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Thread: Can the supernatural be studied scientifically?

  1. #1 Can the supernatural be studied scientifically? 
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    This is a hypothetical question, starting from an assumed that the supernatural may exist.

    On another thread exchemist made this remark:

    The point, surely, is that invoking supernatural causes is scientifically useless because a supernatural intervention is by definition impossible to make predictions from, as no rules or patterns govern its behaviour.

    This is a clear and concise expression of a principle/thought I have seen many times when discussing the interface between science and religion. I may have used it myself on more than one occassion. However, on reflection, I see no reason it should be true - unless we wish to adopt circular logic in the definition of supernatural.

    So, if you can bring yourself to consider that the supernatural might exist, why would it be excluded from following its own set of rules?


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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Good question. You might need to define what you mean by "supernatural".

    It often, particularly with regards to religions or gods, implies something that is beyond rules and logic, e.g. God can work in whatever mysterious ways She wants and do any kind of miracle, even if otherwise physically impossible. That sort of deus ex machina supernatural would not appear to be amenable to the scientific method.

    Then there is a slightly weaker form, sometimes used by proponents of ESP where the effect disappears if any attempt is made to measure it or, more generally, is just not measurable by any physical tools. Again, it seems this would difficult to subject to any kind of rigorous, objective analysis. Although, perhaps some of the methods used in psychology for analysing subjective effects could be employed.

    Finally, if there is something "supernatural" which can be measured and subject to analysis (and maybe even technological exploitation) then it isn't supernatural.

    "Any sufficiently analysed magic is indistinguishable from science"


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    I think I agree with Strange last sentence:

    If there is something "supernatural" which can be measured and subject to analysis (and maybe even technological exploitation) then it isn't supernatural.


    Then it's just something that is a part of this world that we haven't discovered and don't understand yet.

    Some day ago I thought about the idea some have that we could be living in a simulation. The simulation could have a creator which would seem supernatural to us but could just be some super advanced beeing (technologically) but not necessary supernatural. What I mean by this is that we would not see ourselves as supernatural if we had the technology to create such a simulation. But to humans inside the simulation we would seem almighty. To me it is not impossible in theory but it's a kind of useless theory since it seems we can never figure out anything about that creator. The reason is because our ways of measuring are bound to the natural world we live in. So in other words our instuments of measuring is part of the same "simulation" as we live in. We can't break those rules. And if we can't figure out anything about that creator (even if there's a theoretical possibility there could be one) it's useless to think about it because that "beeing" would be outside our observable universe.

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  5. #4  
    exchemist
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    This is a hypothetical question, starting from an assumed that the supernatural may exist.

    On another thread exchemist made this remark:

    The point, surely, is that invoking supernatural causes is scientifically useless because a supernatural intervention is by definition impossible to make predictions from, as no rules or patterns govern its behaviour.

    This is a clear and concise expression of a principle/thought I have seen many times when discussing the interface between science and religion. I may have used it myself on more than one occassion. However, on reflection, I see no reason it should be true - unless we wish to adopt circular logic in the definition of supernatural.

    So, if you can bring yourself to consider that the supernatural might exist, why would it be excluded from following its own set of rules?
    An intriguing challenge!

    I think I'd agree with Strange and Zunc that "supernatural" to me implies not being bound by any rules or patterns.

    Consider. If we could hypothesise a set of rules or patterns for a class of "supernatural" phenomena, we could subject them to test by predicting what further repeatable observations we should expect. If our predictive tests failed, then we would have to conclude we were wrong about the patterns or rules we had hypothesised, i.e there was no such set of rules or pattern. But if this were successful it would become part of science - and if that were to happen, how could the phenomena in question be said to be "supernatural" any more? Surely we would just have extended our scientific understanding of nature to encompass them, would we not? What could "supernatural" mean any more, in relation to such things?

    P.S. It seems to me also important to keep in mind that a scientific hypothesis (i.e. of the rules or patterns seemingly obeyed by a class of phenomena) predicts what repeatable further observations can be expected. It is this repeatability that makes the discipline objective, i.e. not dependent on the say-so of any individual observer. Subjective experiences can't really be assessed scientifically, it seems to me.
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  6. #5  
    Theatre Whore babe's Avatar
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    I agree with Strange and Zunc, but have we not sometimes had "deja vu" I know I have, or unexplainable things.

    I would think it could be studied, but I don't know how it would be proven.

    Then again, I am not a scientist.
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  7. #6  
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    If one looks for the explicit, in what is necessarily implicit, it will be "supernatural". I mean that much of this stuff, in my experience is given with a wink that literal-minded skeptics fail to notice... so they try to grasp the issue where it isn't. Dowsing for water is a simple example: traditionally the dowser begins by finding a green, forked willow branch... no not a branch of saguaro cactus, it only takes a sight turn of mind to understand what's really going on.

    Anyway, I think that yes little lies and discretions and winks can be studied scientifically. But the scientifically minded are the last people to recognize these for what they are. Just as well nobody even tries to dissect Santa, eh?
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Finally, if there is something "supernatural" which can be measured and subject to analysis (and maybe even technological exploitation) then it isn't supernatural.
    This pretty much sums up what I was about to say.
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  9. #8  
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    This made for an entertaining trip through definition land.
    It seems that defining "supernatural" is highly problematic.
    Defining the "supernatural", "paranormal" or "preternatural" seems as crazy as attempting to define "god".

    That which is understood to be "natural" becomes measurable and defineable.
    That which is beyond our ability to perceive, measure, or understand falls into the great misty swamp of the unknown"supernatural".

    Much that would have resided within that swamp decades, generations, centuries or milinia ago is now measured, seen, and defineable.

