Prayer, religion, and science

I actually thought that studies on prayer do show measurable effects on health. That is, whatever other associated problems religion and prayer may or may not have, religious people who regularly pray are generally healthier and happier than non-religious people.

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Seems it may be hard to separate cause and effect here. I did a quick search on Google Scholar and the top results seemed to be contradictory (some say it has an effect; some say it doesn’t).

If you don’t have time for real prayer, you can always turn to AI Jesus. I must admit, to my surprise, AI Jesus answers in a positive and strangely pacifying way, no matter what kind of perverted questions are asked of him. (I suspect that a human may be filtering the AI’s responses in real-time to ensure that any inappropriate responses are never broadcast to the world.) Is this the future of religion? See for yourself.

It’s inconclusive with some showing positive effects while some no minimal difference in results. I think studies on the impact of prayer has some major limitations on how to measure it.

But it’s simply false saying all studies have shown no measurable results. Some do.

One interesting one was a group of women being prayed for in a double blind study increased pregnancy rates by around double compared to the group no one secretly prayed for.

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This one is particularly interesting because it’s done on animals and removed the placebo effect for humans (assuming animals don’t have the awareness of them being prayed for). The animals that had prayers had significantly reduction in wound size.


I couldn’t find sufficient information on the linked page to support this assumption. If the animals can see you praying, they may be aware of increased activity concerning their well-being and hence have reduced stress and improved healing.

Again playing the devil’s advocate: conducting praying activities in the proximity of the animals may cause environmental changes around the prayed-for animals (due to spoken prayers by humans requiring inhaling of oxygen and exhaling of carbon dioxide and moisture), and the physical environmental changes (sound, airflow, moisture, etc.) caused by the prayer activity may have an effect on the healing.

As you correctly observed, it would be necessary to completely rule out any possibility of the animals’ environment or perception being altered by the prayer activities, such as by having the praying humans located thousands of kilometers away from the prayed-for animals, and having either the animals or the praying humans (or both) located in a secure facility with no communications and where no one (and nothing) from the outside can detect what is happening on the inside, with no entry or exit from the facility permitted during the experiment. If prayer still shows an effect, thousands of kilometers away, under such rigidly controlled conditions with no apparent means of physical communication or observation, then that would be interesting.

Also, the people who are doing the praying need to be separate from the people who are administering other medical treatments to the animals (because a person who is administering a medical treatment may be affected by either doing a prayer or by seeing a prayer being done, affecting the quality of care that is then administered). It’s not clear from the posted abstract whether or not this was the case.

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But are people who are prayed for without their knowledge more healthy? Studies say no.

Appears it was fraudulent:

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Just as with the recent hype around the LK-99 room-temperature superconductor (which, sadly, seems not to live up to its claims after many failed attempts by others), the hallmark of science is reproducibility. A single study doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things. If there are specific results of prayers in specific conditions, then those should be reproducible by other groups conducting the same experiment. If they aren’t consistently reproducible, then the results of the study have practically no value. If they are consistently reproducible, then this invites further research into making even tighter control of the experimental conditions and understanding in detail the mechanisms of the effect. If prayer can indeed cause reliable changes in the physiology of the target person, thousands of kilometers away and without the knowledge of that target person and without relying on any known physical mechanisms, this would have staggeringly large military implications. Nations that emphasize prayer would be able to readily overcome nations that do not emphasize prayer, simply by praying en masse for the demise of their enemies. This would also then raise further lines of inquiry, such as: if two persons pray for different outcomes, then which prayer takes precedence, and why?


A wise man once said science should stay out of religion, religion should stay out of science. I think that makes sense. Different ways of looking at the world. No need to claim that one or the other is the only one. In a way people believe in science religiously too. There could be a time in the future when science is playing a minor role to a new way of seeing the world we cannot yet imagine.


Respectful disagreement on this. Iron sharpens iron. One or the other adds diamond chips, the blade increasingly pervades as a more efficient tool.


I generally agree with what you said, except for this part. You don’t have to believe in scientifically-verified facts for them to be true. I may or may not believe in gravity, but if I step off of a cliff, then I will fall, regardless of my belief. The outcome is observable, repeatable, quantifiable, and amenable to mathematical analysis, simulation, and engineering. This scientific mindset (method) gave us bridges, high-rise skyscrapers, airplanes, semiconductors, and the Internet.

I find it dangerous to describe this mindset, to which we thank our entire modern existence, as a “belief”. If we treat all worldviews as mere “beliefs”, all equally valid of consideration, then we risk slipping into a 1984-esque, solipsistic view that nothing really can be known and every belief is valid.

