Do you think there is a Hell?

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AuthorTopic: Do you think there is a Hell?
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Just wandered into this discussion like an idiot, and now I have to post.

*i - Can you prove that the burden of proof is always on the affirmative? :P

(Sorry, I don't mean for that to be taken seriously. I just had to say it.)

Being serious now, while what you say sounds quite reasonable on the surface, it seems to me to be a bit of a circular argument. I think I said something like this in an earlier topic, but I think it bears repeating.

Someone says God cured him from drugs - took away the cravings, he didn't suffer any withdrawl, any of that stuff. Well, he's deluded. The body is complicated, there must be another explanation. Or maybe his memory is messed up - hey, he did drugs, right? Either that or he's lying. People lie all the time, and miracles just don't happen, so it's more likely that he's lying. Can't think of a reason for him to lie, but then, he'd want to keep that quiet. Or maybe by telling himself this miracle story, it's easier for him to keep himself off drugs.

Plenty of alternative explanations. And any one of them is more likely than a miracle, because miracles don't happen. We know they don't happen, because they can't be proved. They can't be proved, because the evidence can always be explained another way. The evidence can always be explained away, because we know that any possible explanation beats miracles, because miracles don't happen. Therefore, miracles don't happen.

I mean, if I was one of those guys who steadfastly believed that the moon landing didn't happen, I could explain away any evidence to the contrary quite easily in the same way. It was filmed in a studio backlot, for propoganda purposes. The guys who said that they had actually been on the moon were lying. The rockets people saw launch were not actually manned. And so forth.

My question is: What makes you different from the people who deny the moon landing? How are the standards of proof you demand for miracles different from the standards they demand for the moon landings?

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Posts: 1861 | Registered: Friday, February 11 2005 08:00
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wow, *i is on fire

i can admite that god is an almighty creator, though it sounds strange, but it is conceptualizable.

my problem resides in understanding how is it possible that no one, or if you want, mankind can't understand God's ways.
if something makes sense, we should be able to understand it.
and since our world can actually be studied by science, it must make some sense.
therefore, if we can understand our world, why can't we understand its creator. i mean if we are able to explain how His creation works, why can't we figure out how he thinks?

unless we deny the existance this spiritual being

Edit: i see your point Ash. it seems that people who believe in god just don't give up on that, nor those who don't belive in him will give up on not believing. all this talking may be ultimately useless, for there will be no one changing his view about the issue

[ Saturday, April 09, 2005 16:43: Message edited by: imho ]
Posts: 38 | Registered: Sunday, April 3 2005 08:00
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quote:
Originally written by Ash Lael:

Plenty of alternative explanations. And any one of them is more likely than a miracle, because miracles don't happen. We know they don't happen, because they can't be proved. They can't be proved, because the evidence can always be explained another way. The evidence can always be explained away, because we know that any possible explanation beats miracles, because miracles don't happen. Therefore, miracles don't happen.
If miracles happen, what is there that's miraculous about them? Suppose people just randomly and spontaneously recovered from massive brain tumours extremely often, with no reasonable biological explanation forthcoming. Would that constitute evidence for miracles? I'd argue the answer is clearly no; it'd just be seen as some freaky stuff that happened. Now, why should something happening very rarely be better evidence for its existence than something happening very often?

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quote:
Originally written by Ash Lael:
Someone says God cured him from drugs - took away the cravings, he didn't suffer any withdrawl, any of that stuff. Well, he's deluded. The body is complicated, there must be another explanation. Or maybe his memory is messed up - hey, he did drugs, right? Either that or he's lying. People lie all the time, and miracles just don't happen, so it's more likely that he's lying. Can't think of a reason for him to lie, but then, he'd want to keep that quiet. Or maybe by telling himself this miracle story, it's easier for him to keep himself off drugs.
Hmmm, miracles can't happen, because they're impossible because there is no god. Therefore, there must be an almost unfeasable explanation to justify that any of the thousands of miracles reported every year never happened. All of the recipients of these so-called "miracles" either have abnormal bodies, are insane, or are lying for some odd reason. Or something. Yeah, that's it! Now I can say that miracles aren't real! Yay, take that Ben and Gizmo!

Fixed your typo.

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Posts: 3360 | Registered: Friday, June 25 2004 07:00
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quote:
What makes you different from the people who deny the moon landing? How are the standards of proof you demand for miracles different from the standards they demand for the moon landings?
Very much different. Going to the moon is entirely possible based upon the known laws of physics. Once can calculate exactly what trajectories would be required, the speed at which one would have to go through the Van Allen belts to avoid a harmful radiation exposure, and all sorts of other parameters. In fact, this could theoretically be done (well, aside from the radiation exposure calcualtions) at the time of Isaac Newton.