    So,
    "extraordinary or is something associated with forces we don't understand or that cannot be explained by science"
    creates a shoreline for the swamp.
    As science progresses, the shoreline moves, seemingly drying up the swamp.

    My personal opinion(i know, i know, opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and most of them stink) is that "supernatural" is just a silly place/bag/bin/etc...wherein we assume things to be beyond our understanding, and thereby(the silliness)
    : Nothing is supernatural. Everything is natural. There is just a lot of nature which we do not understand.

    .............
    I too have had deja vu. I have Gone into small towns for the first time, and known where everything was. I've had dreams of conversations in advance of the conversation, some were accurate right down to posture(body english).

    A) supernatural?
    or
    B) just the effect of beginning to know the pattern of town building, and conversations of known individuals?

    I'm leaning toward B.
    and, in this I differ from exchemist's:
    The point, surely, is that invoking supernatural causes is scientifically useless because a supernatural intervention is by definition impossible to make predictions from, as no rules or patterns govern its behaviour.
    (especially the pattern part)
    ......................................
    that being said:
    If we could correspond about a particular "supernatural" phenomenon
    we'd at-least all be throwing our ropes over the same mustang?
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  10. #9  
    Malignant Pimple shlunka's Avatar
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    Wouldn't that just make it a study of the natural?
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by shlunka View Post
    Wouldn't that just make it a study of the natural?
    precisely so young master
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    I agree with Strange and Zunc, but have we not sometimes had "deja vu" I know I have, or unexplainable things.

    I would think it could be studied, but I don't know how it would be proven.

    Then again, I am not a scientist.
    Regarding deja vu, I'm fairly sure I read somewhere this has been explained by a momentary interruption in the brain's thought pattern, so that when we see a scene "for the first time", we actually saw the same scene a split-second previously but our brain is falsely ascribing this sighting - which it treats as a separate one, due to the interruption - to the memory of a separate event in the past.

    But I'm not expert so am open to correction.
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  13. #12  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shlunka View Post
    Wouldn't that just make it a study of the natural?
    And that would be super!
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Finally, if there is something "supernatural" which can be measured and subject to analysis (and maybe even technological exploitation) then it isn't supernatural.
    Would the Big Bang be a supernatural event then?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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  15. #14  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    No, because we can "measure it" indirectly, i.e. the BB itself is inferred from what we do measure.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    No, because we can "measure it" indirectly, i.e. the BB itself is inferred from what we do measure.
    I thought we couldn't measure the first, what is it, 7 nanoseconds? Does that make the Beginning a supernatural event?

    Any paranormalist or believer in the supernatural will pick up on words like 'indirectly' and apply to their cause since it implies there is no reason for something to happen.
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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  17. #16  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    I thought we couldn't measure the first, what is it, 7 nanoseconds?
    But that doesn't matter (as far establishing the BB goes at least).
    What we can measure, and the laws of physics leads to a particular conclusion - that conclusion being the BB.

    Any paranormalist or believer in the supernatural will pick up on words like 'indirectly' and apply to their cause since it implies there is no reason for something to happen.
    Wouldn't work.
    The BB is a conclusion arrived by examining the available evidence and what we actually know.
    The supernatural tends to be "oh here's something we can't explain 1 therefore it must be something inexplicable/ beyond science".
    Er, that sounds "Irish", but it's a case of "can't explain with the information currently available" and "forever inexplicable".

    1 In many cases because it's not examined thoroughly - for various reasons.
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  18. #17  
    Theatre Whore babe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by exchemist View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    I agree with Strange and Zunc, but have we not sometimes had "deja vu" I know I have, or unexplainable things.

    I would think it could be studied, but I don't know how it would be proven.

    Then again, I am not a scientist.
    Regarding deja vu, I'm fairly sure I read somewhere this has been explained by a momentary interruption in the brain's thought pattern, so that when we see a scene "for the first time", we actually saw the same scene a split-second previously but our brain is falsely ascribing this sighting - which it treats as a separate one, due to the interruption - to the memory of a separate event in the past.

    But I'm not expert so am open to correction.
    Interesting. Thanks for the feedback.


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    Many Christian ministers discuss how God is bound by His own rules, so I would say that the idea that "no rules or patterns govern supernatural behavior" is not valid.

    Thus, to scientifically study the supernatural, theology would need to be considered.

    For example, I have not actually read the studies that looked at the effect of prayer on some variable such as recovery from illness. However, if I was designing such a study I would want to look at study design in consultation with someone familiar with Christian theology (because that is my interest and belief). For example, my understanding of Christian theology is that God encourages people to pray together.

    Thus, for me, an interesting study would look at prayer in groups, and how that would effect some dependent variable. For example, does praying for illness (or other dependent variables) in groups change the outcome? Does praying together or worshiping together for couples effect divorce rate?
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post

    Then there is a slightly weaker form, sometimes used by proponents of ESP where the effect disappears if any attempt is made to measure it or, more generally, is just not measurable by any physical tools. Again, it seems this would difficult to subject to any kind of rigorous, objective analysis. Although, perhaps some of the methods used in psychology for analysing subjective effects could be employed.
    Where do things that we have, at present, no ability to approach fit? Clearly they're not actually supernatural, but they do fall outside the body of modern scientific understanding.


    Personally I suspect there might turn out to be some quantum mechanics explanations for ESP if it's real. (Thus providing a possible explanation for observation foiling it.) If someday a machine is devised that is able to use quantum mechanics to do those same things, then we would probably find that nature had already beaten us to that invention.

    But for now, it defies our present paradigm, therefore it is magic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    I thought we couldn't measure the first, what is it, 7 nanoseconds?
    But that doesn't matter (as far establishing the BB goes at least).
    What we can measure, and the laws of physics leads to a particular conclusion - that conclusion being the BB.

