Sunday, February 10, 2008

God is Imaginary: #2 "Statistically Analyze Prayer"

Statistically Analyze Prayer.

This section basically says that when you place prayer in any sort of scientific test, it shows no effect whatsoever. I could say "Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test." However, that's right up there with "The Lord works in mysterious ways" for purposes of irking atheists. Much along the line of Answers in Genesis' "Arguments Creationists should NOT use," those are two references which I think should be avoided unless there is no other response, which, given the infinite wisdom of God, is highly unlikely.

In this case, the problem is that the "scientific" studies do not have a control group, so the net effects cannot be measured. Forgive me for the analogy, but in Slaughterhouse Five, the Tralfamadorians do not experience time linearly, they view it more as a plane, and so they focus on the good parts of life rather than the unpleasant parts. God, however, is entirely outside of time. For Him, time is not only viewable, but simply is. He is not bound by time. A prayer uttered today may have been answered decades before its utterance--we just do not know. Our experience of life is the experience of a world already blessed by God in response to prayers--those which we have not prayed, and even those which the Spirit prays for us. In short, I would say that prayer is untestable, so systematic studies of prayers are impossible.

Just a quick caveat: prayer for the dead is a restricted category. Several times, in several different parables, Christ's description of heaven is quite strict on their being a cutoff period. Once the door is closed, once you have died, no pleading at the gate will extend your time of grace or let you enter.

Finally, I would just like to address the "Understanding the Rationalizations" at the end of the post. People have apparently said that God must remain hidden. That is entirely incorrect. As it states in Romans 1:20 "Since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Not only is God not hidden, He is self-evident.

Back to the Fifty Reasons



Blogger Noumenon said...

This is actually worse than "mysterious ways" because it doesn't even leave open the possibility that you might be able to see that God answers prayer if you were perceptive enough. This basically says, "No human logic is even going to get you near believing in prayer. It's faith or nothing."

I spent like 15 minutes trying to come up with some actual logical problem in this and couldn't, so I guess what you're getting is my decision to continue in my original belief despite not being able to construct any arguments for it. I'm comfortable with that. It just seems like there has to be some philosophy/theology book out there explaining why denying causality is untenable, and I just haven't read it.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

I shouldn't have jumped in on your first blog post with nothing to say, that's bad form. I should have given it more baking time.

Your argument stresses that people in the control group who do get better may have been prayed for at some prior time, or may be getting better in preparation for a prayer that hasn't been answered yet. We don't have to worry about the second case because for the purpose of determining whether praying for someone sick makes them get better, getting better for other reasons doesn't matter. So all we have to do is find a way to control for "prior likelihood of being prayed for," like maybe people without parents raised by cultists?

11:26 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

The italics in that above post should have been quote marks...

11:29 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

because it doesn't even leave open the possibility that you might be able to see that God answers prayer if you were perceptive enough

No, it argues that you won't be able to see God answer prayer if you statistically analyze it. When a prayer is answered, it is evidently so, though it can also be written off as luck or an amazing series of coincidences.

I would also ask, what would the purpose of answering this prayer be? A child can plead very very strongly that if mommy really loved him she wouldn't give him a spanking, but that would be an incorrect interpretation of events. As the good book says, (Hebrews 12: "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father. If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate citizens and not true sons." You know, they mentioned that people who were prayed for did worse than those who weren't. It could be that the prayers were effective, restoring the soul through the discipline of the body.

4:24 PM  

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