Now that I have made the case that a moon landing is plausible based upon known laws of physics, the fact of doing it becomes less extraordinary. We have these now:

1) We can look at moon rocks returned and the exact isotopic compositions, grain micrometeorite impact surfaces, helium-3 isotope abundances, hydrogen deposition from solar wind volatiles.

2) Artifacts placed on the moon such as can theoretically be photographed with sattelites. We might even be able to detect gamma ray emission from the Plutonium-238 decay in RTGs placed on the moon during the Apollo era.

3) We have countless photographs from the surface of the Moon. As of yet, all attempts to show that the photographs have been faked have been discredited.

4) We can actually talk to people who were either or the moon or involved with the program. While testimony in and of itself is not adequate, the credibility of these individuals overall is quite high; one of them was even a US senator (as I side note, I do know this person personally). That and no one actually involved with the program has recanted, no death bed confessions, etc.

With all this, the burden of proof shifts now to the negative to refute the claims of the affirmative. So far, such refutations, have themselves, been refuted to any reasonably scientifically inclined person's satisfaction.

We could apply similar arguments to the holocaust, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the existence of the Roman Empire, or the occurrence of Magellan's circumnavigation of the Earth. There is plenty of historical evidence for these things.

Now, back to the subject of miracles. The problem is that they do not fit into the known laws of the universe. This, in and of itself, is not a problem. Radioactive decay didn't prior to 1896, but PET scans are quite commonplace today. However, it does require a bit more proof than something that is plausible under current scientific understanding.

Anyway, right now all we have are testimonials. They are evidence, but not really enough for such an extraordinary claim.

Take the case of the tumor. MRI (or similar) photographs of a tumor existing corroborated with testimony of medical professionals who took the photograph followed by an MRI (or similar) taken after showing a complete disappearance without treatment would be excellent evidence.

The problem with the drug abuse example is that although there is a physical dependece, a lot of the feelings can be overriden by emotional will in some cases. If a person truly, honestly believed that a miracle occurred, they could plausibly beat it with their own emotional fortitude.

What would be interesting and more powerful would be blood and tissue tests prior to and after the miracle to determine if their was a miraculous change in cellular chemistry. If there was, this would be stronger evidence for the case.

The problem is not the miracles cannot be proven or disproven, nothing in science can. This is a lot like ball lightning in a lot of ways. Self-confining plasmas don't really exist under our current understanding of plasma physics and the claims of its occurrence is only anecdotal. However, such things are being pursued seriously and there is plenty of effort to formulate theories on how such things could occur.

The problem with miracles is we have yet to capture anything which goes beyond testimony or urban legend on something that would indicate so. Right now the evidence for the existence of miracles is very speculative. However, I have given two of many examples of how one might provide evidence for it. In a lot of ways it's like capturing ball lightning, but there are ways to do it.

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Posts: 3726 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
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quote:
Originally written by Levitating Netherlander:

If miracles happen, what is there that's miraculous about them? Suppose people just randomly and spontaneously recovered from massive brain tumours extremely often, with no reasonable biological explanation forthcoming. Would that constitute evidence for miracles? I'd argue the answer is clearly no; it'd just be seen as some freaky stuff that happened. Now, why should something happening very rarely be better evidence for its existence than something happening very often?
Oh, so you meant that thing you said earlier? I thought you said it just because it sounded cool. :P

I think it's largely a matter of semantics. If you define a miracle as something that is *actually impossible* than no one is going to argue that they happen. Substitute the word 'miracle' for 'supernatural intervention' if you prefer.

So let's say something that would appear to be impossible happens - say a guy comes back to life - and there is no doubt whatsoever that it *actually* happened. As you point out, the regularity of such occurances is irrelevant.

You can wave your hands and say "We can't explain it, but it happened, so it must be possible without supernatural intervention." or you can say "It happened, science has no answer, so some supernatural force must have gotten involved here."

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Posts: 1861 | Registered: Friday, February 11 2005 08:00
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quote:
Originally written by 1001011001000:

quote:
Originally written by Ash Lael:
Someone says God cured him from drugs - took away the cravings, he didn't suffer any withdrawl, any of that stuff. Well, he's deluded. The body is complicated, there must be another explanation. Or maybe his memory is messed up - hey, he did drugs, right? Either that or he's lying. People lie all the time, and miracles just don't happen, so it's more likely that he's lying. Can't think of a reason for him to lie, but then, he'd want to keep that quiet. Or maybe by telling himself this miracle story, it's easier for him to keep himself off drugs.
Hmmm, miracles can't happen, because they're impossible because there is no god. Therefore, there must be an almost unfeasable explanation to justify that any of the thousands of miracles reported every year never happened. All of the recipients of these so-called "miracles" either have abnormal bodies, are insane, or are lying for some odd reason. Or something. Yeah, that's it! Now I can say that miracles aren't real! Yay, take that Ben and Gizmo!