    Any paranormalist or believer in the supernatural will pick up on words like 'indirectly' and apply to their cause since it implies there is no reason for something to happen.
    Wouldn't work.
    The BB is a conclusion arrived by examining the available evidence and what we actually know.
    The supernatural tends to be "oh here's something we can't explain 1 therefore it must be something inexplicable/ beyond science".
    Er, that sounds "Irish", but it's a case of "can't explain with the information currently available" and "forever inexplicable".

    1 In many cases because it's not examined thoroughly - for various reasons.
    I think the problem with modern science is that it's so determined to explain everything that it's willing to resort to positing absurdities.

    Consider the following two sets of questions and answers:

    1) -

    ---What caused all the mass in the universe to be concentrated in a small space, and for that space to begin expanding?

    Answer: I don't know. It just did.

    --What caused the rate of expansion to change in the early stages?

    Answer: A force called "inflation" which has only one known property: The ability to change the rate of expansion.



    2) -

    --- What causes light from distant galaxies to be red shifted by an amount proportional to the distance of its origin?

    Answer: I don't know. It just does.

    --- What causes the CMBR to radiate from all directions and conform statistically to the behavior of a classic black body?

    Answer: I don't know. It just does.

    --- What causes the relative abundances of Hydrogen, Helium, Deuterium (and a few other elements), when the observed nuclear processes in the universe should be reducing the numbers of those things?

    Answer: Well, if you take matter that is at 166 gigakelvin, and then rapidly cool it down to about 1.16 gigakelvin over a time smaller than a few tenths of a second, the formation of atoms in those abundances is the likely result. (Except the Boron, but there isn't all that much Boron out there anyway.)


    --- What would create those conditions?

    Answer: I don't know. Something must be doing it.



    Modern Science: Oh wait! I know of a mechanism that can create any combination of temperatures you want! Not only that, but it can create them everywhere! A big bang!!!

    Enquiring public: Really? And what would have caused the Big Bang?

    Modern Science: I don't know.. how could I be expected to know that???

    Enquiring public: Well, to be honest, I didn't really expect you to know the answers to those first three questions either.

    Modern Science: But there is tremendous evidence that the Big Bang happened!

    Enquiring public: Really? What is that evidence?

    Modern Science: Remember those three things it explains? We have observed, with ever increasing detail, that those three things happen!!!!

    Enquiring public: Isn't that circular logic?



    ....Of course then later on the week that same public sits at mass in their local church, where the preacher explains how it is that he's found all kinds of intricate patterns in the bible, and how if you read it carefully you can determine how many angels it takes to screw in a light bulb, and how many locks there are on the gates to heaven.
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  21. #20  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post
    Many Christian ministers discuss how God is bound by His own rules, so I would say that the idea that "no rules or patterns govern supernatural behavior" is not valid.
    Except that the "god is bound by his own rules" is completely and utterly unsupported. Ergo the "no rules or patterns" is "valid".

    Thus, to scientifically study the supernatural, theology would need to be considered.
    Only if you posit that ALL supernatural phenomena are the direct work of god.

    For example, I have not actually read the studies that looked at the effect of prayer on some variable such as recovery from illness. However, if I was designing such a study I would want to look at study design in consultation with someone familiar with Christian theology (because that is my interest and belief).
    Why would you want to do that?
    Either someone gets better or they don't.
    Or is there a Christian definition of illness? Someone can have secular cancer but be cured from a Christian point of view?

    For example, my understanding of Christian theology is that God encourages people to pray together.
    Psychological reinforcement of the shared delusion.

    Does praying together or worshiping together for couples effect divorce rate?
    Now I'd say that's possible. But only IF the prayers (people doing the praying) are also the group being looked at with regard to divorce rate. In which case it wouldn't necessarily be the result of praying (i.e. NOT "divine intervention") but rather the "binding effect" of a shared activity/ interest/ belief.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post
    Many Christian ministers discuss how God is bound by His own rules, so I would say that the idea that "no rules or patterns govern supernatural behavior" is not valid.
    Except that the "god is bound by his own rules" is completely and utterly unsupported. Ergo the "no rules or patterns" is "valid".

    Thus, to scientifically study the supernatural, theology would need to be considered.
    Only if you posit that ALL supernatural phenomena are the direct work of god.

    For example, I have not actually read the studies that looked at the effect of prayer on some variable such as recovery from illness. However, if I was designing such a study I would want to look at study design in consultation with someone familiar with Christian theology (because that is my interest and belief).
    Why would you want to do that?
    Either someone gets better or they don't.
    Or is there a Christian definition of illness? Someone can have secular cancer but be cured from a Christian point of view?

    For example, my understanding of Christian theology is that God encourages people to pray together.
    Psychological reinforcement of the shared delusion.

    Does praying together or worshiping together for couples effect divorce rate?
    Now I'd say that's possible. But only IF the prayers (people doing the praying) are also the group being looked at with regard to divorce rate. In which case it wouldn't necessarily be the result of praying (i.e. NOT "divine intervention") but rather the "binding effect" of a shared activity/ interest/ belief.
    Sir Duckness, so therefore you think it works or not?

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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    For example, I have not actually read the studies that looked at the effect of prayer on some variable such as recovery from illness. However, if I was designing such a study I would want to look at study design in consultation with someone familiar with Christian theology (because that is my interest and belief).
    Why would you want to do that?
    Either someone gets better or they don't.
    Or is there a Christian definition of illness? Someone can have secular cancer but be cured from a Christian point of view?
    You have not thought this through. If you were testing a medicine you would surely wish to know that it was a bona fide medicine, administered in an appropriate manner and in the correct dosage. Equally, when investigating the effects of prayer we should ensure that the prayer meets the the standards required of prayer by the relevant religion. Indeed, I now find myself questioning whether or not the studies conducted in the past have adhered to this necessary condition.
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    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    You have not thought this through.
    I was deliberately avoiding that particular can of worms...

