Friday, March 24, 2006

Trying to scientize Prayer....

The above title linked Washington Post article is about trying to discover if prayer really works. From the article:

But the most controversial research focuses on "intercessory" or "distant" prayer, which involves people trying to heal others through their intentions, thoughts or prayers, sometimes without the recipients knowing it. The federal government has spent $2.2 million in the past five years on studies of distant healing, which have also drawn support from private foundations.

My first response is to shake my head in wonderment that the federal government is spending 2.2 million dollars on this.

Something that immediately came to me that this article doesn't adress is do they really think God doesn't know about these studies? I mean really, if you do believe in God and you are putting yourself in a situation where basically what you are agreeing to participate in is a "test" to "prove" God exists you think you are going to get results? Right now I'm going to pray, "Give me a million dollars within the next ten minutes God, prove to me that you are really here". Now ten minutes from now does that mean God doesn't exist or that for some reason I don't understand God doesn't want me to be rich, that I have to find a way to get that million dollars on my own....

Why are some prayers answered and some are not? There is no rational way to explain this if you can't grasp the concept of man's own influences on Free will and the basic tenent of God's Will.

It shouldn't have taken 2.2 million dollars for someone to figure this out.

Something else I found while researching today that might be of interest to some of you God Without Religion, the link is the intro page from the same titled book.

27 comments:

Me4Prez said...

I think they just wanted to give someone money. I don't think there is a way to prove that God exists or that preyer works. You either believe it or you don't. What is that word they use all the time? Oh yeah, faith.

Someone could say they prayed for me to get better and God answered. I could say that I took medicine and had good treatment that worked.

Lisa Renee said...

Well, I didn't get my million dollars.

Maybe God's been delayed.

:-)

Dennis said...

Lisa, it's not surprising given the administration today. We have a self-avowed evangelical fundamentalist in the White House who considers himself someone guided by God with respect to his actions.

The money allocated to faith based organizations is another example of the Bush administration's drive towards theocratic governing...

Lisa Renee said...

The WaPo might not have accurate numbers, according to this which was written in October of 2004:


According to The New York Times, the federal government has spent $2.3 million over the past four years on prayer research. The studies include the effects of prayer on a variety of specific illnesses such as coronary diseases, AIDS and brain tumors.

I'm doing some further research to see if I can determine when this started and who has supported it.

Lisa Renee said...

1996 PBS Report

This appears to be where it began with the National Institute for Health Care Research getting involved. Would this have continued as it has under a different President? Probably not, so I'd have to agree that Dennis is correct on the promotion of faith based programing and research.

If the Federal Government is going to help fund non-profits, I believe faith based should not be kept from participating if there is no requirement a person be of a particular faith or if a faith is going to be promoted rather than the focus being on providing assistance; however I don't feel they should be given a higher priority than non-religious non-profit organizations.

Faith based charities that want to assist and promote their religion or make conditions that one must be a certain religion to get assistance should not receive tax dollars. To me that's never worked as a concept anyway. Forcing someone who is desperate for help to attend a service or say a prayer goes against the very foundation of what christianity is about. To me anyway...

Me4Prez said...

How are the faith based cures for AIDS and cancer going.

historymike said...

I'd believe in just about anything if the government gave me $2.2 million.

Me4Prez said...

I could probably prove anything they wanted me to for that money too. I would report that I prayed for kids with cancer and find statistics of how many kids survived 5 years after treatment. Then, I will say that prayer worked

Lisa Renee said...

I still don't have my million dollars...perhaps we should create our own study...YES that is what God wants us to do!

:-)

Me4Prez said...

We should get funding from Bush to research prayer stuff. Lets research the effects of prayer on bringing peace to the Middle East. Then, our prayers will be going against someone else's prayers and we could see who has the stronger god

Lisa Renee said...

Now that is an excellent idea.

:-)

Me4Prez said...