Fixed your typo.

I award you the grand prize for missing the point.

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quote:
You can wave your hands and say "We can't explain it, but it happened, so it must be possible without supernatural intervention." or you can say "It happened, science has no answer, so some supernatural force must have gotten involved here."
If said event did occur, then it could be studied. I think it is a bit tentative to say that science could not conjure an answer. I would not underestimate our analytical tools once there is something concrete to analyze.

There is no rule that says gods cannot be part of the universe. If there was good evidence for it, then they could be incorporated.

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Posts: 3726 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
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(sorry for the double and possibly triple post)

*i - I agree completely with your assessment of why the moonlandings are reasonable to accept. However, the only thing I saw in your post (correct me if I'm wrong) that seperates those people who claim it never happened from your claim that miracles have never happened is that space travel already fits with your worldview.

I could extend this to say that since I accept God exists, miracles are quite plausible given my understanding of the world and thus the proof that I see is sufficient. Would this be reasonable?

I suppose your response to that would be that all we have here is anecdotal evidence, which is insufficient on its own. Fair enough. Keeping the moon comparison in mind, how much more evidence would need to be offered before it became a reasonable possibility in your eyes?

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Why is it assumed to be an act of God, or a miracle just because it can't be explained? Perhaps some things could be classified as miracles, but is it not possible that people just want to see a miracle?

If God gave us free will, and free reign of our lives why would it intervene every time someone gets a brain tumor or is hit by a car? What about those who don't receive a spontaneous cure? Are they assumed to be unworthy of said miracle?

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Posts: 2032 | Registered: Wednesday, January 26 2005 08:00
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quote:
Originally written by Dolphin:

Why is it assumed to be an act of God, or a miracle just because it can't be explained? Perhaps some things could be classified as miracles, but is it not possible that people just want to see a miracle?

If God gave us free will, and free reign of our lives why would it intervene every time someone gets a brain tumor or is hit by a car? What about those who don't receive a spontaneous cure? Are they assumed to be unworthy of said miracle?

There are plenty of instances when something unexplained happens and people don't call it a miracle. Usually when it is called a miracle it's because that person prayed for healing or something like that.

God certainly does not intervene every time someone gets a brain tumour or is hit by a car. Either that, or he has a very low success rate. :P

Why so-and-so, and not such-and-such? No idea. I could guess, but they would be completely hypothetical answers. The cop out answer is to say "Who can know the mind of God?" and wave your hands a bit. It's not aswering the question as much as saying the question is unanswerable, but it is a valid, if unsatisfying, response.

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quote:
However, the only thing I saw in your post (correct me if I'm wrong) that seperates those people who claim it never happened from your claim that miracles have never happened is that space travel already fits with your worldview.
The only difference in world view is the laws of physics, and the most solid and basic ones at that, namely classical mechanics. If a person refuses to accept classical mechanics despite every experiment and everyday examples otherwise, then I would have serious doubts as to the person's intellect or sanity.

Let us say there is a person who doubts space flight: Once I write down F = dp/dt, I have essentially made space travel possible. Well, how do I know the second law of mechanics is right you might ask? Well, I could do numerous experiments. They do these in introductory physics labs all the time. I can give empirical proof, or as close as one can come, to it. If this cannot suffice, like I said above, the person is beyond any intellectual reason or discussion.

Of course through this I assumed a heliocentric model of the solar system and all that, but I don't see any moon hoaxers question that, so unless we really want to get into that, I will leave that out.

That said, the Moon Hoaxers have never doubted classical mechanics, they just say the moon landings was is a conspiracy. That is why I have to bring up additional evidence. At no time do they doubt space flight in and of itself.

Now, the problem with miracles through supernatural intervention is that I cannot physically sit a person down and show him/her the mechanisms by which it would work.

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Posts: 3726 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
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quote:
Originally written by *i:

If said event did occur, then it could be studied. I think it is a bit tentative to say that science could not conjure an answer. I would not underestimate our analytical tools once there is something concrete to analyze.

There is no rule that says gods cannot be part of the universe. If there was good evidence for it, then they could be incorporated.

Er, yes. I should have phrased that differently.

If a guy did definitely come back from the dead and was now in perfect health, I'm not sure what you'd study, though. But your point is taken.