    If you were testing a medicine you would surely wish to know that it was a bona fide medicine, administered in an appropriate manner and in the correct dosage. Equally, when investigating the effects of prayer we should ensure that the prayer meets the the standards required of prayer by the relevant religion. Indeed, I now find myself questioning whether or not the studies conducted in the past have adhered to this necessary condition.
    Yes, it's the standard get out clause: "you just didn't pray hard enough", "you didn't really believe" or even "well of course that didn't work because god isn't going to pander to your atheistic science and respond to tests of his power" etc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    If you were testing a medicine you would surely wish to know that it was a bona fide medicine, administered in an appropriate manner and in the correct dosage. Equally, when investigating the effects of prayer we should ensure that the prayer meets the the standards required of prayer by the relevant religion. Indeed, I now find myself questioning whether or not the studies conducted in the past have adhered to this necessary condition.
    Yes, it's the standard get out clause: "you just didn't pray hard enough", "you didn't really believe" or even "well of course that didn't work because god isn't going to pander to your atheistic science and respond to tests of his power" etc.
    On the contrary, defining what constitutes correct prayer in advance of the experiment will avoid precisely those ill-founded objections.
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    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    On the contrary, defining what constitutes correct prayer in advance of the experiment will avoid precisely those ill-founded objections.
    Now there's a (series of) meeting(s) I'd like to attend.
    Since most religions seem unable to agree on what god is and what he wants it's going to be interesting watching how (if) they come to agreement on the correct way to importune him for favours.
    Would that mean we could send in a Weights & Measures inspector on Sundays to check that prayers and hymns are up to to standard?

    On a related note since, as I understand it, most believers also believe that god has a plan I wonder why they bother to pray for "special favours".
    Is it because they think that their particular problem is so important that it's worth altering the "plan" or is it because they consider themselves (and the the consequences of having their prayer answered) utterly insignificant with regard to that plan that granting their pleas is a "gimme". In which case if they're that insignificant why bother answering it in the first place?
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    The idea that God is bound by His own rules is supported by Christian theology:

    Psalm 89:34 I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered.

    The effect of something like group prayer on illness seems like an easy variable to blind to both the investigators, and people with illness. Regarding divorce rate, I don't think that study would be that difficult to design either. Comparing divorce rate of couples that worship together regularly vs couples who do other things together also seems doable, perhaps even through a retrospective study.
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    The effect of something like group prayer on illness seems like an easy variable to blind to both the investigators, and people with illness. Regarding divorce rate, I don't think that study would be that difficult to design either. Comparing divorce rate of couples that worship together regularly vs couples who do other things together also seems doable, perhaps even through a retrospective study.
    I'm pretty sure both of these have been done. I know there's at least one study done on prayer showing that it had no effect. As for divorce and worship, I don't know of any that have been done for selected couples. Let alone for specifically doing worship rather than something else together. But comparisons of populations in the US where there are many/ not so many/ many fewer people claiming allegiance to churches, the divorce rate is highest for the most highly religious group. I haven't got it bookmarked. I'll track it down and see if the study considers anything more specific than religious/ not religious.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    My parents were ordained Pentecostal ministers.

    Power of prayer is very very very practiced.

    I found more judgement in the community than support....walked away and never looked back.

    I must say, however, there are truly good people in the community.

    Whether or not I agree with their beliefs, does not diminish that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    My parents were ordained Pentecostal ministers.

    Power of prayer is very very very practiced.

    I found more judgement in the community than support....walked away and never looked back.

    I must say, however, there are truly good people in the community.

    Whether or not I agree with their beliefs, does not diminish that.
    This is unfortunately not a rare event. I am not sure of the reason. Some religious have changed "love your neighbor" to "judge your neighbor".

    I have tangled with such individuals more than once on religious forums and have called them Pharisees or "I.W. s" (inquisition wannabes).

    However, I have not experienced this myself in actual churches, although that may be because I don't interact a lot with people since I am somewhat introverted.

    I just go to church to worship and learn. Fellowship is not something I have sought, although that may have been a mistake.

    It is an important problem to solve however. I have noticed a heavy emphasis on things like forgiveness, mercy, kindness, etc. in Catholic sermons over the past couple years. So I think people are working on this. For myself, I am trying to spend time reading religious scholars and personal development resources to understand this better.

    Regarding "group prayer": I meant to link participants by time, or time and place. There is a scriptural passage that seems to encourage people to worship together. Thus, linking participants in a way that brings them "together" might be worth studying.

    Regarding the "divorce rate": I was specifically interested in couples that worship together, not just couples that are members of a religion. The point was to bring the study closer to theology and see if anything changes. Does the family that "prays together, stay together" or not?
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    I havent read the whole thread

    but if it exists, its not supernatural, its natural but just not understood, hence it can be studied like any phenomenon that is initially misunderstood.

    There are magnetic devices that make a small object float, to someone in the past when magnets were not known, this would be supernatural or magic or a miracle.

    If the supernatural is a superstition, you can study it, but if its a superstition, you need to take absence of proof as an indication that it should be dismissed
    as untrue, until such a time as additional information provides new grounds to study it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post
    The idea that God is bound by His own rules is supported by Christian theology:
    Psalm 89:34 I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered.
    Looks like confirmation bias to me.
    That's a promise.
    There's nothing to say that that promise is enforced in any way.
    Nothing in that sentence that states, or even implies, that "god" is bound by anything.
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    It is Gods wish. Nothing is supernatural.
    believer in ahimsa
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    "It is Gods wish. Nothing is supernatural."
    Is this a joke?