I am full of it,er, umm

Lisa Renee said...

That's one of your many charms

:-)

Stephanie said...

This is hardly the first stupid government funded research project, nor will it be the last. The fact that it has something to do with religion doesn't make it seem any more or less wasteful to me.

Dark Wraith said...

Good evening, Lisa Renee.

I was prowling around the internets looking for something for my daily "The Dark Wraith Recommends" sidebar entry. When I got here and read this post, I just knew it was the one to recommend.

Do you know how I knew? It was that weird shooting pain that goes up my left arm only when I read certain things that annoy me beyond the ordinary and casual responsive snort.

Two million, two hundred thousand dollars spent to find out if intercessory prayer works. This money being spent, I should note, by a government spending so far beyond its means that it just has to cut funding for everything from student loans to programs for the elderly. This government that has to borrow money hand over fist from such sterling merchants of loan-by-phone as the Chinese Communist thugs and creepy, shadowy institutions with names we can't even pronounce. This government that cuts taxes over and over again at the same time it prosecutes irrelevant wars of opportunity in Iraq and Afghanistan against vaporous organizations and religious factions best left by any historical guidance to their own bloody devices of political equilibrium.

Yes, this all really does make sense: the neo-conservatives haven't much logic, science, intelligence, or hope for a favorable outcome to the era of their school-boy experimentation in the great laboratory of the 21st Century.

But if you ask me, Lisa Renee, those neo-cons and their religious Right enablers really don't have a prayer of a favorable outcome, either.


The Dark Wraith reaches for the aspirin container.

Catdaddy-n-Dr.Squeeky said...

My two cents...

I actually have heard of studies involving Buddhist monks meditating in a group changing the molecular structure of water placed in the middle of the group. Though I unfortunately don't remember the source, I'm positive of it. Maybe somebody can research that. I did find this (sorry I don't know how to put a link in here, so here's the address):

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/health_science/articles/2005/11/21/the_power_of_om/

However, the research has focused on "professional" meditators and on changing their own physiological functioning, not getting together to pray for somebody far away, which I also find ludicrous.
Nonetheless, I would accept any money to pray for anything. Please send your donations. I promise not to pray for more money...Well, at least not all the time.

Catdaddy-n-Dr.Squeeky said...

the last part of the url from the boston globe is

articles/2005/11/21/the_power_of_om/

(starting with the /art seen in the comment above, it should be article...)

T. F. Stern said...

One interesting point not brought out in the article, only one of the ten lepers bothered to give thanks for having been healed. I wonder if the government study will look into lack of gratitude as a form of the human illness.

Lisa Renee said...

Dark Wraith, that is a most surprised honor, thank you. While I am what is referred to as a "practicing Catholic", there are several parts of this that bother me including the financial aspect.

T.F., gratitude is another human emotion that many seem to have no use for anymore. Which I would like to see re-emerge along with some other not seen often emotions.

Cat Daddy - Yes, I have heard of other studies where the power of the mind is used to create a change, the whole bending of the spoon type concept. I've had discussions/thoughts in the past as to is prayer part of that process? Can creating a positive energy flow create a desired result. I realize it's said we don't use nor understand all of the functions of our brain.

So I understand the desire to research this, yet I don't think the Federal Government should be funding it and then from the actual God aspect of it. Since I'm sure he would know that this was a test...If he does intercede when asked thru prayer (which on it's own could be a huge debate as to free will) would he knowing that it was not being done from the heart but as part of a paid process...

Yes, I over think at times but topics like this are not merely black and white they can be millions of shades of gray.

Don said...

Along these lines, I highly recommend Tom Paine's "The Age of Reason", which I think is the most eloquent presentation of deism. Here's one of my favorite passages (from memory, forgive me if not verbatim) from Paine's book: "The word of God is the Creation we behold...it is in this Word, which no invention of man can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man". Paine believed in God, but rejected all religious texts as fraudulent. Recognizing that language is a flawed artifact of humanity, Paine reasoned that God's "speech" must instead take a timeless, immutable form. The natural world fits the bill perfectly, and empirical science is the logical interpreter of this "text". Paine also points out that rational scientific thought has produced most of the significant benefits of modern civilization. On his view, the bounties of scientific development are devine blessings.

