Sunday, October 23, 2016

Rebutting the "nothing fails like prayer" argument

The argument is sometimes given to the effect that Christianity offers assurances that prayer should work, and since it does, Christians should be healthier and wealthier than nonbelievers. Since they are not, Christianity is false. I call this the "nothing fails like prayer argument."

Prayer in the Christian tradition has two trajectories. The believer is expected to present his needs to God, but its primary purpose is for the believer to open his own inner state to God's correction. The "promises" concerning prayer have a condition, they apply only if the prayer is in accordance with the will of God.

11 comments:

Cal Metzger said...

Que sera sera.

Crude said...

Trying to treat prayer as a physical force that you can study the aggregate effects of via a statistical study just illustrates atheist stupidity.

Putting it bluntly: an atheist who looks up in the sky and cries that they can't see God up there is either sarcastic, or a moron. It used to be more the former, but nowadays it looks weighed more towards the latter. The smarter ones didn't think they needed to let the slower ones in on the joke.

unkleE said...

But secular studies show that religious people ARE, on average, healthier (both mentally and physically) and more prosocial than others.

Gyan said...

Surely the Christian world is richer than the non-Christian world.

Joe Hinman said...

not just correction but communion,your statement about prayer and the inner state.

SteveK said...

This is relevant to Cal's never-ending love affair with statistical models, and why they fail to say anything about God as cause - EVERY TIME.

http://wmbriggs.com/post/20014/

"Statistical Models CANNOT Show Cause, But EVERYBODY Thinks They Can. Hence the Replication CRISIS"

SteveK said...

From Briggs...

...because knowledge of cause isn’t statistical. Knowledge of cause, and knowledge of lack of cause, is outside statistics. Knowledge of cause (and its lack) comes from identifying the nature or essence and powers of the elements under consideration."

If you recall back in the 200+ comment post, I argued that this is true - and it is. Cal just refuses to accept it. Remember that kids.

Aron Zavaro said...

SteveK,

I can agree that classical statistical methods, such as statistical hypothesis testing using P-values, cannot identity causes. But what about Bayesian methods? Take his example about the right correlation between cheese consumption and strangulation. Let C be the hypothesis that cheese consumption causes strangulation. As Briggs notes, the evidence (E) gives us a big bayes factor in favor of C because because P(E|C)>P(E|~C). But we intuitively know that this Bayes factor is t good enough to establish the truth of P.

But this example doesn't show that probability models are flawed at discovering causes. Rather, we can use Bayes' theorem to show precisely why the cheese example is absurd. It is absurd because the prior probability of C -- P(C) -- is very low. So P(C)/P(~C) << P(E|C)/P(E/~C). So Bayes factors are not enough. We also need to consider prior probabilities. Maybe this is what Briggs means when he says we need to understand the powers of the elements under consideration. GIVEN what we know about the powers of cheese, we know that P(C) is low. But surely statistics has at least something to say about the powers and characteristics of things. We gain our understanding of what sorts of things cheese can and cannot do through our experience with cheese. And experience is frequency data. Through our frequency data (i.e., experience) we discover the powers and charactertics of the things we encounter in our life. Of course, there are non-empirical factors that we also use when choosing between hypotheses (e.g., simplicity), but that doesn't mean that statistics plays no role in helping us identify causes.

steve said...

"Some things are proven by the unbroken uniformity of our experiences. The law of graviton is established by the fact that, in our experience, all bodies without exception obey it. Now even if all the things that people prayed for happened, which they do not, this would not prove what Christians mean by the efficacy of prayer. For prayer is a request. The essence of a request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them. Invariable "success" in prayer would not prove the Christian doctrine at al. It would prove something much more like magic–a power in certain human beings to control, or compel, the course of nature." C. S. Lewis, "The Efficacy of Prayer".

SteveK said...

Aron,
My comment was primarily directed toward Cal who thinks it's possible for science to devise and carry out a rigorous test for the supernatural without bringing In knowledge from other sources. Statistics tell us something, yes, of course. Statistics cannot tell us if a cause is supernatural.

steve said...

Cal is always wrong. That's one of life's few certainties.