Science Basics, Religion Basics

I could tell you how many times we’ve heard this week that atheists have faith too, but I’d have to re-sift through a mile of apologetic comments to make a count. Contrary to what continues to be parroted, most of science is based on reproducible fact that is no longer theory. Although some of the more advanced ideas are currently in developing phases, most science is provable on a daily basis. Water boils at 212f or 100c at sea level. Every time. Objects fall at 9.8 m/s squared. Every time with wind resistance calculated for mass. If I jump off the 325 foot bridge by my house I will fall 4.49 seconds and travel 81.4 MPH at impact releasing 77,616 joules, since I weigh 75 kilos. Every time. If I want to have my buddy in Norway cast a bronze statue, I can send the alloy formula to him based on a variety of aluminium bronzes of differing compositions and he will make the exact alloy I could make here in Washington. All lab testable for density and purity. Human life requires a tightly controlled pH level in the blood of about 7.4 and during illnesses we can regulate it pretty well with interventions. We also know how the body maintains this homeostasis in great detail. I could go on, but the point is almost everything in our lives today is explainable by science. Pretty good odds someone is getting it mostly right. Except one point. So now it’s your turn. Let’s show some proof on prayer and some proof it works. Ready…..go! If that’s too hard pick another topic. Revelation, faith healing, authenticate your creation story, find some evidence of the Exodus. Ok …go again. Just one. Why is it so hard for religiosos to admit prayer doesn’t work? They all know it doesn’t work! (Except when casting tornados into adjacent neighborhoods) Also, as a side note, religion is also testable for density

Here is a great article researching the efficacy of prayer in a medical setting. Be sure to read to page 2 as it really sums up some of the psychology which prayer may actually be harmful in clinical settings.

Author: jim-

One minute info blogs breaking the faith trap.

26 thoughts on “Science Basics, Religion Basics”

  1. I once presented this argument to my sister, that there isn’t good evidence that prayer works. And she said, what has that (science) got to do with it? It was in that moment that I really started to fear for her. She’s dangerously skeptical of science. So I agree with the author of the article that we shouldn’t waste any more resources on researching prayer for yet another reason. No matter how much negative results we get, we may not be able to persuade some adherents. But we don’t have to specifically research questions of religious importance to erode dogmatism. We need only do good science and the dogmatism will fade as a side effect. Instead of researching whether or not prayer works, find the best cures for the disease. The religious folk will still figure out a way to pray and use the cure at the same time. But they’ll use the cure all the same.

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    1. “dogmatism will fade as a side effect. “. It’s a slow process isn’t it? MLK said “our scientific power has surpassed our spiritual power”. He was using that as a rally to increase faith, not recognizing that faith had been passed for good reason. Faith is a go nowhere stagnation that requires all your devotion for a lifetime of wishing.

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      1. I think it is slow because it’s that important. We can’t undo thousands of years of indoctrination with a few decades of scientific discovery that easily. So we need to work hard at promoting more critical, more logical and scientific thinking and yet be patient still.

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  2. This is a very interesting article and a bit disconcerting that these pseudo science projects are funded by taxpayers. I think it’s the slow creep of religious infiltration into many areas of our life. We know it’s heavily into politics, especially with republicans.

    People must be genetically skewed towards gullibility and an urge to fight the status quo and not skewed towards a rational mind or a skeptical mind except when it comes to conspiracy theories.

    And of course the old money and control thing. There’s a lot of profit in alternative medicine….a lot!

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    1. Yes. The funding and misuse is a whole other topic since mega posts are not my style. Typical agenda driven outcome based religion trickery to pad the stats. Justify and lie is no problem. And all they have to do is say it to their congregations and the poo just gets deeper and deeper

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  3. From the report you published, THIS line … Intercessory prayer is a request to God to change his or her mind about the already established plan for the universe and make it go another way. Of course, this implies that a perfect deity’s plans, which would (by definition) have to be perfect, should now be altered at the urging of an imperfect being. sums it up quite well, IMO.

    Of course, no respectable God-abiding Christian would admit to this because they would then have to face the fallacy behind their prayer efforts.

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    1. Awesome! You just make too much sense to be a Christian! Why did I not think of that? I literally dropped my biscuit in my coffee. Lol

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    2. Thanks, but this statement: You just make too much sense to be a Christian! confuses me. No way José am I a Christian!!!! (Perhaps just a stumbling over words?)