I won’t rule it out. But science has a pretty brilliant track record so far – a much needed candle in the dark of a demon-haunted world. I don’t think that in our lifetime such a “new way of seeing the world” will emerge, because such a new worldview would need to surpass the massive hitherto achievements of the scientific method. I see it as more likely that we’ll just continue, step by step, to investigate and understand more and more details about the workings of the universe.

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It’s religion, not science.

Even with a real god and ones who listens to prayers, scientific study on prayer is meaningless because it’s a bit like political science, means it’s likely to happen but it’s not guaranteed. You simply can’t use the scientific method on stuff like prayers.

I don’t disagree. I just keep my mind open to the possibility that everything could change beyond recognition in an instant. For the time being humans are using science to live in this world. Nothing wrong with that. But there is no scientific evidence that the world we are experiencing right now will always be this way.


Are you sure? Cognitive behavioral therapy is based off Buddhist meditation. By which I mean that it is Buddhist mindfulness meditation with a new name. There is plenty of research to back up that it works. Perhaps because people have a weirdly positive opinion of Buddhism or don’t scorn its existence since its not a monotheistic religion, people are more accepting of those findings?

True enough. Science may find out, for instance, that we are living in a simulation, and there’s a secret backdoor in the simulation that allows us to transcend to new dimensions of existence and understanding. I would be thrilled if there were such a discovery in my lifetime. (Or maybe not… such a discovery would probably trigger worldwide instability.)

Sending electronic prayers instead of burning incense and ghost money is a definite improvement.


It’s a fair assumption, but a lot of religions give their believers freedom to be bad people. While I’m not really religious, as I’ve said before, I am a big fan of the Hebrew bible because it’s fucking metal. New Testament generally bores the life out of me. Anyway, the BEST part of the Hebrew bible (in close competition with the Song of Songs and really all of the five scrolls are pretty great) is the Book of Job, and it doesn’t completely answer for evil on its own, but it essentially answers that no matter what the circumstances are, humans are responsible for their own belief and evil and sin can exist independently of divine retribution against their acts, while good people can suffer inexplicably. Essentially, it answers why good believers can suffer while nonbelievers and evil people don’t. This all happens through a story of basically god and the devil making a bet that if God took away everything the pious and comfortable Job had, he would no longer believe, and thus God goes about taking away everything from Job, who continues to believe and accepts that he can not possibly understand the doings of God and chastises others for assuming they knew why he was being unjustly punished. It’s metal. Love it.

Were the claims of Christianity just capital T True and god exists and all the rest, I think the putting the onus of belief (and thus of living as much as possible within the moral guidelines of the religion) on the practitioner makes total sense, and the expectation that one can understand why God might do or not do something also seems to be misplaced. Maybe, by letting this Spaniard make his mistake, they have taught him a greater lesson through his punishment than he would’ve learned if the gods just pushed him away. Maybe his suffering is not yet complete, and he will have to go through the trials just as Job did, perhaps to prove his belief, perhaps not, and they might not be godly in origin at all. I think the responsibility of the believer, flawed as all humans are, to practice what they believe is (under ideal circumstances, when such practice doesn’t involve suffering not the infidel in particular) a much more beautiful side to religion.

Buddhism certainly also provides the tools to live a righteous life, but again the onus is on the believer. I’m not entirely sure how Daoism approaches this, but given their precepts, it makes sense that it has a method – this is the way the world is, but this is the way you ought to live in it. And if you mess up, you hopefully learn from it and move forward with that knowledge.

Yet the nostalgia of witnessing the ritual still becomes a bit overwhelming on occasion. :beers:

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That’s true , scientists are playing the role that priests used to play to some extent.
For example Q “How do you know it’s true ?” A “Because a scientist said so”.

Gravity for example is not a constant number it changes.
The example of we know if we jump of a cliff that we will fall and die is observable. But not repeatable on the same person lol. It does not also mean because it is observable that makes it true. The earth looks flat to most casual observers , that doesn’t mean it is flat .

Steven Jay Gould I think. I agree, as long as we note the differences between unverifiable belief and objective determinations based on empirical evidence. Will anything top the latter in the future? It’s hard to imagine.

Any examples?

You certainly can if the stuff is said to have real-world impacts.


Scientific method deals in absolutes. If you do A, you get B.

Prayer doesn’t work like this. You ask for A, and God might say no.

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