    (If its not a joke dont blame me, its Gods wish that I tease you , I just got the memo this morning )
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    Quote Originally Posted by parag29081973 View Post
    It is Gods wish. Nothing is supernatural.
    Um, god, as generally defined, is supernatural.
    (And that's accepting, for the purposes of this post, that god actually exists).
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    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    My parents were ordained Pentecostal ministers.

    Power of prayer is very very very practiced.

    I found more judgement in the community than support....walked away and never looked back.

    I must say, however, there are truly good people in the community.

    Whether or not I agree with their beliefs, does not diminish that.
    This is unfortunately not a rare event. I am not sure of the reason. Some religious have changed "love your neighbor" to "judge your neighbor".

    I have tangled with such individuals more than once on religious forums and have called them Pharisees or "I.W. s" (inquisition wannabes).

    However, I have not experienced this myself in actual churches, although that may be because I don't interact a lot with people since I am somewhat introverted.

    I just go to church to worship and learn. Fellowship is not something I have sought, although that may have been a mistake.

    It is an important problem to solve however. I have noticed a heavy emphasis on things like forgiveness, mercy, kindness, etc. in Catholic sermons over the past couple years. So I think people are working on this. For myself, I am trying to spend time reading religious scholars and personal development resources to understand this better.

    Regarding "group prayer": I meant to link participants by time, or time and place. There is a scriptural passage that seems to encourage people to worship together. Thus, linking participants in a way that brings them "together" might be worth studying.

    Regarding the "divorce rate": I was specifically interested in couples that worship together, not just couples that are members of a religion. The point was to bring the study closer to theology and see if anything changes. Does the family that "prays together, stay together" or not?
    Other than a wedding or a funeral...I do not walk into a church...nor has my family been in one together except for the two life occurrences listed.

    My OPINION.....

    A lot of church people stay together out of fear of sin of "divorce", not out of love.

    It isn't the "faith" per say that keeps them united, but the doctrine.

    I find that rather sad.

    Love changes with time, but if you no longer feel it and stay together for religious reasons.....you are in my opinion a fool.

    We go around this carousel once......make it a good one or at least the best you can, and at least, find someone who fulfills you in every way, even though you will never find perfection.
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    Quote Originally Posted by parag29081973 View Post
    It is Gods wish. Nothing is supernatural.
    I don't know.

    We, he, she, and the rest of us gods and goddesses are having an international conference on this in the morning.

    I'll let you know what we decide!
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    yess we can relate supernaturality with science and define it in the perfect way i.e in scientific way.
    Every supernatural power has some meaning, with the fact that we don;t get familiar with all of them. Its tru that supernatural , the word itself looks controverisal, but we can analyse in science way. There is reason for everything we do in day to day life.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Binod Nepal View Post
    yess we can relate supernaturality with science and define it in the perfect way i.e in scientific way.
    Please see posts #2, #3 and #4.
    If we can investigate something scientifically it is, by definition, NOT supernatural.

    Every supernatural power has some meaning
    Given that we have no hard evidence that "supernatural powers" exist it's difficult to see how you can claim this.

    There is reason for everything we do in day to day life.
    For varying values of "reason", yeah.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Binod Nepal View Post
    yess we can relate supernaturality with science and define it in the perfect way i.e in scientific way.
    Please see posts #2, #3 and #4.
    If we can investigate something scientifically it is, by definition, NOT supernatural.

    Every supernatural power has some meaning
    Given that we have no hard evidence that "supernatural powers" exist it's difficult to see how you can claim this.

    There is reason for everything we do in day to day life.
    For varying values of "reason", yeah.
    Question (getting another feather for my down pillow)

    CAN WE PROVE that the supernatural DOES NOT exist?
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    CAN WE PROVE that the supernatural DOES NOT exist?
    You can't prove that something doesn't exist.
    You can only disprove specific claims - by showing them to be incorrect.
    E.g. if someone claims that an eight-legged creature called an elephabull exists we can't prove that it doesn't, only that there isn't one here, or here or here...
    To prove something doesn't exist (at all) we'd have to examine every possible location and every possible instance in time.

    On the other hand, since there is no hard evidence provided for the supernatural, and instances that supposedly do support the claims have been shown to be incorrect (misinterpretation, lies, mistaken provenance etc.), there's no reason to accept that it actually does.
    Especially as, for the majority of claims, no known mechanism exists.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    CAN WE PROVE that the supernatural DOES NOT exist?
    You can't prove that something doesn't exist.
    You can only disprove specific claims - by showing them to be incorrect.
    E.g. if someone claims that an eight-legged creature called an elephabull exists we can't prove that it doesn't, only that there isn't one here, or here or here...
    To prove something doesn't exist (at all) we'd have to examine every possible location and every possible instance in time.

    On the other hand, since there is no hard evidence provided for the supernatural, and instances that supposedly do support the claims have been shown to be incorrect (misinterpretation, lies, mistaken provenance etc.), there's no reason to accept that it actually does.
    Especially as, for the majority of claims, no known mechanism exists.
    Mahalo Mr. Down Feather Pillow!! OOPs...Sir Ducky....but I will maintain a question in my mind whether or not it does exist, because sometimes things happen we can't explain. Doesn't mean there might be a very logical reason for them, but, I'm still open to the question. I haven't closed that door at this time. I respect your opinion however.....and I need more feathers!

    MOLT won't you?
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    How about factors that might explain the super natural but not super natural itself (which means factors that may cause the case to be true/false with a higher likely hood than if it weren't there). Therefore it is like saying we can't determine a supernatural effect but we can determine the factors that may cause it to happen but why does it do so, we are not sure.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jacate View Post
    How about factors that might explain the super natural but not super natural itself (which means factors that may cause the case to be true/false with a higher likely hood than if it weren't there). Therefore it is like saying we can't determine a supernatural effect but we can determine the factors that may cause it to happen but why does it do so, we are not sure.