EDIT: Regarding mechanics, the actual theory behind miracles is really pretty simple. God exists, God is all-powerful, God occasionally performs miracles. It's testing it that's the trouble - a.l.a. your ball lightning example.

So suppose I rephrase my question. For you, what's the difference between the possibility of miracles and the possibility of ball lightning? Keep in mind here that I don't actually know anything about the latter. :P

P.S. Thanks for your patience.

[ Saturday, April 09, 2005 18:26: Message edited by: Ash Lael ]

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quote:
Originally written by Ash Lael:

If a guy did definitely come back from the dead and was now in perfect health, I'm not sure what you'd study, though. But your point is taken.

EDIT: Regarding mechanics, the actual theory behind miracles is really pretty simple. God exists, God is all-powerful, God occasionally performs miracles. It's testing it that's the trouble - a.l.a. your ball lightning example.

So suppose I rephrase my question. For you, what's the difference between the possibility of miracles and the possibility of ball lightning? Keep in mind here that I don't actually know anything about the latter. :P

I think you've hit on the core of the problem with miracles right there. Perhaps I spoke too strongly in saying that the concept of a miracle includes inherent impossibility, but I think you'll agree that a miracle must by definition be an inherently unpredictable event. After all, a miracle is a supernatural event, and the very essence of nature is that our observations of it follow predictable laws.

Now, here's the rub. Once you start allowing events that are unpredictable on a large scale, the universe stops making sense. The unpredictability of particle motion on a small scale is bad enough, but we can get around it by applying laws of mass action. There's no way to do that with miracles. There's no reason to go to work because it's as likely as not that God will have spirited off your workplace to another continent in the middle of the night. There's no reason to get out of bed because it's as likely as not that God will decide to blow up the sun and kill us all. There is no reason to suppose that God will do one thing rather than another (remember, if we could predict God's behaviour, he wouldn't be supernatural any more). In short, allowing for the practical possibility of supernatural events is disastrous.

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Take a tissue sample. Provide lab results showing that the man is dead.

Now, let's say Lazarus is alive again. Show more tests that verify his living condition. Take another tissue sample. Is it the same guy? Does the DNA match? Everything else?

Twins could account for some of it. Questionable lab procedures or biased techs doing the work could make the results meaningless as well. If you really could provide all this in a plausible way, though, there's real evidence for resurrection.

Miracles are, by nature, outside of what our current understanding of the world based on empirical evidence predicts. That makes sense if you believe in God, but God is also not empirically plausible.

"We can't explain it but it wasn't God" is a reasonable response when "it" isn't something that clearly violated our understanding of the universe. If someone recovers from a cold, is it a miracle? No, it happens all the time. What about a more serious illness? Just because scientists don't know exactly how it happens doesn't mean divine intervention is likely. Mechanisms for recovery have been found already, and it is more likely that there are undiscovered mechanisms than that God is in there.

I'll concede that it depends on starting point, though. If you postulate the existence and intervention of God, you have an explanation for the inexplicable. If you postulate the absence of God, you have more work to do to explain the unknowns. Consider Occam's Razor, though, and don't forget how many "miracles" have already been explained by advances in science.

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quote:
EDIT: Regarding mechanics, the actual theory behind miracles is really pretty simple. God exists, God is all-powerful, God occasionally performs miracles. It's testing it that's the trouble - a.l.a. your ball lightning example.
A comparison to mechanics is invalid, I can test mechanics over and over again to the point where I would be a complete idiot to disbelieve it.

As far as ball lightning, there is some theoretical belief that it could work, although it is quite crude. The answer to your question is that ball lightning can be tested (in principle) whereas a diety cannot unless it lends itself to it or other evidence is found.

The theory of God is short, but not simple. If you think about it, it is very complex because it creates a lot of questions as to the nature of its existence and the mechanisms by which it works. It is a theory that is untestable and creates a lot of questions that hence cannot be answered.

This is all digression. My point was that I was making a comparison to something in science that is considered a bit fringe at this moment. I was merely giving examples for "experiments" or "observations" that could support that "miracles" occur, which was the issue in doubt. At which point, you would have to study said miracle and then rule out all known natural causes.

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Posts: 3726 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
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quote:
Originally written by Thuryl:

I think you've hit on the core of the problem with miracles right there. Perhaps I spoke too strongly in saying that the concept of a miracle includes inherent impossibility, but I think you'll agree that a miracle must by definition be an inherently unpredictable event. After all, a miracle is a supernatural event, and the very essence of nature is that our observations of it follow predictable laws.
Actually, I don't agree. If you pray for a miracle, and believe God will do it, and he does, you've just predicted a miracle.