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          1. Those balls are hanging with my Art Deco iron phallic over the kitchen table. I’ll return them after my step mother leaves. She says she hates it but she just keeps staring.

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  4. Jim, is there anyway to read the entire article WITHOUT having to register? I already have a gazillion registrations like this; too many. LOL

    At least the first page of the article will be an excellent addition to my arguments about “Godly” Revelations Jim. Specifically, Special Revelations with regard to miracles or paranormal activities, or in the psychological and physiological field: the Placebo-effect. Mmm-Hmm! Thank you Sir! 🙂

    With regard to habitual intercession (arrogance?) beyond the individual medical benefits of meditation/relaxation, constantly giving FALSE hope does indeed accrue many negative, habit-forming neurological disorders.

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    1. Here is page 2 and 3. I had to register this time. lol. To carry out a confirmatory experiment one that would leave no possibility of an alternative explanation the investigators would have to produce evidence of an effect that could only be explainable by a force unknown to science, such as the intervention of a deity or its agent. There are some outcomes that could eliminate most doubt about experimental artifacts and they would have to involve dependent variables that could not occur except by divine intervention. Investigators would have to identify a dependent variable that could withstand the lemon test, one that would yield clearcut results. There are such variables.
      For example, one very simple experiment, the results of which would leave little or no doubt about the effectiveness of intercessory prayer, could involve the regeneration of an amputated limb.[9] All that would be required is an adequate sample of amputees as subjects and a sizeable number of believers who will earnestly pray over them. These should not be hard to locate. The investigators could use as many universities and people as possible — all the willing believers in the country if necessary to pray every day for a year that at least one amputee would have a limb re-grown, and then, at the end of that year, examine all the thousands of amputees for signs of regenerating limbs.
      Any amputee who wants to be included in the experimental group would be examined beforehand by a panel of physicians to ascertain that he or she is indeed an amputee. DNA samples on the subjects would be taken before and after the study to ascertain that the amputee identified at the beginning would indeed actually be the person who was examined a year later. There would be no limit on the sample size. No need for randomization, t tests, analyses of variance, factor analyses, significance levels, or confidence intervals. The subjects would present themselves at the end of the year and be examined to see if a single missing limb had been restored. Any priest, minister, rabbi, or lay person would be permitted to recommend subjects for the experiment, and any could observe the examination for the regenerated limbs. There should be no limitation on the number of amputees, people who pray for them, and observers to keep everything organized and uncontaminated.
      When a single limb has thus been observed to have been regenerated, then we will have seen unequivocal evidence for the power of prayer. This would be a real test to put before the immovable object; the irresistible force; the ultimate omniscience, the omnipotent, omnipresent supremacy of all that the believers in a supernatural being endow that Master Architect with. The creator of the entire universe should have no problem re-creating a limb.
      Perhaps this study could be carried out at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, under the aegis of the study currently being conducted there, known as the MANTRA II (Monitoring and Actualization of Noetic TRAinings) Project. “Noetic” interventions such as prayer and music imagery and touch studies called (MIT) therapies are defined as “an intangible healing influence brought about without the use of a drug, device or surgical procedure,” according to the researchers. The word noetic generally has to do with intellectual matters, which under the circumstances seem to be the dubious use of a perfectly good English word. They have already published the results of the phase I feasibility pilot, known as the MANTRA I.[10,11]
      Prominent in the field, Duke University has a long history of interest in arcane practices, going back to the work of J. B. Rhine as early as 1927. Rhine was interested in mediums, the afterlife, telepathy, and clairvoyance and as the originator of the terms “extrasensory perception” (ESP) and “psychokinesis” (PK), he provided “legitimacy” and material for prestidigitators, psychics, and entertainers like Uri Geller (of spoon-bending fame), while maintaining that he was advancing a new field of science he called “parapsychology.” Incidentally, he had been accused of fraudulently juggling his data by, among others (including his wife), Martin Gardner.[12]His legacy has undoubtedly most likely influenced the studies on intercessory payer now known as the MANTRA I and MANTRA II.[13]

