Thursday, April 04, 2013

Bad Prayer Studies: Use Empirical not Double Blind

 photo HEALING_HANDS.jpg

Atheists don't understand social methodology. They know that "double blind" is the magic word but most of them don't know why. My message here to you today is that empirical studies on prayers are better than double blind. Atheists have been beating the drum for the Benson study which supposedly shows that prayer doesn't work, is even harmful. The control group (not prayed for group) did 1% better than the experimental (prayed for) group, so to them this proves prayer is bad for you. All it really says is that 1% of that group had better outcomes, that could be as trivial as being less flatulent.

There are two reasons empirical is better than double blind in this case: (1) double blind is only necessary when you have an outcome that will be consistently the same such as a drug that always works every time you take it. Atheists try to treat that way and if it doesn't work that way they try to build that into a criticism. It's not goign to work that way, not ever, becuase prayer is about God's will. God never has to heal  he's not a magic genie and we can't command him to work for us. The whole idea of needing a double blind to study prayer is just stupid. (2) The second reason, double blind is not possible for prayer studies. There's always going to be outside prayer. Even if they got all people in the control group to say "Ok all my friends and relatives dont' prayer for me now," there's no way to be sure that some cousin somewhere didn't say "I don't care he needs prayer, study or not study, I'm going to pray for him." Or even someone who doesn't know him who is just trying to be a good person and prays for all the people of the world. I have heard of such people. Billy Graham once claimed that he did that every day. For these two reasons prayer studies should be the double blind it just creates a pretense that they study can't live up to.Atheists will then say that empirical study can't be falsified. It sure as hell can. If there's a prayer and the guy's problem doesn't go away, it's falsified.

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.
Friendly Atheist
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 showed prayer worked. Never mind listing them my page on that has been taken down. It no longer exists I don't remember all of them. They all suffered from the flaw of not contorting for outside prayer. 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. Yes in those days the atheists argued that and I argued that you could. I came to see I was wrong years before the Benson study and I dropped arguing for those studies when I got the good Lourdes evidence.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.

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]

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.
This prefectly rational explanation the atheist calls a "rationalization." Of cousre he does, his ideology demands that he not think reasonably bout 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.

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 pretend 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.

Friendly atheist:
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 controls 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."

The problem here is it doesn't take into account empirical miracles and it doesn't consider the complexity of variables. 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 scientific studies on particle accelerators 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 deciding if he wants to act. So we must go case by case deciding the chances of this or that happening according to probability. The variables 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.

Be sure and see my miracles pages on Doxas as I have some good evidence of healing for Lourdes and also other Catholic miracles, as well as good protestant miracles.  See also my article that summarizes an article medical historians who analyze Lourdes and find that there are real healing that can't be explained. See also this blog for article on Douffin's book of medical historian looks at Vatican archives. She found 400 examples of resurrections going back to the middle ages.

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