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Unfortunately, there have been very few reliable tests on the power of prayer. The ones that have been carried out, for the most part, had severe methodological problems associated with it. That's a pity too, because it would be nice to have reliable data on this.

But does one need to pray for a miracle to occur? Is prayer any more likely to lead to the intercession by the diety? Should it, if the diety is already omniscient and would therefore already have anticipated doing the miracle before hand?

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quote:
Actually, I don't agree. If you pray for a miracle, and believe God will do it, and he does, you've just predicted a miracle.
If it's known that a certain kind of miracle can be brought about by a certain kind of prayer, in what sense is it still a supernatural event? I don't see a fundamental difference between knowing that flipping a switch will probably turn a lightbulb on and knowing that praying for rain will probably cause rain.

[ Saturday, April 09, 2005 19:05: Message edited by: Thuryl ]

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Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
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quote:
Originally written by *i:

A comparison to mechanics is invalid, I can test mechanics over and over again to the point where I would be a complete idiot to disbelieve it.
Well, that's why I said testing was the trouble.

[quote]As far as ball lightning, there is some theoretical belief that it could work, although it is quite crude. The answer to your question is that ball lightning can be tested (in principle) whereas a diety cannot unless it lends itself to it or other evidence is found.[/quote]Wouldn't investigating the evidence and checking to see whether it seems likely a miracle actually did occur be a reasonable test? It's not laboratory science, but I would think it would be reasonable. As Alorael says, if a guy actually does come back from the dead in the modern day, there ought to be enough evidence to substantiate it - unless, of course, we start talking about faked lab results and death certificates and stuff.

Or you could do something with one of those evangelical guys who go around and people claim to be healed by them and so on. Get people who are suffering from an affliction, test them medically, and test them again after they've been prayed for. Do a large number of these and see what the results are.

Or heck, do some sort of test on speaking in tongues. That's common enough to be testable.

Hmm, what's my point here? Oh yeah. I think it's possible to get a certain amount of data about such things, even though they can't be reproduced in the laboratory. I think they should be tested in as scientific a manner as possible.

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Posts: 1861 | Registered: Friday, February 11 2005 08:00
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quote:
Originally written by Thuryl:

quote:
Actually, I don't agree. If you pray for a miracle, and believe God will do it, and he does, you've just predicted a miracle.
If it's known that a certain kind of miracle can be brought about by a certain kind of prayer, in what sense is it still a supernatural event? I don't see a fundamental difference between knowing that flipping a switch will probably turn a lightbulb on and knowing that praying for rain will probably cause rain.

Semantics. If it's not 'supernatural' by your definition, so be it. Instead of calling it a supernatural event, say God did it, and God is not exactly 'supernatural', or whatever you wish.

EDIT: *i, no, I would not say prayer is necessary. It does seem to help, though.

[ Saturday, April 09, 2005 19:22: Message edited by: Ash Lael ]

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quote:
Semantics. If it's not 'supernatural' by your definition, so be it. Instead of calling it a supernatural event, say God did it, and God is not exactly 'supernatural', or whatever you wish.
Well, sure, but then you're veering pretty close to pantheism, which I somehow suspect you don't particularly advocate.

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There is of course the placebo effect. Faith in being healed can heal. Jesus often healed people due to their great faith. If a miracle is prayed for how much of it is self caused?

The same may apply to praying for others. People often feel better or heal when they know someone cares.

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And if the healing power of prayer is a genuine result of divine intervention, you're never going to be able to test it. After all, there are already millions of people who pray every day for "the sick" in general. You're never going to be able to get a study group big enough so that the people who are being specifically prayed for get a significantly different dose of prayer than those who don't.

Well, actually, that depends how prayer works. If you pray for "the sick", and there are, say, 1 million sick people in the world, does that count as one-millionth the amount for each of them as you would if you prayed for them separately, or is it the same as if you made a full, separate prayer for each of them individually?

[ Saturday, April 09, 2005 19:26: Message edited by: Thuryl ]

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Eh?

And what's pantheism again?

I define 'supernatural' as being outside the physical world. But as I said, it's just a case of labels. If you have a different word to mean that, use it.

EDIT: Man, this topic is quick.

Thuryl - It may be true that it's impossible to determine the exact power of prayer for the reasons you cite. It should, however, be possible to determine whether miraculous healing happens.

As for the placebo effect, there are of course many reports of dramatic healings that can't be explained by psychological wellbeing. Again, it should be possible to scientifically determine whether it's reasonable to assume that these actually happen.

[ Saturday, April 09, 2005 19:32: Message edited by: Ash Lael ]

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