    Is it possible to give us an example to illustrate your point?
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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    I see nothing in posts #'s 2,3,4 that proves that anything supernatural cannot be investigated scientifically.

    Also, I don't think that love is a "feeling", and that we should move on when we don't feel something. Nevertheless, this is a reminder for me to include a book on love in my reading list since I really have never taken the time to read a lot about something that is so important. I heard one sermon that said that love is a decision, not a feeling. The decision is to put the welfare of another ahead of your own. For myself, when I do this, I "feel" good. So I think there is something to it.

    In my work I have seen people with major disabilities, with little financial resources, caring for people who are even worse off. Such people seem to be worth studying because they have achieved something that is remarkable. I would be willing to wager that a large percentage of such people are strongly anchored into their local church. However, this is certainly something that can be studied with a retrospective questionnaire.

    I don't think that you have to define "supernatural" as a phenomenon without explanation by known physical laws. It seems reasonable to me to just look at desirable behaviors as the dependent variable, and then look and see if any sort of religious practice makes a difference. You don't necessarily have to limit investigation to religious practice. You could include other forms of personal development reading, training, or therapy, to see if anything matters in a reproducible sense beyond a single anecdote.

    I just finished a personal development (PD) book that recommended reading 10 pages of personal development daily. I think religious practice and personal development complement each other. Whether or not that is true is something that could be investigated, prospectively.

    Another example I saw recently is a You Tube channel by actress Teresa Palmer who described her change in course from a low period a year or two ago involving a bad relationship and career struggles. With effort in therapy, as well as personal development, her life has made dramatic improvements in every area.

    One more area where I think the supernatural could be investigated could involve a prospective study on perception. We know that believers and non-believers interpret similar events very differently. Believers often see God's influence in many areas that a non-believer would attribute to chance or luck. We also know that perceptions can change. Either believers are imagining something that is not there, or non-believers cannot see something that is there.

    I am not a theologian. However, I would ask one if it is possible to devise a theologically correct exercise vs. a control group exercise to see if perception changes in willing non-believer volunteers.

    One thing I find intriguing are the principles of adaptive systems, and whether individuals can use these principles to improve themselves. Adaptive systems are learning systems. They follow simple rules, and the rules are improved through feedback mechanisms. Thus, they are neither "ruleless" and following whims or desires, nor are they rigid and following rules that don't work. It seems to me that both time spent in religious practice, personal development, and learning from mistakes (occasionally with assistance from an expert) are ways for us as individuals to improve. That way we don't quit and stagnate, or repeat our mistakes.

    I hope this wasn't too rambling. (I am not claiming to be the expert, just a learner.)
    Last edited by dedo; August 25th, 2013 at 02:13 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post
    I see nothing in posts #'s 2,3,4 that proves that anything supernatural cannot be investigated scientifically.
    Who mentioned "proof"?
    Perhaps you could explain how "something that is beyond rules and logic" can be investigated by science, which relies on logic and rules. Post #2 and post #4.
    Perhaps you could explain how "measuring [that is] bound to the natural world" can investigate something that is, by definition beyond the "natural world". Post #3.
    Or maybe you just can't read.

    I don't think that you have to define "supernatural" as a phenomenon without explanation by known physical laws.
    Really?
    If we can explain something known physical laws it must be non-supernatural.
    What's your particular, and peculiar, definition of "supernatural" please?

    One more area where I think the supernatural could be investigated could involve a prospective study on perception.
    We wouldn't be investigating the supernatural in such a study - we'd be investigating perception.
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    The supernatural means: "to not be bound by natural laws". This often implies "immortal". That does not mean that the supernatural is not bound by theology, or God's law.

    The reason to study perception, is that I don't believe that atheism is "lack of belief". Atheism could be "lack of perception". Perception can be changed, so perhaps it can be studied.

    For example, extreme resistance to any possibility to measure an effect is not scientific thinking. It is evidence of dichotomous (black and white) thinking. This is common in obesity. It is also common in addictions. To me it indicates the presence of an influencing variable that causes bias. Influencing variables can be removed.

    Thus, as I said I am not a theologian. However, my curiosity is about whether non-believer volunteers could have a "change of perception" by seeking God according to a theologically correct methodology. If I had to guess, I would say that prayer, including prayers involving reconciliation with God and prayers theologically effective in repelling negative influences (prayer to St. Michael) might be effective in removing an "influencing variable".
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    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post
    The supernatural means: "to not be bound by natural laws".
    Okay.
    In which case the previous arguments apply. You know, the ones you said you couldn't see...

    This often implies "immortal".
    No it doesn't.

    That does not mean that the supernatural is not bound by theology, or God's law.
    You'd have to show that there actually is "god's law".
    And as for "bound by theology" that's pure crap.
    Theology is a study of the concepts of god(s) and the nature of belief. It makes NO prescriptive rules about the nature of the object of belief.
    And, as a bonus debunk, theology is a man-made discipline: are you claiming that god is subject to man-made rules (if there were any in theology)?

    The reason to study perception, is that I don't believe that atheism is "lack of belief". Atheism could be "lack of perception". Perception can be changed, so perhaps it can be studied.
    This too is pure crap.
    Regardless of what you believe the lack of belief exists.
    Atheists do not believe in what they do not perceive (in this particular case).

    For example, extreme resistance to any possibility to measure an effect is not scientific thinking.
    What?
    Please explain how you're going to measure the "effects of god".

