the stage is not characteristic of remission. Casdroph has the medical evidence from several hospitals to which she had been taken.
3)Mrs. Marie Rosenberger: Malignant Brain Tumor.
"Three things make this case an exceptionally excellent example of divine healing. 1) medical evidence of the case includes biopsy proof of the malignant nature of the tumor. The slides were obtained from Hollywood community Hospital and reviewed by the head pathologist at Long Beach community Hospital who confirmed the diagnosis of malignant astronomical or glioma class II. 2) When the healing occurred Marie Rosenberger was down to 101 pounds and was expected to die."
The healing began to manifest immediately and by the next morning was evident. She received no further drugs or medication from that point on. 3) The third thing that makes the case good is the long term nature of the healing. Her diagnosis was in 1970 and by the time Casdroph wrote the book in 76 she was still healthy and happy with no sign of the disease since the healing (which was in 1971 one year after the diagnosis).
8)Anne Soults: Probable brain tumor vs. Infarction of the brain.
"This lady's brain abnormality was well documented by the standard diagnostic techniques and she was seen by man specialists. Electroencephalographic study was performed in each of her hospitalizations.The repeat study dated January 6th reported 'abnormal EEG suggesting left temporary pathology, there is no significant change since 12/27/74.'...the clinical impression was that of brain tumor and her symptoms suddenly and completely disappeared following a visit to the Shrine service."
When she went to the service an unknown christian placed his hands on her shoulders and prayed for her. The symptoms immediately vanished and subsequent tests found that the abnormality had disappeared. This is not normal remission. Remission does not mean that the symptoms immediately vanish.
9)Paul Wittney Trousdale:Massive GI Hemorrhage.
Trousdale was a prominent civic leader and builder in California in the early 70s. On December 12, 1973 he was admitted to St. John's Hospital in Sana Monica with massive hemorrhaging which required many transfusions.His wife called Reverend John Hinkle to his bedside, they prayed and he was instantly healed. All the medical values returned to normal and he went on to live a normal and productive life, engaging in athletics and sports. Subsequent examinations revealed no abnormalities.
10) Delores Winder: Osteoporosis of the Complete Spine.
"Mrs. Delores Winder presents us with an unusual case of severe, chronic, disabling pain secondary to Osteoporosis, which her physicians tried to relieve by five different spine operations. The patients symptoms had begun early in 1957. By 1962 she had worn a full body cast or brace of some sort...although at the time of her healing she was in a light weight full body plastic shell. Although she did not believe in instant miraculous healing she attend a lecture by Miss Kulhman in Dallas on August 30. 1975.She was miraculously healed beginning with a sensation of heat in both of her lower extremities.She has been resorted to full health, wears no barce or support, takes no medication and has completely normal sensations in the lower extremities. This is unusual becasue the spinathalamic in the spinal cord had been interrupted on both sides, and in such cases the resulting numbness is usually permanent."
The real problems that I have with atheists and they way they deal with prayer is they can't bring themselves to modrate the criticism. It's either out and out mockery or they feel they have to totally accept. They don't seem to regard keeping their mouths shut until the evidence is really good as an option. They also make no effort to understand the point of prayer. they can only deal with the surface level. They can't make the effort to understand what prayer is and thus undestand why the answers are not rationalizations, but they only want to focus on one thing, the surface level, did you get what you want? it never occurs to them that's not the point of prayer. I will deal with these factors and more next time.