      Opinion
      Intercessory prayer is a request to God to change his or her mind about the already established plan for the universe and make it go another way. Of course, this implies that a perfect deity’s plans, which would (by definition) have to be perfect, should now be altered at the urging of an imperfect being. This is logical reason enough to refute the possibility of intercessory prayer’s effect, because perfect beings cannot be outguessed by fallible mortals. Nevertheless, believers in the power of gods, saints, and angels claim that these agents are able to alter or suspend the well-established laws of the universe at their whim or at the request of the believer, through prayer.
      If we were speaking of magic or sorcery, or any belief systems outside of Western Judeo-Christian tradition, most investigators would agree that these ideas (of intercessory prayer’s effectiveness) are ridiculous and consist of superstition at best. In only one area, the field of Judeo-Christian theology, are the very same phantasms accorded the status of legitimate entity, and amenable to scientific scrutiny. Why? Why are Judeo-Christian superstitions by any accepted taxonomy of logic allowed to maintain a grip on, not only political, social and economic values in our society, but on scientific ones as well? How can we explain the avalanche of articles that are now apparently available about this current preoccupation of American medicine with the miraculous?[14,15,16]
      In March of 2005, my article “Searching in the Darkness: About Prayer and Medical Cures” was published as a commentary in Medscape General Medicine.[17] I was motivated to write it after seeing that there were 15 articles listed in Medscape on the subject of “intercessory prayer,” and at that time, I found it hard to believe that so many researchers would spend their time expend their resources on such an endeavor. Many of these studies were aimed at investigating the possibility that prayer could influence the outcome of a variety of medical conditions, ranging from infertility to cardiac surgery. This occurred shortly after the exposure of “the Columbia University prayer fiasco,”[18,19] and I believed that, in its aftermath, we would begin to see a diminution of interest in this alleged scientific area of research.
      Last week, I put the word “prayer” into Medscape’s search engine, and to my astonishment, it provided me with a list of 136 articles. In disbelief, I went to Google, and entered the search words, “intercessory,” “prayer,” “cure,” and “medicine,” and it yielded 206,000 “hits.”
      I believe that this focus on “intercessory prayer” is but one manifestation of a larger movement, begun when the National Institutes for Health (NIH) formed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). The goal of this organization is ostensibly an attempt to bring more diverse tools into the healing professions’ armamentarium, and it provides the funding for many of the studies that deal with alternative medicine.[20]
      The NCCAM at the National Institutes of Health released a survey in May of 2004 that showed that, “36% of US adults use some form of alternative remedies.” They defined complementary and alternative medicine as “a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices and products that are not currently considered to be part of conventional medicine. Those practices include acupuncture, meditation, the use of herbal supplements and prayer. When prayer, used specifically for health reasons, is included in the definition of complementary and alternative medicine, the number of US adults using complementary and alternative medicine rises to 62 percent.”[21]
      It is disheartening to see the number of supposedly educated and intelligent professionals who are involved in the futile process of attempting to investigate that which cannot be part of the physical universe, and hence, not open to scientific examination. As quoted in my earlier article on this same subject, Desiderius Erasmus described these people as “looking in utter darkness for that which has no existence whatsoever.”[22] Scientists have no business wasting their time and money (and certainly not the taxpayers’ money where it is NCCAM-funded research) investigating “that which has no existence whatsoever.” In fact, in my opinion, those who do, should be labeled “pseudo scientists.”[23,24,25]
      Let’s re-examine, once more, the notion of supplication to a deity, or one of his agents, in which a request is made for a suspension of the known laws of nature. We don’t know all the laws but they do exist, and science is their investigating agent instrument. For any scientist to engage in a study that attempts to understand how something that does not exist in the material world (God or his agents), employs a mechanism that does not exist in the material world (miraculous cure, or prayer-related amelioration of symptoms) is simply working in the wrong field. He or she does not belong in science or one of its main applied areas, which is medicine; theology would be an acceptable alternative.
      Have the tentacles of politico-religious, anti-scientific zealotry ensnared medical researchers? It seems to me, that political, financial, and ideological forces are behind the rise in so-called alternative medicine, and intercessory prayer is riding the wave. For a description of this issue and articles that deal with the many complications surrounding an investment in alternative medicine and its implications for traditional western medicine and all of science, see the Web site of Dr. Clark Bartram, a pediatrician with a sense of humor.[26]
      Because of the situation I have described, in my opinion, it represents we are witnessing a serious degeneration of the meaning of the terms, “medical research,” and/or “scientific research.” As a result, accepted standards of scientific research inquiry are falling by the wayside.