    It is evidence of dichotomous (black and white) thinking. This is common in obesity. It is also common in addictions. To me it indicates the presence of an influencing variable that causes bias. Influencing variables can be removed.
    And this is a perfect example of really biased and fuzzy thinking.
    Please outline how you remove all "influencing" variables in a belief and examine only those that come from god.

    Thus, as I said I am not a theologian.
    And neither are you a logician.

    However, my curiosity is about whether non-believer volunteers could have a "change of perception" by seeking God according to a theologically correct methodology.
    Which god?

    If I had to guess, I would say that prayer, including prayers involving reconciliation with God and prayers theologically effective in repelling negative influences (prayer to St. Michael) might be effective in removing an "influencing variable".
    And it's obvious that you are guessing.
    Please show how you know that these "negative influences" actually are such.
    Alternatively is it not possible to say that praying is an "influencing variable" that leads to an erroneous perception that god exists?
    I.e. you appear to be assuming a priori that god exists and anything that leads to a lack of belief is an "influencing variable".
    Using your own "reasoning" it's also possible to assume a priori that god doesn't exist and that anything that leads to belief is an "influencing variable".

    In short, you've failed, miserably, again to make your case.
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    I don't need to make my case, you are doing it for me.

    I have given several examples where a study could be conducted and an effect could be measured. The analysis of the effect (if it should occur) is a job for the investigators in their discussion.

    There will never be one grandiose experiment that will prove that God exists. No science works that way. Often theory follows data. If a person will not even look for data, that indicates bias. To me, bias indicates being under the influence of something. Words like "crap" etc. make my case for me.

    The prayer to St. Michael is amazingly effective in helping a believer resist temptation and overcome vice. In general, it is more effective when combined with daily religious practice. For example, many believers think that reading the Bible is more than a source of information. It is a source of strength. Thus, combining a known effective prayer with a source of strength could be very effective in removing anything that harms perception.

    I chose the prayer to St. Michael because of the number of times that I have seen temptation just disappear when saying this prayer. If a non-believer was under the influence of some variable that could be repelled with prayer, then this prayer could work especially if the it was combined with a source of strength such as seeking God daily through His Word. That is why I chose it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post
    I don't need to make my case, you are doing it for me.
    I'm making your case by pointing out your errors?
    Some disconnect here, surely.

    I have given several examples where a study could be conducted and an effect could be measured. The analysis of the effect (if it should occur) is a job for the investigators in their discussion.
    Wrong again.
    As I have pointed out what you suggest studying doesn't relate to any evidence of god.

    There will never be one grandiose experiment that will prove that God exists. No science works that way. Often theory follows data. If a person will not even look for data, that indicates bias. To me, bias indicates being under the influence of something. Words like "crap" etc. make my case for me.
    What you're failing to notice (and this refers back to your comment about "not looking" - ergo your own bias) is that my "crap" comments are directed at your "logic", your argument and your assumptions.
    Not the overall premise.

    The prayer to St. Michael is amazingly effective in helping a believer resist temptation and overcome vice. In general, it is more effective when combined with daily religious practice.
    But one has to believe FIRST. In other words it's merely part of a self-reinforcing pre-existing conclusion.

    For example, many believers think that reading the Bible is more than a source of information.
    Then they're wrong.
    It's not a source of information, except, incidentally, badly-mangled history.

    Thus, combining a known effective prayer with a source of strength could be very effective in removing anything that harms perception.
    Again: crap.
    It reinforces a pre-existing perception.
    You have, once again, taken an a priori assumption as being factual, and assumed that belief is not only the default case but also that it is justified.

    I chose the prayer to St. Michael because of the number of times that I have seen temptation just disappear when saying this prayer. If a non-believer was under the influence of some variable that could be repelled with prayer, then this prayer could work especially if the it was combined with a source of strength such as seeking God daily through His Word. That is why I chose it.
    Except that, one more time: prayer has been scientifically shown to be of no use except as a placebo and then only when it is known about by the recipient.
    Your suggested "experiment" does not, despite your numerous calls to remove extraneous "influencing variables", do so.
    Even IF there were some effect (doubtful 1) you have not eliminated ANY other variables, therefore you could not say definitively that the prayer itself had any effect - either alone or in conjunction with other factors.

    1 Why would praying by a non-believer be seen as a "source of strength"? To view prayer in that way requires the pre-existing belief.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post
    The supernatural means: "to not be bound by natural laws".
    Okay.
    In which case the previous arguments apply. You know, the ones you said you couldn't see...


    However, my curiosity is about whether non-believer volunteers could have a "change of perception" by seeking God according to a theologically correct methodology.
    Which god?

    If I had to guess, I would say that prayer, including prayers involving reconciliation with God and prayers theologically effective in repelling negative influences (prayer to St. Michael) might be effective in removing an "influencing variable".
    And it's obvious that you are guessing.
    Please show how you know that these "negative influences" actually are such.
    Alternatively is it not possible to say that praying is an "influencing variable" that leads to an erroneous perception that god exists?
    I.e. you appear to be assuming a priori that god exists and anything that leads to a lack of belief is an "influencing variable".
    Using your own "reasoning" it's also possible to assume a priori that god doesn't exist and that anything that leads to belief is an "influencing variable".

    In short, you've failed, miserably, again to make your case.
    I, Sir Duck, am a GODDESS!! Sheesh get it right, will you?
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    I, Sir Duck, am a GODDESS!! Sheesh get it right, will you?
    Of course you are.
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  53. #52  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    I, Sir Duck, am a GODDESS!! Sheesh get it right, will you?
    Of course you are.
    Does that mean a little more down? *chuckle*
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Except that, one more time: prayer has been scientifically shown to be of no use except as a placebo and then only when it is known about by the recipient.
    Your suggested "experiment" does not, despite your numerous calls to remove extraneous "influencing variables", do so.