Regarding this dubious research, I think Paine would advocate redirecting the money to medical research. From the deist perspective, that's the best way to respectfully speak with God and humbly seek to broaden our knowledge.

Stephanie said...

"Paine also points out that rational scientific thought has produced most of the significant benefits of modern civilization."

It has also provided us with the most destructive influences we can imagine. Science is, at best, amoral.

Me4Prez said...

I went to a wedding in a Catholic church over the weekend and I tried to use Buddhist chants to change the structure of the congregation. I had never heard of a born again Christian version of Catholicism

Don said...

Stephanie, I think a good argument could be made that religion has done far more damage to mankind than science has.

What about the crusades? The Spanish inquisition? How about arguments of "manifest destiny" to justify the genocide of native American people? For how many centuries did the Catholic church function as a barrier to scientific progress, working to keep women repressed, and supporting the institution of slavery? How many wars were the product of stupid disputes over religious differences? How much harm has been done by Judeo/Christian/Islamic discrimination against homosexuals, or teaching all people to feel dirty or ashamed because of perfectly natural sexual desires? How many billions of dollars have been cheated away from poor, elderly, and sick people taken in by some charlatan preacher like Robert Tilton or Benny Hinn?

Sure, the tools of science are morally ambiguous, but they're also the keys to freedom from the worst aspects of organized religion. On the whole, science has done way more to lengthen and improve the quality of human life than religion has. No contest. How many diseases have been cured by religion? Has faith or prayer ever improved crop yields to fill more hungry stomachs? I'm still with my man Mr. Paine. Science is the only game in town.

Don said...

I forgot to mention witch burnings. You wouldn't catch an Enlightenment age empiricist doing that, either.

Stephanie said...

Don,

Science is hardly wholly benign.

Hiroshima, anthrax, euthanasia, eugenics, abortion, carcinogens, toxic waste, pollution, oil spills, small pox infected blankets, germ warfare, guns, grenades, WMD...shall I continue?

"How many diseases have been cured by religion?"

That depends on whether you believe religious related accounts, which you probably don't. And therefore, it's an unanswerable question. However, I'll ask one in return. How many diseases have scientists engineered?

"Has faith or prayer ever improved crop yields to fill more hungry stomachs?"

Again, your disbelief makes in an unanswerable question. Many bellies have been filled through faith, but since you obviously discount faith-based anecdotes it's a mute point to make.

"I forgot to mention witch burnings. You wouldn't catch an Enlightenment age empiricist doing that, either."

No, but you'd catch them killing babies because their lives aren't valuable.

Stephanie said...

Oh, and science was used as a justification for slavery and racial prejudice. I bet you didn't know that. Want a link?

Don said...

Good science is the best defense against crap science such as eugenics. Good science teaches us that racism has no rational basis, because all humans share 99.9% of DNA characteristics.

I think we're talking right past each other. No doubt the tools of science can be abused. No doubt science has charlatans as well. But would you not agree that the problems you point to are misapplications of scientific knowledge driven by bad ideas? Bad ideology? I don't know of any weapon to combat them other than rationality. Prayer ain't gonna get rid of toxic waste, or pollution. Only rational, thoughtful public policy can do that.

By the way, is euthenasia is a great good if you've got a painful, terminal illness (ex. liver cancer). I'd move that off your list.

Also, you falsely assume that I lack "faith". I have a different kind of faith, along the lines advocated by Paine. I think that rational study of the natural world is an interaction with the almighty -- these interactions unlock divine wisdom. Yes, it cn be abused. But I think it's the best thing we've got.