      The Tangled Web
      For reasons that go way beyond the scope of this commentary, there is an interesting conglomeration of characters, locales, organizations, traditions, and so on, that cluster around studies into the arcane. For example, is it an accident that Dr. Krucoff is the principal investigator of the Monitoring and Actualization of Noetic Trainings (MANTRA) Study Project at Duke University Medical Center; and is also on the board of directors of The Rhine Research Center, which was established by J. B. Rhine, the preeminent investigator into the paranormal?
      In addition to the political complexity surrounding NCCAM, including why it has funded over a half-billion dollars worth of research into Reiki, herbal remedies, chiropractic, and “distance healing,” it would take an inordinate amount of time to investigate the backgrounds of all the private funding organizations behind the prayer studies and behind “faith-based initiatives.” But public or private, think of the potential that such funding could provide if it were directed into legitimate research.
      Some of the funds for studies mentioned in this commentary were provided by grants from the RAMA Foundation, Bakken Family Foundation, George Family Foundation, FACT Foundation, Duke University Heart Center, Duke Clinical Research Institute, Columbia University Medical Center, Geisinger Medical Center, Scripps Clinic, and the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and the Templeton Foundation. Perhaps someone would be willing to study the relationship and motivations of granting agencies that support these studies.
      This would be a gigantic investigation in and of itself, and beyond the scope of this commentary, in which I intended to focus exclusively on intercessory prayer. However, it is important to note that some of the “Complementary and Alternative” procedures, for example, acupuncture and herbal supplements are, at least, based on something physical, a substance and/or a process, and as strange as many of these procedures may seem to be, they are still within the testable universe of physical science. Intercessory Prayer is another matter entirely, and should not command the attention and resources of science.

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      1. FYI, I will also post this over on Nan’s blog since she has presented the topic as well. 🙂

        Allow me to be the (ridiculous) Devil’s Advocate here, or rather Angel’s Advocate? 😛

        Typical Fundy-Evangy responses to this scientific article/evidence: we measly humans cannot always expect to know or understand the wonders or pains of God’s work. Supporting bible verses:

        • Psalm 147:5
        • Job 38:35-36
        • Isaiah 55:9
        • Luke 12:28
        • Proverbs 3:5-6
        • Deut. 7:9
        • Psalm 111:10
        • Isaiah 40:28

        …and about 5-7 other verses, minimum. LOL 😵

        So that a non-Believer will not get swamped and drowned in the incessant circular circus acts of Christian apologetics and biblical theology, personally I refuse to utilize their a priori argued 4th-century CE canonical Bible… UNLESS they/we first establish exactly WHAT valid divine Revelation and intervention consists of; i.e. the globally accrued details and evidence for General Revelation and Special Revelation — the only two forms they can argue from. If there is no consistent, replicateable, standardized definition of “Godly” revelations or intervention (which there is not), THEN ficticious intercessory prayer, revelations, miracles, etc, can be tackled in tangible rationale methods.

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        1. “establish exactly WHAT valid divine Revelation and intervention consists of”. Is that premise even possible without using the words feeling and belief?

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          1. Excellent point and question Jim!!! If we follow the lead of the apologist on this subject, we will be lead down so many insane rabbit-holes that you can’t even remember what day or year it is! LOL 😉

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    1. They also transfer their faith to the surgeons hands and pilots skill and the polio vaccination. All came from god through the science. But if they were truly correct, they could regrow limbs and heal the paralyzed. Some day when neurosurgeons reconnect severed spinal cords it will be god inspired knowledge, not years of research. To hell with all the people that suffered in the past. Science wasn’t godly enough back then I guess.

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  5. I would imagine a lot of the Jews and others, during the holocaust, were praying for survival and about 6 million of those prayers were not answered. And some buried alive during 9/11 whose prayers to be rescued were not answered. And let’s see..how many people die from cancer every year whose families and prayer lists at churches are not answered. Oh and what about the 63 or more children who have died this year from the flu who I’m sure had their families praying. Need I go on?

    And of course science has many many things that have scientific proof. And some things that are a work in progress, especially in the fields of cosmology. Science is always making progress and sometimes correcting old outdated theories. It is the only path to truth.

    But religion is mired in the ancient past with never any adjustment as the world progresses along. Worldwide religion is the single most repressive, oppressive and stagnant deterance for enlightenment and world peace that has ever been invented. It’s like a disease that is very hard to cure. It takes a lot of work to overcome it.

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    1. Excellent Mary as usual. Not only stagnant, but fighting it too. I guess maintaining control over huge segments of population is more important than truth. And fighting social justice as well.

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