    And here are some papers (Krucoff M.W. et al., 2005, Aviles, J.M. et al., 2001, Benson, H. et al., 2006) that confirm your claim concerning the effect of praying.
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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    The papers confirm nothing. The experiments suggested above involved closer attention to the prayer groups so that participants prayed in a way that was more theologically correct. I specifically said to try a study linking prayer group participants by time, or time and place. This was not done in these studies.

    Rather, the above comments simply add more support for the idea that atheism is not absence of belief, it is absence of perception created by the presence of something that causes extreme bias.

    Surely, anyone with a minimal background in science who was not biased could answer the simple question with numerous examples:

    "Assuming God did exist, and He wished to make His presence known in a manner that is consistent with His will, then can you devise an experiment that would give some evidence of a possible influence of God with the understanding that no single experiment could prove the existence of God, unless He were to choose to allow that to happen."
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    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post
    The papers confirm nothing.
    Oh, wrong.
    They confirm that prayer, under the conditions specified, does nothing.

    The experiments suggested above involved closer attention to the prayer groups so that participants prayed in a way that was more theologically correct.
    You have yet to define "theologically correct".

    I specifically said to try a study linking prayer group participants by time, or time and place. This was not done in these studies.
    In other words you were talking about a different study altogether.
    That's like complaining that watching the football results don't tell you if your basket ball team won.

    Rather, the above comments simply add more support for the idea that atheism is not absence of belief, it is absence of perception created by the presence of something that causes extreme bias.
    Something you have not only consistently failed to show but have, equally consistently, shown to the case for yourself.

    Surely, anyone with a minimal background in science who was not biased could answer the simple question with numerous examples:
    The problem here is that you (in effect) define "without bias" to be "someone who believes in god from the start".

    "Assuming God did exist, and He wished to make His presence known in a manner that is consistent with His will, then can you devise an experiment that would give some evidence of a possible influence of God with the understanding that no single experiment could prove the existence of God, unless He were to choose to allow that to happen."
    This is crap.
    Since the only way you could ascertain a manner that is "consistent with his will" is to assume (again) that he exists, and that you know what his will is 1.
    In other words you're assuming the conclusion in order to arrive at it.
    That's not only not good science it's not even science.

    1 Plus the fact that any time (= every occasion you run it?) that you don't get a "positive" result you can simply say "well god didn't want to make his presence known this time".
    Therefore those who do believe can claim (legitimately in their eyes) that a non-result isn't evidence against the hypothesis.
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    You have yet to define "theologically correct".
    It ALWAYS means 'my theology'.
    Its the way nature is!
    If you dont like it, go somewhere else....
    To another universe, where the rules are simpler
    Philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy
    Prof Richard Feynman (1979) .....

    Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    This is a hypothetical question, starting from an assumed that the supernatural may exist.

    On another thread exchemist made this remark:

    The point, surely, is that invoking supernatural causes is scientifically useless because a supernatural intervention is by definition impossible to make predictions from, as no rules or patterns govern its behaviour.

    This is a clear and concise expression of a principle/thought I have seen many times when discussing the interface between science and religion. I may have used it myself on more than one occassion. However, on reflection, I see no reason it should be true - unless we wish to adopt circular logic in the definition of supernatural.

    So, if you can bring yourself to consider that the supernatural might exist, why would it be excluded from following its own set of rules?

    Quite simple really isn't it... supernatural is outside the bounds of natural phenomenon. Unless of course one attributes some kind of physical phenomenon that can be measurable say, to ghosts.
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    Unless of course one attributes some kind of physical phenomenon that can be measurable say, to ghosts.
    If it's a physical phenomena which can be measured, then by definition, it's not supernatural.
    babe and Cogito Ergo Sum like this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexG View Post
    Unless of course one attributes some kind of physical phenomenon that can be measurable say, to ghosts.
    If it's a physical phenomena which can be measured, then by definition, it's not supernatural.

    Right, which causes a problem in the definition of supernatural. So in all due respect, the answer should be ''no'' there is no way for science to measure a supernatural event.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    If you were testing a medicine you would surely wish to know that it was a bona fide medicine, administered in an appropriate manner and in the correct dosage. Equally, when investigating the effects of prayer we should ensure that the prayer meets the the standards required of prayer by the relevant religion. Indeed, I now find myself questioning whether or not the studies conducted in the past have adhered to this necessary condition.
    Yes, it's the standard get out clause: "you just didn't pray hard enough", "you didn't really believe" or even "well of course that didn't work because god isn't going to pander to your atheistic science and respond to tests of his power" etc.
    On the contrary, defining what constitutes correct prayer in advance of the experiment will avoid precisely those ill-founded objections.
    Agreed. That way we can avoid the "No true Scotsman" fallacy.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post
    The idea that God is bound by His own rules is supported by Christian theology:
    Psalm 89:34 I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered.
    Looks like confirmation bias to me.
    That's a promise.
    There's nothing to say that that promise is enforced in any way.
    Nothing in that sentence that states, or even implies, that "god" is bound by anything.
    Yeah. I kind of have to agree. The only evidence we have that God is honest is the fact that he says that he's honest in his own book.



    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post

    I don't think that you have to define "supernatural" as a phenomenon without explanation by known physical laws. It seems reasonable to me to just look at desirable behaviors as the dependent variable, and then look and see if any sort of religious practice makes a difference. You don't necessarily have to limit investigation to religious practice. You could include other forms of personal development reading, training, or therapy, to see if anything matters in a reproducible sense beyond a single anecdote.
    If supernatural only requires something to not be explainable by "known" physical laws, then quite a lot of supernatural things have been approached by science already. (That's how we came to be able to figure out how to explain them.)
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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